Minister of Social Protection Volda Lawrence would be removed from office once evidence is presented supporting her dereliction of duty, according to President David Granger, who has lauded her for her work so far.
“If I were presented with evidence that there was wrongdoing on her part, obviously I would want to consider it. So, I wouldn’t associate the behaviour of the Minister of Social Protection with the changes which were made in the Cabinet last year. As I said, I have not found any reason to remove her from that position. I think that she is doing her best and there has been an improvement in the delivery of social protection services to the public,” he said on “The Public Interest” programme, which aired last evening.
Granger was asked whether he was inclined to act on the calls being made for the Minister to be removed from her post.
“I don’t know if there is a call from civil society,” he said. “There are calls from a few persons and sometimes I can see them picketing. I don’t ignore them… whether there is a tsunami of protest, I am not aware of that,” he added.
Making reference to an online petition asking for Lawrence to step own, the President said that sometimes these do not represent a substantial body of public opinion. “So we need to verify how many people. How many times do you see a letter to the editor in the newspaper?” he asked as he continued to question how many persons are in support of the minister’s removal.
He said that every week he had been receiving requests and complaints but the minister has been very responsive to them as she has visiting persons and delivering services to people.
“So some of the people who are complaining are not aware of the tremendous amount of work that the Ministry of Social Protection is doing… and so we must not necessarily feel that the minister is dysfunctional or that the minister herself deserves to be moved.”
He urged that the matter be looked at in a holistic way to see what the ministry has inherited, what it is trying to put right and the quality of service that ministry would be delivering to the general public.
There were calls for the removal of Lawrence in the lead up to local government elections after she openly supported then candidate Winston Harding, who had been charged with child molestation. Harding is now a city councillor.
Calls for Lawrence’s removal came again following the July 8, fire at the Drop-in Centre, which claimed the lives of two young boys. A Commission of Inquiry was ordered by the President and a preliminary report was yesterday handed over to Minister of State Joseph Harmon.
Asked specifically about the inquiry, Granger said if it was found that there was gross negligence or dereliction of duty by anyone, “yes we will make a judgement as to whether they are fit to hold those positions. If you equate that with rolling of heads yes… the aim is to prevent a reoccurrence.”
He said that if after investigating it is found that there was gross dereliction of duty, “yes persons who omitted to commit acts which would have prevented that catastrophe will be punished and if the punishment proposes that they be removed from their position, so be it.”
Meanwhile, the sole Commissioner, Retired Colonel Windee Algernon, has until August 15 to submit the final report, which will be sent to Cabinet. The preliminary report was given to President Granger for his perusal, a press release from the Ministry of the Presidency said.
Six-year-old Antonio George and two-year-old Joshua George, perished in the fire, after they became trapped in a section of the building. The Drop-in Centre, which falls under the Ministry of Social Protection, is managed by the Child Care and Protection Agency.