A letter of termination has been served to yet another employee of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security’s Child Protection Agency following investigations into the tragic Neesa Gopaul case.
The mutilated body of 16-year-old Gopaul, a Queen’s College student, was found stuffed into a suitcase which was anchored with weightlifting mechanisms in a creek near the Emerald Tower Resort on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway.
The Child Protection Agency’s handling of the matter had gained the attention of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and this newspaper was reliably informed yesterday that one of the three officers who may have failed to undertake their duties effectively as it relates to the case, was served with a letter of termination on Tuesday. That terminatiion was set to take effect yesterday.
Reports reaching this newspaper had suggested that the decision to terminate the officer had enraged other staff members and was the basis for them to leave the agency unmanned yesterday morning.
However, when this newspaper visited the Agency yesterday, work appeared to be continuing normally. This was backed by comments offered by the Minister with responsibility for the Agency, Priya Manickchand.
Speaking to media operatives outside her office Manickchand said that she was not in receipt of any information suggesting that staff members had left or were planning to leave the Agency unmanned.
“I don’t have any information that anybody had left the Agency. The Child Protection Agency is up and running,” she asserted yesterday.
Emanating from the now infamous Neesa Gopaul case, an internal investigation was undertaken within the Ministry. At the end of the investigation certain recommendations were made.
And according to Manickchand since the recommendations for disciplinary action were against public service employees they were forwarded to the PSC which has the responsibility for hiring or firing or meting out other disciplinary action to officers within the Agency.
“I know that they were investigating but of course we weren’t a part of that investigation. I just knew because they had sent for records and staff…” Manickchand revealed yesterday that she has since learned from the Director of Social Services, Mr Whentworth Tanner, that the PSC has since acted, based on its investigation.
“What they might have done was to either come up with their own disciplinary measures or follow the recommendations that we made….So you may have been hearing from a disgruntled employee…”
But despite the recent concerns that have surfaced, the Minister stressed that she is extremely proud of the work done by the Child Protection Agency.
According to her since it commenced operation, the Agency has had over 3,000 successful interventions for the children of Guyana. “I am very, very happy about the quality of work that has been done…Having said that, indolence is not going to be tolerated because when that happens it is our children that are at risk and so there is always going to be an effort to get the best staff and we will have to insist on the highest standard.
“If there are people who are unhappy with that, in terms of staff, then perhaps they would need to find employment elsewhere.”
The dismissal of staffers however, will not hamper the current “fantastic” operation of the Agency, since according to the Minister a recent advertisement was placed for suitable applicants to apply for a number of positions within the Child Care Protection Agency.
This, she said, is likely to see the staff of the Agency being quadrupled once the hiring process is completed. The need to improve the capacity of the Agency comes as a result of a detailed study that was done following the internal investigation into the Neesa Gopaul case.
“We know this case was about capacity. We became a mature agency so quickly because of the need so we have to increase our capacity. The building that is being refurbished to house the Agency is almost finished, it has to be painted; we are haggling a little about the colours we are going to use because we want to make it child friendly in every respect.”
In the meantime, the Minister noted that the Ministry is well on its way to fixing things that may have been wrong and could have contributed to the errors made in the Neesa Gopaul matter.
“The fact that an officer comes to the Agency and says to me that his or her heart is in the right place…But sometimes that alone is not enough…I have a duty and while I may like them (officers) I have a duty to ensure that we have a quality and a standard that meets the needs of our children.”
In response to a potential industrial action, the Minister asserted that measures will be put in place to ensure that the Agency is not held to ransom even as she assured that the current operation will not be compromised.
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