Taxpayers are owed an explanation of the appointment yesterday of businessman and political financier Rabindra Moonan as chairman of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), just weeks after he was removed as head of the board of Caribbean Airlines (CAL) in very controversial circumstances.The explanation offered by the HDC's line minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal, has not been sufficient to shake off the jobs-for-the-boys cloud that has hung over this appointment ever since it was first hinted at a few weeks ago.Certainly, there seems to be a major disconnect between this decision by Dr Moonilal and that of his Cabinet colleague Finance Minister Larry Howai, who sacked Mr Moonan and others from the CAL board.The glaring questions are these: What makes a man who presided over CAL during a period of financial failure and controversial board activity the best choice to now take the helm at the HDC? What is there about his track record and qualifications and puts him so far ahead of anyone else that he should be given charge of the state agency responsible for housing?
At the very least, there must be a good explanation of how the Government could, in the face of strong objections from several quarters, appoint someone it just fired for overseeing maladministration at CAL to another board with an even bigger responsibility, given the high demand for housing.The T&T public is aware of disturbing details of Mr Moonan's controversial 11-month stint as CAL chairman. To date, he has not been exonerated of any of the charges that led to the axing of that board. They were exposed for making several poor decisions and taking advantage of seemingly loose operating procedures at the cash-strapped carrier.Under Mr Moonan's watch, CAL deputy chairman Mohan Jaikaran requested 19 complimentary airline tickets for Mother's Day concerts he was promoting in New York and Toronto. There had also been a number of requests for passengers to be upgraded from economy to first class, all at the expense of T&T's taxpayers–and on an airline that recorded a loss of $339.5 million last year.
When he axed the Moonan-led CAL board, Mr Howai cited issues of bad corporate governance.However, in justifying Mr Moonan's new board assignment, Dr Moonilal claimed Mr Howai is new to the political process and had removed the CAL directors without prior Cabinet approval.However, Mr Howai's decision has not been rescinded, so Government must say whether or not it was happy with Mr Moonan's tenure at CAL. If they were satisfied with his performance as chairman of the airline, they would need to explain why he was removed from CAL.If, however, Mr Moonan was properly removed from CAL for poor performance, they must now justify his placement as HDC chairman and demonstrate that there was proper scrutiny of this appointment to a public entity where he will oversee the expenditure of millions of taxpayers' dollars.