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Ministry fails to advertise jobs in Counter-Trafficking Unit
Vice-President of the Senate Lyndira Oudit has admitted to being interviewed for a national security job she never applied for. Oudit, Sunday Guardian investigations revealed, was among eight people who were hand-picked to fill the positions of director/deputy director of the Counter-Trafficking Unit (CTU) at the Ministry of National Security.
An ad put out by the ministry in June 2012 invited applications for the post of international affairs director. But the counter-trafficking positions were never advertised. In fact, not only was the recruitment process flawed, but the Trafficking in Persons Act 2011 had not even been proclaimed at the time. The act was only proclaimed on January 2, 2013 by President George Maxwell Richards.
In addition, the national task force as outlined in the act had not been set up. Section 7(1) of the act says, “The task force shall comprise the ministers responsible for foreign affairs, labour, social development, national security, justice and education.” The act also says the successful candidates for both positions must possess a combination of qualifications and experience in international relations, management, law or security.
Investigations revealed former assistant chief immigration officer Charmaine Gandhi was selected as the director and attorney Ian Rampersad as the deputy director for the CTU. However, questions have been raised over the transparency of the recruitment process to fill both positions. Former prime minister Basdeo Panday is among those who have asked queries.
In letters dated December 5 and 24, he wrote to the ministry requesting information about the recruitment process. By letter dated January 25, 2013 the ministry told him a response was being prepared and would be sent to him in due course. In addition, an unsuccessful candidate is accusing the ministry of duping her.
She says ministry officials told her she needed to undergo security vetting, when in fact the positions were already filled. “It was a smokescreen to mislead everyone,” the candidate told the Sunday Guardian.
Rampersad blanks CTU job
The original choice for deputy director, Ian Rampersad, opted to blank the job offer. Contacted on Friday, Rampersad, who works at the Office of the Attorney General, confirmed that he turned down the job. Refusing to divulge the reason behind his decision, he only said, “Personal reasons, and that I rather not discuss.”
Told that questions had been raised about whether he was qualified for the job, Rampersad replied, “I am really tempted to say, ‘No comment,’ because quite frankly, who are these people? “The truth is, I do actually possess those qualifications, but I am not taking up that post. “I have communicated this to the permanent secretary recently. It is a personal matter. It is not in the public domain as yet. I was informed a while ago of the job.
“I am a qualified attorney. I have postgraduate qualifications in international relations and mediation studies. I have a master’s degree in law with a specialisation in human rights. I have years of experience in human-rights work. I was qualified for the job.”
Oudit: I never applied for CTU job but…
Oudit confirmed this to the Sunday Guardian on Friday, when asked how she was informed of the vacancies at the CTU. “Somebody did call, but I did not know who it was. I got a call because I had indicated my interest in any way possible. When I went there after indicating my interest, they gave me forms to fill out. I did not know what post.
“To be honest, these things come up. I am very much interested in that position at an agency.” Asked if she applied for the positions, given that the jobs were not advertised, Oudit replied, “I will rather not divulge a lot of things here, but you know, sometimes when you are in conversations there are lots of things that may come out.
“I was informed of something that I was interested in. I do not even know what position. I never applied specifically for a position. I was just very interested. “I am very much involved in a lot of programmes in human trafficking and women issues as it relates to all of that. In the public domain there is the need for the Counter-Trafficking Unit and I expressed my interest.”
Asked what position she was interested in filling, Oudit said, “There was no specific one. If there was anything at all I would have just loved to be a part of it. “It is a significant institution and agency. In looking at it, I did not think if I was qualified or capable. I was very much interested in it and I am very pleased that it is coming up. As to the details of the hiring, I have no idea.”
Asked who she told about her interest in serving, Oudit replied, “I cannot recall at this time, but I have said that publicly. I have made those comments in my own contributions in the Senate. “I am willing to be involved in any one of those areas or anything of a similar nature. I do not even have to be paid. I am willing to work for those things just to get this country on a right track.
“I did not even know what position or anything like that. I went there and sat but clearly it is beyond my own capability at this time and I am sure there were more involved and capable persons. “At the end of day we all love T&T and sometimes we have to move away from the politics. I have children and we have to get a handle on this.”
Gandhi-Andrews could not be reached for comment, although telephone calls to the ministry were redirected to different departments. At the Immigration Division, where Gandhi-Andrews previously worked, an official said, “Ms Gandhi-Andrews is now the director of the CTU. She no longer works in this department.”
How were they picked?
So how exactly were Rampersad, Oudit and six others selected for the interview process on September 25 to fill the top positions? Several telephone calls and e-mails sent to the ministry seeking answers on the issue over the last week have all gone unanswered.
The interview panel comprised the Deputy Permanent Secretary Linda Valere, International Affairs director Antoinette Lucas-Andrews, Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson and Strategic Services Agency director Bisnath Maharaj. It was an official from the ministry who telephoned the eight candidates to invite them to be interviewed a week later.
Ministry mum on CTU selection process
Up to Friday the Sunday Guardian’s attempts to speak with the ministry’s permanent secretary Jennifer Boucaud-Blake for her to shed some light on the issue were also unsuccessful. A woman who did not wish to be identified returned a telephone call on behalf of Boucaud-Blake inquiring the reason for the interview.
Told the Sunday Guardian was still awaiting a response to questions that were e-mailed the previous Friday, the woman promised to forward the message to Boucaud-Blake. However, no response came. Over the last week officials at the ministry transferred the Sunday Guardian from the human resources (HR) department to the communications department and then back to HR.
When the Sunday Guardian spoke to HR officer Lynn Paul-Joseph last Friday inquiring about the appointments of the director/deputy director of the CTU, she said, “I am not aware of what you are taking about. I am not responsible for sending out ads. Any ads are handled by the communications unit.”
Paul-Joseph then forwarded Sunday Guardian to communication officer Abshalom Yisrael for assistance. Asked if an ad had been put out for the positions of director/deputy director of the CTU, Yisrael asked for the questions to be e-mailed to him. “All questions of that sort have to be presented in writing. Once I receive the e-mail I will research to see if an ad went out,” Yisrael said.
When we sent him our questions, in an immediate response by e-mail, Yisrael said, “I have forwarded your questions to the HR Department for a proper response.” The Sunday Guardian again e-mailed Yisrael on March 7 to say no answer had been received, but he did not reply.
What we wanted to know
The following questions were sent on March 1:
1. Could you please say if an ad was put out for the positions of the director and deputy director of the Counter-Trafficking Unit? If yes, please indicate the date and month.
2. Could you please say what was the selection process used to appoint both applicants?
3. How many applicants applied for the positions?
4. Was anyone shortlisted to fill the positions?
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