Ovid Morrison, Regional Executive Officer (REO) of Region Five, told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday that because of staffing issues in 2016, employees had to “double up” on their duties.
Morrison was responding to Member of Parliament Juan Edghill, who asked how the region’s seeming inability to fill certain vacancies within the region affected regulatory controls during the period. Edghill was also at the time making specific reference to a matter documented in the Auditor General’s 2016 report, which stated that an audit check showed that a heavy-duty driver within the region was certifying and signing off on payments as the Transport Officer.
The report further stated that the same driver was functioning as the Requisitioning Officer for fuel and spare parts since October, 2016.
Morrison stated that he was satisfied that the man was able to carry out the tasks, and while he was executing the functions of Transport Officer, it was reported that he was not considered acting in the position, nor was he being paid in that capacity, as confirmed by the region’s Accountant. Morrison explained that the driver was in charge of functions for the other vehicles, but denied that he was responsible for certifying his own vehicle and signing off on payments for maintenance works for the vehicle driven by him. The REO said that he himself was the one that would sign off on those documents.
Morrison had difficulty providing specific dates to the committee regarding the matter, but following a break ordered by Chairman Irfaan Ali, it was related by the REO that in October, 2017, a recommendation letter was sent to the Public Service Department requesting that the Transport Officer position be filled by the person in question, and that a positive response was received from the Department in January of this year.
Morrison reported that the contract enabling the driver to assume the position of Transport Officer was signed on February 15th. Initially, when questioned by Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence as to the man’s current position, the REO had stated that he was still awaiting the Public Service Commission to approve his appointment, but had then proceeded to read the January, 2018 letter confirming the selection, causing members to question why he had withheld that information.
The REO said he did not recall whether the position was advertised, although he had been advised to do so according to a correspondence from the Public Service Department.
Morrison had argued that there was no need for internal postings if the skills did not exist within the staffing structure, but was corrected by Ali, who noted that the system was there to ensure transparency and equal access. The REO committed to ensuring that due process was adhered to in future. It came out in questioning that the driver also has a house in the region, a privilege not usually afforded to staff at that level, but the REO said he was placed there because of flooding issues in the region. No further explanation was provided, however, as the committee members did not press on that point.
Edghill questioned whether the driver in question was the one assigned to drive the REO, to which Morrison responded in the negative.