Ex-Health Ministry PS sues gov’t for ‘wrongful dismissal’

Two years after being fired for his alleged failure to properly account for the delivery of drugs, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health Leslie Cadogan has sued the government for $36 million for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract.

The lawsuit, which was filed by attorney Anil Nandlall on Cadogan’s behalf, listed the Attorney-General as the defendant.

According to the statement of claim, Cadogan is asking the court for a declaration that he was wrongfully and/or unlawfully dismissed by the defendant; for damages in excess of $18 million for unlawful dismissal; damages in excess of $18 million for breach of contract; exemplary damages; costs; and interest.

It stated that by a contract of employment made and entered into at George-town on the 7th day of November, 2014, between the Government of Guyana and Cadogan, he was engaged to perform the duties and functions of Permanent Secretary, effective from the 12th day of December, 2014, to the 11th day of December, 2017, inclusive, at a monthly salary of $566,428, subject to certain terms and conditions.

Leslie Cadogan

The court documents said that by way of letter, dated August 31, 2015, Minister of State Joesph Harmon wrongfully and in ‘‘repudiatory breach of the said agreement purported to terminate the Claimant’s employment and wrongfully dismissed the Claimant.”

In the letter of dismissal, which was also included in the court documents, it was stated that the termination of his services took effect from September 1, 2015 and was as a result of Cadogan’s “failure to ensure that there was proper accountability in the delivery of drugs to the Ministry of Health (which) was demonstrated in the incomplete delivery of supplies to the tune of $419,110,786 in one instance. In the other instance, you failed to ensure that the remaining 50% of $1.1b delivery of supplies was done.”

The letter stated that in view of “gross negligence and misconduct” in the performance of his duties, his services were terminated. Cadogan was instructed to hand over all of the Ministry of Health’s equipment that he was in possession of to the acting PS Trevor Thomas.

In his statement of claim, Cadogan contended that it was never his duty to ensure the delivery of the drugs; rather, it was the function of the Procurement Manager.

He adds that at no time was he afforded “a hearing or a fair hearing” before the termination of his employment, while adding that the defendant failed and/or omitted to give adequate notice to him before his purported dismissal.

It was stated that despite Cadogan’s demands for payment, the Attorney General has failed to do so.

According to a copy of the contract which was included in the court action, he was entitled to a $5,500 tax free monthly duty allowance, the same amount for entertainment allowance, $3, 500  housing allowance, unlimited cell phone and internet services at his official place of residence, provision of a residential telephone service which would allow him access to free local and official international calls, provision of 24-hour security, full payment of the electricity cost at his official residence and a car and a driver.

The contract also stated that he would be eligible, subject to satisfactory service, for a gratuity at the rate of twenty-two and one half percent of basic salary calculated at half yearly intervals.

The contract stated that if at any time during the currency of his Agreement Cadogan neglected or refuses to comply with any order for any cause (other than ill health not caused by his own misconduct as provided in Clause 4), became unable to perform any of his duties or disclosed any information respecting the affairs of the government to any unauthorised person, or in any manner misconducts himself, the government may terminate his engagement forthwith.

Additionally the contract stated that the government may at any time determine the engagement of the person engaged on giving him three months notice in writing or on paying him three months salary in lieu of notice.

In July, 2015, Cadogan was instructed to proceed on accumulated leave of 193 days from July 20 to enable significant reforms particularly in the light of growing concerns over the procurement and distribution of drugs.

Harmon, in a letter to Cadogan, said it had been brought to the attention of the Ministry of the Presidency that he had accumulated 193.5 days of leave.

The letter added, “The Minister of Public Health (Dr George Norton) by a letter dated July 16, 2015 has advised me that as part of significant reforms to be undertaken within the Ministry of Public Health, particularly in light of growing concerns relative to the procurement and distributing of pharmaceuticals of his intention to have you proceed on all outstanding vacation leave.”

The letter to Cadogan sending him on leave came on the heels of a report in Stabroek News that the Ministry of Health had begun processing a $572 million payment to the New GPC in connection with a contract that was awarded to the company weeks before the May 11, 2015 general elections.

According to a Ministry of Health request form seen by Stabroek News, the payment was for the purchase of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. The document, dated July 14, 2015, was signed by Cadogan.

On April 21, 2015, the PPP/C Cabinet gave its no-objection to the award of a contract for US$6.7 million (approximately $1.4 billion). Notification was then given on April 27 by then Chairman of the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board Donald De Clou to Cadogan that Cabinet had given its no-objection.

The awards of drug contracts to New GPC had been subject to much criticism by APNU and the AFC when they were in opposition.

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