Oct 15, 2015 News
The recent termination of a Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) official, who was assisting with that entity’s forensic audit, has caused trade unionist Lincoln Lewis to question the terms used to dismiss the individual.
Lewis, the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) General Secretary, described the arbitrary dismissal as an abuse of privilege and authority. He called on the reason for the dismissal to be made clear by GRDB authorities.
Among the recent developments in the GRDB forensic audit was the discovery of $100M which was loaned by the GRDB outside of its authority, to the Rice Producers’ Association (RPA) with no form of collateral being provided.
On March 4, it had been reported that while assisting forensic auditors, the official a former Occupational Health and Safety Officer, was sent a termination letter by GRDB General Manager Nizam Hassan.
In a letter to Hassan, the official can be seen requesting an explanation for the General Manager’s decision to dismiss him. The official’s letter went on to note that no reason for firing him was provided in the termination letter.
The letter was reportedly written one day after the dismissal. In the correspondence, it was stated that while the GM “claimed it was a Board decision, the Board would not (have met) until Friday, October 2, 2015.”
Lewis noted that such an arbitrary dismissal was an abuse that should not be allowed to go unchecked. He affirmed that such occurrences must be brought to an end.
He added that in some instances the Head of a Corporation can move to arbitrarily dismiss a senior official under the severance pay law. Describing this as a draconian law, he stated that it is often done when the Head of the Corporation cannot prove a case against the official.
“This is about power,” he said. “Some have power and they use it to the detriment of others.”
He added that action needs to be taken and it must be made clear on what grounds the official was dismissed.
With regard to protection for other whistleblowers, Lewis stated that the Terms of Reference (TOR), under which the forensic audits operated, need to be revisited in order to determine what protection can be afforded.
According to the 1994 GRDB amended Act, Part 3, Section 17 (3), “The Board may employ a Secretary and such other officers and employees as the Board may require for the purposes of carrying out its functions under this act, and the power to remove and to exercise disciplinary control over any person so employed shall be vested in the Board.”
Citing the GRDB Act, Co-Chairman of the Rice Producers’ Association-Action Committee (RPA-AC) and Board Director Jinnah Rahman had made it clear that there was no reason to dismiss the employee, save in an effort to silence the staff of GRDB and as an act of vindictiveness.
He had also noted that the dismissal could not have come about following a Board meeting as the only meeting scheduled for that week, was on Friday, October 2. That meeting, Rahman observed, was “arbitrarily” cancelled.
“The Board of Directors’ never discussed the man’s matter,” Rahaman stated.
The dismissal has also drawn criticism from Junior Minister of Finance Jaipaul Sharma, who bears oversight for the forensic audits. He has stated that the man’s dismissal at that junction could be construed as preventing the audits from being carried out.
Hassan was only named as General Manager of GRDB in July. He replaced former General Manager Jagnarine Singh, who resigned from GRDB ahead of the impending audit into the agency.
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