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AATT freezes contract talks - Ajodha Quits
Deputy chairman of the Airports Authority of T&T (AATT) Kurt Ajodha has tendered his resignation, Transport Minister Chandresh Sharma confirmed yesterday. Ajodha, whose academic qualifications were queried by Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert during debate in Parliament last week on a bill to add $2.8 billion to national budget, reportedly received a stipend of $7,000 a month for being on the board.
During his contribution, Imbert had disclosed that Ajodha did not possess the qualifications stated on his CV. In response to a text message yesterday, Sharma confirmed that Ajodha had resigned and that he did not possess the qualifications claimed on his CV. Sources at AATT yesterday said the situation now means the AATT cannot deal with contract tenders, since the top two members of the board are now unavailable.
AATT chairman Gerald Hadeed is on sick leave. The T&T Guardian was told that board members Premchand Sahadeo, Ruthven Goddard, Rishi Mahadeo, Judith Baliram-Ramoutar, Maria Gonsalves and Carlisle Marks were scheduled to hold a tenders committee meeting yesterday. However, they were told by corporate secretary Shannon Rudd that the meeting would be adjourned indefinitely because of Ajodha’s unsuitability.
The instruction to cancel the meeting was given by the Transport Ministry, the Guardian learnt. Hadeed, however, has indicated he would be resuming duties as chairman soon. He was injured in an accident and had not been attending board meetings. Ajodha had been acting as chairman in Hadeed’s absence.
Ajodha’s departure means the board is unable to meet to discuss the award of millions of dollars worth in contracts, since according to the board’s constitution such proceedings must be chaired by either a chairman or acting chairman.
However, fears that the board may not be properly constituted when Hadeed returns were dismissed, as Mahadeo possesses a degree in engineering. According to the AATT constitution, which was amended under the People’s National Movement (PNM) administration, the board requires an engineer, lawyer and accountant among its members. Without such portfolios, the board would not be properly constituted and its actions could be called into question in a court of law.
AATT sources said when he was seeking the post, Ajodha had submitted his CV to the Boards Committee headed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Other members of the Boards Committee include Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, Sport Minister Anil Roberts and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal. Sources said any time a board selection has to be made, the line minister is also asked to attend the selection meeting.
“And in this case Minister Sharma was called in,” the source said. Adding hat it was Sharma who recommended Ajodha, the source said: “Obviously they did not do any thorough checks.”
Imbert sheds light
During his contribution to the debate, Imbert claimed Ajodha’s CV showed he earned a BSc in civil engineering from the University of the West Indies (UWI), a bachelor of architecture from the New York Institute of Technology and a project management professional qualification from the Project Management Institute. “Mr Speaker, I am told the University of the West Indies has no record of this fellow ever acquiring a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
“This is the deputy chairman of the Airports Authority, chairman of the tenders committee. I am told that the New York Institute of Technology, School of Architecture has no record of this gentleman attending or acquiring a bachelor of architecture. Similarly with the project management professional, Mr Speaker,” Imbert had said. Imbert said he also checked the list of engineers registered with the Board of Engineering in T&T “and there isn’t a single Ajodha on this list.
Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday, Imbert said Ajodha’s lack of qualifications meant he was not fit to be on the board or the tenders committee. “I would have thought once it became known he is not qualified he should be removed,” Imbert said. He said in his opinion, however, the Government usually takes a long time to deal with such matters. Efforts to contact Ajodha yesterday were unsuccessful, as all calls to his cellphone went unanswered.