(Trinidad Express) Four months after he was re-appointed chairman of the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB), Rudy Maharaj has been fired.
Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj on Saturday confirmed that last Thursday, based on a note he took to Cabinet, Maharaj (Rudy) was removed from his post.
He was replaced by Yasid Gilbert.
Minister Maharaj told the Express Cabinet agreed to the decision to remove the chairman based on reports he had received related to governance issues.
He conceded while Maharaj (Rudy) had “turned around the bank”, he was not following proper procedures and policies.
In October 2012, Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds had questioned Maharaj’s (Rudy) behaviour during his contribution to the budget in the Senate.
“Rudy Maharaj is involved in operational matters in the bank, interviewing staff alone, receiving resumes, behaving like an executive chairman, short-listing people for interviews, dictating things to HR managers and loan managers about loans in the ADB. Poor governance,” he had said.
Hinds had also alleged the racial composition within the organisation was of “grave concern”, claiming that under the chairmanship of Maharaj, 35 people were hired, “all of one race”.
The Express understands a decision by the ADB to lease a building along Mulchan Seuchan Road in Chaguanas at a cost of $200,000 a month for four years, amounting to $9.6 million, from Wayne Gosine is also under review, given that the building does not have Town and Country Planning approval.
Gosine is the owner of 21st Century Insurance Brokers and the brother of National Petroleum chairman Neil Gosine.
The Express was told the building was painted in the ADB’s colours long before the contract was signed, and it remains unoccupied.
The bank has a branch at Ramsaran Street, Chaguanas.
“The irony of the entire transaction is that while all these negotiations and dealings were taking place, the Chaguanas Borough Corporation was publishing notices in the press to all those with illegal structures to show cause why the buildings listed should not been demolished in accordance with the law,” a source told the Express.
“Because the ADB is not a Government ministry, they are not subject to the rigorous scrutiny by the Property Management Division of the Ministry of Housing,which oversees the procurement of properties that are to be rented for Government offices. These requirements include all statutory approvals, including completion certificate from the local health authority, fire certificate and OSHA compliance clearance. The building was joined at several places and, by so doing, has now compromised the structural integrity of the compound,” the source explained.
Minister Maharaj confirmed the building and lease did come to his attention, and he plans to deal with it.
A source said of greater concern to senior staff at the ADB were the loans that have been disbursed. “Checks have revealed that more than 60 per cent of these loans given out to the farming community are non-performing. Requests have been continuously made to the line ministry for additional funds for the ADB, which should not be so if these loans disbursed have been performing,” said a source.
Maharaj explained that when he moved to the Food Production Ministry last June, he asked them to look at all delinquent loans. He said the bank is now in the process of doing that.
Several attempts to reach the former chairman for comment Saturday and yesterday were unsuccessful.
In an interview with the Express published on October 18 last year, when concern was raised by Hinds about the ethnic composition of the ADB, Maharaj (Rudy) had said he was put in the chairmanship position to “save the country from the PNM’s (People’s National Movement) squandermania”.
Minister Maharaj also acknowledged there were staff challenges at the ADB and he was hoping the organisation could return to a level of stability under its new chairman.