The sacking of two senior public officers by a government minister is being reviewed, the Head of State announced yesterday.
President Bharrat Jagdeo called the dismissals of Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) Manager Karen Bowen and Director General of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ivor English “justified” but admitted that he would be examining the decision made by Public Works and Transport Minister Robeson Benn.
Last Thursday, Bowen and English were sent letters of dismissals signed by Benn, who appointed Kevin Trim and Claudette Rogers in acting capacities to fill the T&HD and MARAD posts, respectively. It is believed that by his actions Benn usurped the functions of the Public Service Commission, which is the authority vested with the power to discipline and or remove public officers. “I understand the circumstances but I have to examine whether the minister has the authority to sack them,” Jagdeo told reporters at a State House press briefing.
The President confirmed that the dismissals centred on expenditure of $47M for the rehabilitation of the Transport Sports Complex, when only $15M had been approved by the ministry. But he explained that the government has been financially “carrying” the T&HD for years, describing it as a “subvention agency” as government has been doling out funds to it because its revenue has not been sufficient to cover its accounts. MARAD, he added, has been saying that it does not have enough money to for basic expenditure related to its operations. “If you cannot find the money to do the things that are critically important to your job, how can you find $32 million more than you were authorised to spend on a building for recreation or whatever purpose,” Jagdeo said.
Additionally, Stabroek News has been told by reliable sources that on several occasions Bowen and English were both advised not to utilise funds for a number of projects beyond specified amounts without properly notifying the ministry. The source said there were a few glaring cases in which both officials were warned but went ahead and made their decisions as they saw fit.