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THA heads in troubling direction
There is great cause for concern over the news that the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) plans to appoint former secretary of finance and enterprise development Dr Anselm London as a senior consultant in his former division, which is now headed by the recently elected Joel Jack.
Dr London, a man of advanced age, who stepped down ahead of January’s THA election after serving in the position for more than 11 years, is the cousin of Chief Secretary Orville London. That alone raises questions and is generating considerable discomfort.
In addition, his proposed employment as a senior consultant in the division comes with a monthly remuneration package of $60,000, as well as other costs which are not yet in the public domain.
In seeking to justify the hiring of Dr London as a senior consultant, Mr Jack claimed his predecessor was the only person with the expertise in the field in Tobago. Since the position was not advertised, Mr Jack needs to explain by what means he and other members of the THA Executive Council determined that there is no other professional on the island with the technical capacity and knowledge for the job.
While Dr London has considerable knowledge of the workings of the division, it doesn’t speak well of his tenure at its helm that he didn’t ensure there was some level of successsion planning to facilitate a smooth transition to another secretary. Certainly at this stage in the development of Tobago, as in Trinidad, there should be ongoing programmes of training, sharing of information and regular transfers of technical expertise to avoid a situation where—as the THA now claims—there is only one person in a population of thousands who is capable of doing a particular job.
The explanations offered for hiring Dr London indicate a total absence of accountability and transparency in the process. To approach it as a procurement exercise with sole selective tender suggests that this is little more than a case of “jobs for the boys,” a practice which seems to be widespread on all political sides. The THA’s claim that the benchmark remuneration package for senior executives in the field was sought from reputable salary assessment firms does nothing to disperse the taint of nepotism and political patronage that shrouds this matter.
While the current PNM-led THA was elected with a resounding 12-0 mandate just over a month ago, the absence of an official opposition does not give the administration the freedom to take such questionable actions, particularly as it is heading in this troubling direction so early in the new term. The THA needs to go back to the drawing board on this one and ensure that it respects the wishes of the people it serves. To do otherwise would result in squandering the political goodwill with which it was returned to office just few short weeks ago.
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