Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin has defended his colleague minister, Raphael Trotman against criticisms about his taking of his then future wife and Technical Officer, Teresa Gaime on an ExxonMobil trip just months prior to her exit from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
“If someone is working in their particular capacity, year one and year two, and then all of a sudden in year three she stops working and tenders her resignation, I think she is expected to continue working in the capacity she had been working throughout until her last day of work,” Gaskin told Stabroek News on Tuesday, when contacted.
“In that capacity she is an assistant to a minister. In the context, of her being his fiancée, we have to divorce that because she is still required to work,” he added.
Gaskin had previously defended the visit by the team of government ministers to ExxonMobil’s Texas, USA headquarters. Gaskin and Trotman represent the Alliance For Change (AFC) in the governing coalition. Trotman is the current leader of the AFC.
Commentator Christopher Ram in his oil and gas column in Friday’s Stabroek News blasted Trotman over the Texas visit and by extension his government.
Referring to a Stabroek News report that Gaime, who he did not name, was part of the ExxonMobil all-expenses paid trip to Texas, a full month after she had tendered her resignation and therefore had no future role in the Ministry or Government, Ram raised serious concerns.
“Now let us put this into context. On the delegation was Minister Dominic Gaskin of the AFC who described the AFC ministers of the APNU+AFC Government as `unbribable’.
“Under any reasonable test, this act by Trotman would be considered as corrupt (public office for private gain). Did Mr. Trotman tell his colleagues that he and the young lady were engaged/about to be married? If he did not, was that not a material non-disclosure? And if he did, did they object, and if not, why not?
“It would be interesting also to know whether Mr. Trotman informed ExxonMobil of his relationship with the young woman, and whether he and the other four Ministers who went on the visit did not consider his action at the very least, inappropriate and personally uncomfortable.
“This act for which the Administration must collectively be held responsible has certainly diminished us in the eyes of ExxonMobil”, Ram asserted.
Stabroek News reached out to the Minister of Natural Resources for comment but he would only say, “I have been advised to offer no comment.”
Gaime was part of the eight-member delegation, which included five government ministers, which attended an annual partnership meeting with ExxonMobil at its Houston, Texas Campus from August 10 to August 11 of this year.
This newspaper has also sought comment from Gaime but calls to her mobile phone went unanswered.
Sources told this newspaper that while some persons from Guyana’s contingent were not aware of Trotman’s engagement to his junior, others knew. According to a source, ExxonMobil knew that Gaime was Trotman’s fiancée at the time and that she had resigned from her post, which would take effect on October 31st.
The decision for her to travel, sources say, was because she led most of the ground work and was liaising between MNR and ExxonMobil and knew firsthand of most of the associated projects. She has also given a commitment to assist her replacement with uncompleted work and for a smooth transition following her departure.
Gaime is also listed as an Executive Associate of the company Dochas Consulting which she helped formed. This newspaper understands that she gave up an active role in the company and its management to longtime friend and President of the business, Sharissa- Barrow Craig. And while she is still listed on the agency’s website as an Executive Associate, it is not clear if she will resume work there. Concerns have been raised about the consultancy with which she is associated being given contracts by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Gaskin said that he was unaware of the consultancy and as such could not comment on that aspect but lauded Gaime for her show of compartmentalisation on the trip.
However, he said that while he understands that a relationship with a minister of government and a junior staffer could be labelled unethical, he believes that since no one knows when the relationship blossomed, from a professional to an amorous one, credit should be given for Gaime resigning.
He bases his reasoning on his interactions with Gaime, who he said has produced exemplary work in the oil and gas sector in areas she was responsible for.
“I did not walk with a technical assistant but had I chosen to do so it would have been just that, an assistant to assist me, to make my work a little easier; taking notes, giving advice depending on the expertise needed. I think we have an immature attitude to overseas travel as if it is some sort of a privilege. While I do understand it is something that can be abused, certainly I did not get the impression that anyone was there for their good looks. I think everyone served their purpose. It didn’t matter to me. As long as she is coming for a purpose. This is someone who has been in many meetings, in a similar capacity, throughout the last two years. In other words, it is nothing strange in having someone continue doing what they have always been doing until they are no longer an employee of the state. It is not as if this person was doing something different and all of a sudden now is enjoying different conditions of work or something like that”, he said.
“As a minister, when you travel with an assistant it is really very valuable. You don’t have to reply as much on your own note taking if they have technical expertise and knowledge of an area that is relevant it is also useful. I don’t see why this is being looked at as if it is some sort of special gift handed out to somebody. She has always showed exemplary professionalism. I have always held her in high regard because I found her to be extremely professional, extremely competent, and quite smart and always held her in high regard… I was not aware that there was anything more than a professional relationship. And to me, that is testament that it certainly was not anything that was obvious and therefore all I saw was the professional in the work we did while we were there,” he added.
He said that Gaime’s resignation can also be seen as both parties’ realisation that their professional work had evolved into a personal one and it was the “right thing to do” for her to tender her resignation lest accusations and assumptions run high.
“Perhaps it is why we have a resignation. I wasn’t aware of any relationship and I can’t think to speculate about that. All I can tell you is, we have a minister who has married someone who was a member of his staff. I don’t think it is immoral. That person has resigned which I think was the right thing to do in a situation like that,” he posited.