President Anthony Carmona has deferred his response to questions now in the public domain relating to issues at President’s House. His response will be given on Wednesday.
A report on a probe by the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd (Nedco) board into the conduct of two senior Nedco officials will be made shortly, says Labour Minister Errol McLeod. McLeod confirmed this in the Senate, yesterday, while replying to Opposition questions. On April 12, the T&T Guardian reported exclusively that McLeod had confirmed the Nedco board was examining the conduct of two Nedco officials “in the performance of their functions at the company.”
Sources also indicated the two officials were “offline” at that time pending inquiries. Yesterday, the T&T Guardian confirmed that former Nedco CEO Ramlochan Ragoonanan, who had been on vacation up to April, has left and is no longer CEO. Ragoonanan had been Nedco CEO since October 2011. Yesterday in the Senate, McLeod said the Nedco board had been dealing with the probe into certain officials’ conduct and he and the Government were to be properly informed.
“As soon as all of that is done, I’m going to make an appropriate statement—not here—on that particular matter in short order,” McLeod added. He declined to answer queries as to whether the probe was in connection with alleged financial impropriety or procurement irregularities.
McLeod said he had been indicating in earlier statements to the Senate the state of things at Nedco under the previous PNM administration and “So as not repeat the sins of the past, we have been very particular about the performance of every single employee from CEO down to the last recruit, in any organisation that has to do with this ministry and this particular government,” McLeod added.
Nedco, governed by the Labour Ministry, is a state-owned, private limited-liability micro-finance company established in August 2002 under the PNM. It was designed to be the implementing agency for government policy on micro and small enterprises. Replying to other Opposition questions, McLeod said at yesterday’s Senate sitting an audit is being done of Nedco loans from its inception under the PNM to date, and so far the only delinquent loans were under the PNM’s tenure. ”But we’re doing reasonably well,” he added.
McLeod said Nedco gave 330 loans ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 in value, totalling $3.5 million between 2011 and 2013. Sixty-one others with a total value of $9.9 million were given, with the loans ranging between $100,000 and $250,000. McLeod said under the previous PNM administration large loans were given merely on the word of someone or a phone call. “There was an instance of a loan of $250,000 given at a time when the ceiling was only $30,000,” McLeod noted.
He said up to December 2013 there were 123 employees of Nedco, of whom 117 were full time. Total salaries and emoluments totalled $1.2 million a month. Nedco also pays $700,069 in rent—ranging from a low of $7,000 to a high of $126,000—for 17 office locations around T&T, including two offices at Penal for Nedco and Nedco’s Ibis programme, he added.
Former CEO comments
In the T&T Guardian’s April story on the probe, Ragoonanan, who was CEO at the time, said he was unaware of any inquiries or any investigation. He said he was on “urgent” leave concerning a family matter and had not received any official correspondence from the board about any inquiry. Ragoonanan had said he had taken leave on his own and had not been asked to.
Asked about allegations concerning the company and any probes, he said Nedco had several audits ongoing, but that was in the line of normal work. Ragoonanan had confirmed another senior official had also taken leave, but noted that official had applied for it before his own leave. Asked about complaints at Nedco, he’d said there “were always complaints in a work place and there were always people with complaints.” But he said he knew of no specific complaint being raised.
Ragoonanan said then he would be open to giving any information required by any enquiry. Yesterday, Ragoonanan declined to say if he had given any information to anyone or in response to a probe. He said subsequent to taking his vacation, he had requested a buyout of his contract, and it had been mutually agreed to by Nedco. “And I’ve moved on,” Ragoonanan said, confirming he is no longer Nedco CEO.
On why he sought a buy-out, Ragoonanan said, “At this point it was more feasible for me to take a buyout in order to pursue another option which had been on the drawing board for some time, and I wanted to undertake.” Ragoonanan said since he had left Nedco, he preferred not to make any further comment on the company. The T&T Guardian yesterday confirmed from Nedco that Julian Henry, who had been acting as CEO since Ragoonanan went on vacation, is still acting in the position.
Nedco officials said another person connected with the Ibis programme who was on leave at the same time Ragoonanan was on vacation has not yet returned to work. They said another official was handling the Ibis programme in the absence of the individual concerned. Contacted yesterday, a Nedco board spokesman said investigations were continuing and would be completed in “due course.”