FIXIN’ T&T said yesterday it views as “wholly unacceptable” Government’s refusal to release information on the Darryl Smith report, as well as its position that the document is “unusable” .
Head of the watchdog organisation, Kirk Waithe, has now continued to call on the three-member team that investigated allegations of sexual harassment against Smith to address claims by Government officials, including Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, that the process leading to the report was flawed and that Smith was not given an opportunity to be heard.
In a response yesterday, Waithe noted Al-Rawi’s remarks on Tuesday that “...the report as produced did not adhere to the laws of natural justice”.
“If it is true that Mr Smith was not afforded the opportunity to be heard, Ms Jacqui Wilson, Ms Folade Mutota and Ms Elaine Greene must be held accountable ...,” Waithe said, referring to the team appointed to investigate Smith.
He is now calling for clarification as to whether the former minister of sport was interviewed at any point during the probe and whether he was offered/provided the opportunity.
“If yes, what was the outcome? If no, why not?,” Waithe has asked.
“Natural justice dictates that a person accused must be given the opportunity to be heard and present his/her case. It is reasonable to assume that Ms Wilson, Ms Mutota and Ms Greene, given their respective backgrounds, are competent persons familiar with the ‘laws of natural justice’,” Waithe said.
Was it botched?
In April of this year, Waithe sought certain details of the report via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and was informed by the Office of the Prime Minister on October 4 that the request had been denied.
Via letter, the OPM stated that it had received Senior Counsel advice on the matter and had been told that some of Waithe’s requests did not comply with the Act.
Signed by Maurice Suite, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, the refusal letter stated , “The Smith Report contained the opinions and views of specified persons, both of which are captured by the definition of ‘personal information’ contained in the FOI Act. Further, the disclosure would be unreasonable because The Smith Report was arrived at in a process that was flawed and unfair in that the persons criticised therein were not given the opportunity to be heard before those criticisms were made.”
It also stated:
“In view of this, the OPM believes that the document requested at 1 above is an exempt document and that disclosure of this document is not justified by Section 35 of the FOI Act having regard to the matters stated therein and to the public interest. As such, the OPM is denying your request for access to the document listed above.”
Waithe was further advised that should he be so inclined, he was entitled to “apply to the High Court for Judicial Review” of the OPM’s decision within 90 days.
Waithe said the response suggests that the Prime Minister’s confidence in Wilson, Mutota and Greene was “misplaced”.
“One would have expected that as a matter of natural justice, the person(s) against whom the criticisms were levelled would be given the opportunity to be heard. That failure speaks to unimaginable incompetence and a dereliction of duty on the part of this investigating committee,” Waithe said.
The report was commissioned on the heels of a sex scandal at the Sport Ministry, where Smith was accused of harassment by former employee Carrie-Ann Moreau.
On firing Smith as minister and shuffling him to the position of junior minister in the Ministry of Housing last year, Rowley had said he was committed to investigating the circumstances under which a Sport Ministry official was compensated some $150,000 of public money and made to sign a non-disclosure agreement.