Minister of Local Government Ganga Persaud yesterday defended the appointment of Carol Sooba as Town Clerk, saying that she had “matured” and was the “best suited” of the candidates who had applied.
Answering questions at a press briefing yesterday at the ministry’s boardroom, the minister was impatient with reporters who questioned Sooba’s qualifications to the point of becoming belligerent.
“…She is qualified and that is the reason why she was appointed. Based on our criteria she is qualified,” the minister argued. “The job description would have listed academic qualifications and Ms Sooba is not without academic qualifications. We invited every individual that applied because we were determined that we had to make sure that we cleared this business and move on. Every person was identified and then we sought to identify the best of those who applied. That’s what we did. What is wrong with that, I don’t know. If you find something wrong with that then that is not our problem.”
According to information gleaned by this newspaper, Sooba’s highest qualification is a Diploma in Personnel and Industrial Relations from the University of Guyana. She has been reading for a law degree since 2006.
At one stage, the press conference became very heated. “I don’t know that she has less qualifications,” the minister said in response to a question from a media operative. “I am saying that the degree requirement wasn’t the only requirement… This is my press conference and I am not answering any more questions on this. I am fully aware that the people out there need answers but I am making it clear that the Ministry of Local Government is giving the answer to the people out there. It might not be the answer that you are looking for, but for the people out there the answer is that we, after having evaluated all the candidates that presented themselves for the position of Town Clerk, … concluded that Ms Sooba is the best suited overall, rounded candidate for this job,” the minister added.
Persaud also questioned media operatives on their sources with regard to Sooba’s qualifications. “I am wondering whether you are making statements of fact or whether you are making assumptions or what’s your source of information. I would very much like to have from you your source of information with regard to people’s qualifications… If you have any evidence to show that this is someone’s qualification and then you deem that as being unqualified then you know that is something you can deal with, but we got to stop this nonsense somewhere. We have to stop this thing of people just running out there and believe that they have licence to point fingers at anybody and to seek to pull people down.”
Asked if he had seen Sooba’s qualifications, the minister retorted, “Well if I see them then that is my business.”
He then rounded on the Kaieteur News reporter who had asked the question, querying, “What are your qualifications to be here? Where did you get your degree from? When you applied for your job was that one of the requirements?”
Questions were directed to Minister in the Ministry of Local Government Norman Whittaker, but he remained mum, even when asked how it was that Sooba was appointed after he himself had stated earlier that no one had met the requirements for the job.
Persaud then chimed in to say that Sooba has matured over the years. “The position in itself has run long enough and we evaluated these people and Ms Sooba’s experience in performing the role as Town Clerk has grown. Nobody is stagnate. Based on what was presented we recognised that the best suited person was Ms Sooba.”
The members of the interview panel responsible for vetting applicants for the Town Clerk position were drawn from five different entities and included Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government Collin Croal, who was the chairperson on the panel; Deputy Mayor Patricia Chase-Green; President of the Guyana Local Government Officers Union Dale Beresford; the principal personnel officer from the Public Services Ministry; and a representative from the Ministry of Finance.
On Thursday, Beresford had said that the union will be giving the ministry 72 hours to rescind its decision or face industrial action.
Persaud said he had not seen Beresford’s letter.
Earlier in the press conference, Whittaker had said that since Sooba was appointed, salary payouts have been on time, financial reports have been forthcoming and accurate and the general service provided by the council had improved.
Meanwhile, former mayor and city councillor Ranwell Jordan through attorney Nigel Hughes has dispatched a letter to Persaud on behalf of himself and the councillors requesting that he revoke the decision to appoint Sooba.
In a copy of the letter seen by this newspaper, Jordan sought to inform the minister that his actions are contrary and amount to an abuse of the powers of his office. The letter added that failure to abide with the request would see the councillors pursuing other action to secure the revocation of the appointment.