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Integrity Commission probes Namdevco
Five board members of the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (Namdevco) are being probed by the Integrity Commission in connection with irregular hiring practices. The investigation is in connection to the hiring of an executive official, business development officer and two field officers.
There were reports of irregularities with the selection process for the executive official and the business development officer, while the position of field officer was not advertised.
Sources told the Sunday Guardian the board members were allegedly duped into believing all the necessary requirements were met to fill the vacancies and only board approval was needed. However, an official at Namdevco expressed concern at the hiring practices and wrote the Integrity Commission.
The commission wrote to Namdevco last month requesting all information relating to the recruitments. The investigation is the latest saga to hit the state enterprise as conflict continues to brew between board members and chairman Robert Ramsamooj.
Chaos at Namdevco
Ramsamooj and members of the board have reportedly clashed over the governance of the corporation. In an October 1 letter sent to line minister Devant Maharaj, six board members expressed lack of confidence in the chairman.
Deputy chairman Rohanie Maharaj and members David Dolly, Stacy Barran, Leela Rastogi, Karl Murray and Deryck Dhanie expressed concern about the Integrity Commission investigation, irregular hiring practices, disbanding of the audit and tenders committees and termination of the corporate secretary
A copy of the letter was obtained by Sunday Guardian. It stated: “Board members were not in agreement with these decisions taken unilaterally by the chairman. He failed and refused to recognise the input of board members and proceeded to give his own directives.” The members also denied taking a decision to terminate the contract of the corporate secretary.
“It has come to our attention that on September 25, a letter was written on behalf of the board terminating the employment contract of the corporate secretary. This is of great concern to the board members, we wish to emphasise that at no time was the board consulted on this matter.”
Sunday Guardian understands that following the termination of the corporate secretary, board members asked Ramsamooj to call a special meeting to discuss matters including the investigation by the commission. To date the meeting has not been called.
However, the position of corporate secretary has been advertised without board approval. Last month, the deputy chairman accused Ramsamooj of operating in a high-handed manner. In the e-mail obtained by Sunday Guardian, Maharaj accused Ramsamooj of “bullying” and using a “dictatorial approach” to get his way.
When contacted on Friday, Maharaj said she was not prepared to comment on the issues of Namdevco at this time but will do so in due course.
Chairman: I have nothing to hide
However, Ramsamooj minced no words when contacted and challenged board members to bring evidence to support their claims. Dismissing claims that board members were duped into approving the hiring of four persons, Ramsamooj insisted that board approval was granted.
“If they were duped so was I because I myself may also be hauled before the commission to be questioned. How could they be duped? I would not allow myself to suffer a similar fate. Most importantly, I do not hire, that is an administrative function. I have never hired anyone.
“If they (board members) have any queries it should not be with me. I do not hire. The hiring of persons was confirmed by the board at board meetings. They are big intelligent people and if they believed they were duped then they should not be a board director.”
Asked why the matter is engaging the attention of the commission, Ramsamooj said an employee who believed he was sidelined for a particular position reported the matter. Questioned as to why a request to hold a special meeting was not granted, Ramsamooj said a decision was taken to suspend all meetings until the budget was announced.
“We have suspended board meetings because the Ministry of Food Production has embarked on a new initiative to stimulate the agricultural sector so it can become self-sufficient in food production. It is a new strategic plan so we stopped all meetings until the budget was announced so we could come together and have a new directive.”
Ramsamooj said the decision was taken last Tuesday. However, board members have denied that any such discussion took place. He said the decision to terminate the corporate secretary was an administrative matter. “It is an executive function and I am of the view that directors being non-executive directors have no remit to interfere with the hiring and firing of employees. It is outside our domain,” he said.
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