May 13, 2017 News
The Alliance For Change (AFC) remains concerned about the non-appointment of an Ombudsman. The party assured this newspaper that it intends to make certain inquiries as to why this office remains headless, even after the close
of the first quarter.
Speaking with this newspaper on the matter yesterday was AFC Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan. The Minister of Public Security said that it is within the power of the President to appoint the Ombudsman, and he intends to ask questions as to why this has not yet occurred.
Ramjattan said he was not in a position to say whether the matter had been a subject of discussion recently at the level of Cabinet, but promised nonetheless to enquire about it at the next Tuesday meeting.
“It’s a presidential appointment and I will have to ask the President on Tuesday why the Ombudsman has not been appointed. I had my hands full with other issues and I didn’t keep a tab on the Ombudsman appointment. We remain concerned about it, but it is an appointment that has to be made by the President,” Ramjattan concluded on the issue.
It has been over seven months now since the Office of the Ombudsman remains headless.
The Government had said that the post would be filled by the end of March, but is yet to give any word as to what has been the reason for the delay in the appointment for such an important office.
Compounding the matter is the fact that the Government is yet to take action on two reports which were completed by late Ombudsman Winston Moore who passed away September last.
One of the reports done by Moore focused on the issue of Kaieteur News columnist Freddie Kissoon being wrongfully dismissed from the University of Guyana.
Kissoon was on a contract with the University of Guyana but it was terminated by the tertiary institution on January 18, 2012. This was in spite of the fact that Kissoon’s contract had five months remaining, at the end of which, he would have reached the age of retirement.
Rather than the story that he was dismissed, the University had said that it merely ended the contract earlier, eight months before the contract expired. The contract stipulated that it could be terminated and three months’ salary paid in lieu of notice.
Kissoon did not hear from the University despite several efforts for a reason why his contract was terminated prematurely.
Following a complaint lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman, UG was notified that the newspaper columnist’s contract being terminated in such a manner breached UG’s regulations. The report on the issue said that he should be compensated.
Since the Ombudsman made this pronouncement in January 6, 2015, no action has been by the institution to compensate Kissoon.
The late Ombudsman Moore had also ruled on another controversial matter relating to the New Building Society (NBS).
The Office of the Ombudsman concluded in November 2014 that police wrongfully charged the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and two of his managers of a massive $69M fraud at the New Building Society, in 2006.
The explosive document by the public complaint office was based on complaints by Maurice Arjoon, the former CEO. Arjoon, in his complaint, said he and two managers, Kissoon Baldeo and Kent Vincent, were deliberately and maliciously charged by police for a $69M scam.
Arjoon said that he believed that the trumped-up fraud charges, later dismissed in the Magistrates’ Court, stemmed from his refusal to lend $2B for the construction of the Berbice River Bridge.
The former Government had been seeking financing for the project. Arjoon reportedly told his Board of Directors that the regulations barred the institution from lending that much. NBS voted to invest $350M in the project.
Arjoon claimed that his refusal to illegally lend the $2B angered then-President Bharrat Jagdeo.
Arjoon, who has been insisting his innocence from day one, said in his complaints that over seven years were taken away from his life.
The late Justice Moore, who had sweeping powers to investigate abuse by public officers, hired former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Henry Chester, DSM, who, in reviewing a copy of the police files, found that based on the evidence, there was no way that the three men could have been charged. It was also found that the police files did not include a key exhibit.
Arjoon had filed a high court action to overturn the decision of NBS to dismiss him, saying that he lost his benefits as a result.
The explosive report raised serious questions about the rush by the police to lay charges; the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the role played by the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana.
Since the report was laid in the National Assembly, nothing has happened.
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