– tells him to “re-read” report on NBS fraud charges
“I repeat that anyone affected by the report is at liberty to communicate with me in the proper manner and also the opportunity can be taken by that person to remedy any default.”
Days after an explosive report that raised serious questions over the manner in which charges were laid against three
top managers of the New Building Society (NBS), Ombudsman, Justice Winton Moore, has taken on a Government Minister who criticized him.
According to the Judge, who has sweeping, independent powers to investigate complaints against public officials, he read statements attributed to Dr. Nanda Gopaul, Minister of Labour, that the NBS Board of Directors was not afforded a hearing by the Ombudsman.
Moore, in a statement, said that he spoke to Dr. Gopaul by telephone on Friday “advising him to read or re-read my report and to point out where in the report I made any finding on anything done by the NBS Board.”
The Ombudsman noted that the only mention he made of the NBS Board is in one sentence of the report, and in which he said that “I have no jurisdiction to pronounce on the action of the NBS Board in firing the managers and I therefore refrain from any comment.”
Justice Moore urged Minister Gopaul to now do what is “honourable”.
The report had angered Government officials. NBS Chief Executive Officer, Maurice Arjoon, and his two managers, Kent Vincent, and Kissoon Baldeo, were all charged in June 2007 for a $69M fraud at the bank.
The charges were later dismissed, but not before the three were sacked for what NBS Board of Directors said was “dereliction of duty, negligence and serious misconduct”.
In January shortly after Justice Moore was sworn in, Arjoon who had been insisting that he was framed, filed a complaint
with the Ombudsman’s office insisting that he was deliberately and maliciously charged. He claimed that he was set-up after refusing to illegally endorse a proposal to lend Government $2B for the construction of the Berbice River Bridge. The board later voted for a reduced, $350M investment in the bridge.
Gopaul on Friday said that media reports on the Ombudsman findings gave the impression that senior Government functionaries, including Jagdeo, had a hand in some form of victimization against Arjoon.
“I wish to categorically state, that had there been a proper investigation done and persons who have been accused of certain wrongdoings given an opportunity to be heard, it would have been revealed that all the accusations made by Mr. Arjoon are baseless.”
Gopaul also said that the Ombudsman’s report on the complaint, which was released earlier this month, implicates a number of persons who were never afforded an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against them and therefore, it violates the principles of natural justice and most basic requirements of fairness and due process.
Gopaul went further. “Importantly, the learned Ombudsman does not have the mandate and jurisdiction to review the decision of a private company to dismiss its employees.
“The fact that the company (NBS) was not even consulted simply compounds the wrong.”
According to Justice Moore yesterday, he noted the statements in the press allegedly made by Dr. Gopaul and Shalimar
Ali-Hack, Director of Public Prosecutions.
“The Ombudsman’s report was sent by me to Dr. Roger Luncheon, Head of the Presidential Secretariat for transmission to his Excellency the President Mr. Donald Ramotar, Dr. Ashni Singh and Dr. Nanda Gopaul. I also sent copies to Mr. Anil Nandlall, Attorney-General, Mrs. Elizabeth Harper, Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner of Police and Mr. Maurice Arjoon, Complainant and to no other person.”
The Ombudsman said that he sent letters with the report to persons named in the report and invited them to make such comments as they see fit. “In other words, anyone affected by anything said in the report was and is at liberty to write me expressing their views and to dispute any statement or any erroneous finding.
“The Ombudsman Act requires me to submit the report to anyone affected by anything contained in it and in all fairness, to allow that person to dispute anything in the report affecting him or her. I did not release the report to the press. The stage for that is still to come.”
Justice Winston Moore said that should anyone affected by the report make any comment or dispute anything contained in
the report, he has to consider the comments and if necessary, revise any finding or statement affected.
“After observing the procedure outlined above, I may then lay a special report before the National Assembly. I may also in the public interest release the report at that stage for public consumption.”
He suggested that there is a mechanism for affected persons at his office. The Ombudsman made it clear that he “cannot and will not at this stage debate the report in the press. I repeat that anyone affected by the report, is at liberty to communicate with me in the proper manner and also the opportunity can be taken by that person to remedy any default.”
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