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PAEC chairman on probe into YTEPP:
Member of the Public Accounts Enterprises Committee (PAEC) David Small says “a clear message has been sent out by the Board of the Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) following the Board’s dismissal this week of the programme’s chief executive officer Nigel Forgenie.
The Board is chaired by Thora Best
Small added: “And I suppose by extension the Government that if your hands are found in the kitty they are prepared to take action.”
Small was the committee member who put the question to the now sacked chief executive officer of YTEPP three times on July 4 whether he had a relative working at the company or whether any relative had been given a contract.
On the three occasions Forgenie responded in the negative.
He was warned by committee chairman Wade Mark of having to face the consequences if he did not tell the truth since he was under oath.
It was only on the fourth occasion when the question was put to him by committee member Jennifer Baptiste-Primus that Forgenie admitted his wife had been employed in a dance programme run by YTEPP under her maiden name.
Yesterday, Small told the T&T Guardian the dismissal was a “surprise, I think it is the first time in the records of how the JSC functions something like that has occurred.”
He said it was “really unfortunate,” but he said he gave Forgenie “every opportunity to come clean, I told him that we had additional information and I am giving you the opportunity to change your answer and to come clean, and he insisted on going the way he went.”
Small said he took no pleasure in the dismissal of the CEO since “I will be the last person to have any enjoyment or excitement from someone losing their job in this economic climate,” but he said it was clear that things under Forgenie’s 12- year tenure at YTEPP were not as they should have been.
He said he doubts that Forgenie “acted alone, so I expect that the Board will continue its investigation to determine who else in the company is culpable.”
Small said Forgenie’s dismissal “is a huge swelling effect for a long time most people holding those positions would say nothing would happen and we will be able to walk away and life goes on as normal.”
He said while the committee is not a “punitive committee trying to get people to lose their jobs or have people fired,” they do have a duty to “protect the resources of the State in the best way possible to make sure that people who are in charge of these entities who have control of these resources, apply the proper rules and procedures, that’s what we are trying to do.”
Yesterday, calls to Forgenie’s phone went unanswered and calls to YTEPP chairman Thora Best were also futile.
Small said holders of high office at State entities “and I continue to hold the view that when you listen to the way some of the people in charge of these entities operate, they don’t seem to understand that this is taxpayers’ money, this is not a slush fund for you to take and spend and don’t apply proper control or procedures.”
Committee chairman Wade Mark agreed saying “we need value for our money, as I keep telling people there is no party colour in the taxpayer dollar.”
Mark said since assuming the role of oversight JSC’s and parliamentary committees like the PAEC “ had extraordinary success in keeping State enterprises under check and real serious scrutiny and probity.”
Without the parliamentary oversight committees, he said, the public would not have a lot of the information which is now available, “There has been a massive increase in the level of accountability, transparency and openness as a result of the formation and establishment of the committees,” he said.
On the specific case of Forgenie, Mark said his was “unique because he blatantly lied to the committee.”
Mark said, “There are instances where we seek information and get all kind of roundabout answers to questions and a complete refusal to answer.”
He recalled when TSTT appeared before the committee when they were asked about the sale arrangement with Massy Communication, “we asked did they do an evaluation, did you do due diligence, they gave us a cock and bull story. The committee is yet to get the report requested so we sent a report to Parliament to that effect.”
Once the parliamentary committees submit their report with recommendations the State entities under review have 60 days to respond in writing to tell the committee they have received the recommendation and the action which they have taken.
Both Small and Mark believe that while the committees have an important role in keeping the State entities accountable, the organisation charged with monitoring State entities the Investment Division of the Ministry of Finance needs strengthening.
Mark said, “You have 110 State enterprises and 20 people in the Investment Division how can they supervise properly? It is impossible.”
He believes that the Investment Division should become “an independent unit attached to the Parliament with an independent budget and reporting directly to the Parliament.”
Small agreed that the Investment Division “is woefully understaffed, woefully under-resourced, so that needs to be fixed.”
Small said it was a “physical impossibility,” for the division to properly monitor the State entities given its short-comings urging that the issues be addressed.
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