The former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) CEO was fired last year because he breached his duty in failing to obtain WASA Board approval and the proper authorisation for a $2 milion payment, according to Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte.
Le Hunte gave the explanation in the Senate yesterday following queries from UNC Senator Wade Mark on the circumstances which led to the suspension and subsequent dismissal of the ex- CEO —Ellis Burris last year.
Burris was fired last May after being sent on vacation as a result of an international investigation. At the time Burris said the matter was with his lawyers who would “use their legal minds to decipher what is right from wrong. Burris was appointed CEO in July 2017.
Le Hunte had said last year Burris was sent on leave because of an investigation into allegations that he’d taken actions without the Board’s involvement.
At yesterday’s Senate, Le Hunte said the former CEO was advised to go on leave in order to facilitate a probe into the payment of allowances on or around October 10, 2018 outside of his prescribed limit, without the WASA Board’s approval .
Le Hunte said, “The Board after giving full consideration to the matter and on the basis of evidence available to it , including the responses and information provided by the CEO concluded that the CEO breached his fiduciary duty of care and faithful service to Wasa in failing to obtain the required approval of the Board. “
“Further, that the CEO failed to follow due process to ensure the payment was properly authorised and in ceding his jurisdiction and/or authority in authorising the payment. In the circumstances and based on loss of trust and confidence in the CEO, his service was terminated. The CEO has subsequently indicated his intention to bring legal proceedings on the matter b issuing a pre-action protocol letter.
On Mark’s query about the payment, Le Hunte said it was in the vicinity of, or about $2 million. He couldn’t say how many benefitted from the transaction.
But Le Hunte said the systems involved in the issue have been tightened at WASA to ensure that people are made aware of their limits and when they have limits, certain things require “escalation.”
He said when people have certain lines of authority and there are procedures , in running an organisation one had to ensure people acted within the prescribed limits of way of authority otherwise it was left open for a lot of things to happen.
“We also ensured managers are aware of their limits and understand the consequences of not keeping things in the prescribed limits,” he added.
Also at yesterday’s sitting, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi— on other queries — said T&T is a “very litigious society.”
He said he has seen vast amounts of litigation regarding the state concerning police activity. He said there can be no greater independent reviewer than the courts
He reiterated that some raids at Gulf View last year involved police being in “hot pursuit of an alleged perpetrator of a kidnapping.
Al-Rawi said police can enter a house without a search warrant when effecting an arrest. Officers may enter the premises without warrant to prevent a murder, arrest a person they followed onto the premises, to prevent commission of a crime or follow an offender running from officers.