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WASA acting CEO Abdool fired by e-mail
Acting CEO of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Dion Abdool has been fired by e-mail, three months after he halted the award of a $70 million maintenance contract because of allegations of bid-rigging. Abdool, the Sunday Guardian learned, has been replaced by director of finance Gerard Yorke. Abdool has been reverted to his substantive post as corporate secretary.
The former CEO had asked for a review of the evaluation process to ensure transparency in the award of the multi-million-dollar contract. The job was tagged WTC 179/2011, and WASA invited bids for the maintenance of the water-treatment plants at Caroni, North Oropouche, Navet and the Arena pumping station
On the basis of the pre-qualifying process, two companies were shortlisted for the job: TOSL Engineering Ltd (TOSL) and Super Industrial Services (SIS). TOSL submitted a bid of $65,311,338.25 and SIS of $69,027,089.45. After this evaluation, TOSL was awarded 54.99 per cent and SIS 45.01 per cent.
However, a T&T Guardian exclusive revealed that on August 3, just hours before the report was expected to be signed by the evaluation team, a directive was given for the report to be scrapped and for a new evaluation team to be set up. Who gave the directive and why remains unanswered. Abdool had recommended that tenders should be re-invited with a new scope of works.
Months later he has been sacked. Sources said Abdool’s sacking may be linked to the stance he took when he halted the multi-million dollar contract. But his removal is not the only situation that has caused a stir at the authority, as several other senior executives are now being forced out. Abdool could not be reached for comment, as telephone calls and messages sent to him were not answered.
However, investigations revealed Abdool was sacked in early December after he refused to approve a Voluntary Separation Enhancement Package (VSEP) proposal for ten senior members of staff. They are:
• Errol Grimes, former CEO
• Leselie Figaro, general manager
• Steve Fletcher, general manager
• Claudette Goddard, general manager
• Annamay McMillan, general manager
• Richard Williams, deputy general manager
• Peter Hackett, deputy general manager
• Andy St Clair, deputy general manager
• Jennifer Cudjoe-Brathwaite, deputy general manager
• Sarah Lezama, deputy general manager
Abdool objected because acceptance of these payments was at the discretion of the employee, and refused to take the proposal to the board. Instead, the proposal was taken to the board by Yorke. Only deputy general managers Braithwaite, Goddard and Lezama accepted the VSEP offer. They are expected to receive the VSEP payment and pension benefits in March.
The Sunday Guardian learned Grimes, who is now the project leader for waste water, also objected strongly to the VSEP offer. The other senior staff, who had refused to accept the proposal, received letters dated December 28 demanding that they accept the offer. The letter stated, “You are hereby advised that your VSEP date remains as at December 31, 2012, which will be your last working day with the authority. You are required to return all property by the same date.”
The Sunday Guardian understands the other senior staff have all refused to accept the payment offer and are now weighing their legal options. The situation, sources said, has sparked tension at the authority, with claims of “ethnic cleansing” surfacing. One of the affected staff members, who asked not to be named, explained: “We are being forced out of the authority. WASA is not bankrupt or closing down, so we do not know why only some of us are being forced out.”
A second letter was sent to them this month telling them if the VSEP offer is not accepted they will all be reverted to their substantive positions.
WASA denies forcing out workers
Yorke refused to respond to a text message when asked in what capacity he took the VSEP proposal to the board. He referred all questions to WASA’s communications specialist Ellen Lewis, who denied that the senior executives were being forced to accept the VSEP offer. Lewis said, “Note, an offer of VSEP was made to all category of employees in 2012. The offer is voluntary and therefore open to acceptance or refusal of any employee irrespective of position.”
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