THERE can be no question about Ferdie Ferreira’s political loyalties, and his preferences. He has no agenda against the current administration, racial or otherwise. The current Prime Minister was the special guest and keynote speaker, at the launch of his autobiography, during his first term in that office, 2015 to 2020.
It is from this perspective one has to take notice of Mr Ferreira’s lament over what he sees as different stokes for different folks, as being implemented by the government of this day. He contrasts the treatment meted out to members of the Board of Commissioners and senior management figures the Port Authority during his time there, with the manner of execution now in play at the Water and Sewerage Authority.
Mr Ferreira recounted part of his working experience, almost all of which was spent in what he called the “port industry” in the country.
He spent more than 30 years on the port, moving from messenger to acting general manager, before he retired. He spent 14 months, during the period 2015 to 2017, under the present administration, as a member of the Board of Commissioners. During that time, he said, what he found was incompetence, mismanagement and indiscipline. If there were corruption, he said, it was very limited, not very costly and not easily identifiable.
Yet he said, the Prime Minister and other members of his Cabinet described the Port Authority as the most corrupt State enterprise they inherited when they returned to office in 2015.
One moment it’s WASA, then it’s the port next time. This moniker gets shifted around, by whim and fancy of the current incumbency. He said the then acting general manager and her deputy were dismissed summarily, in her case, by e-mail, at 10.45 one evening. Between them both, they had 60 years’ experience on the port. After four years, he said, they are yet to benefit from receipt of their pensions and other benefits accrued over their working life.
He said the entire Board was also constructively dismissed, but between then and now, not single shred of evidence of corruption has been unearthed, in spite the occupancy of three Chairmen since the departure of the, former government minister Christine Sahadeo. This, he said, was in an atmosphere in which allegations of misconduct and corruption against members of the board and management were swirling around.
He said her resignation was tabled and accepted without the knowledge of other members of the board, and she has since been appointed to two other state boards, a privilege which has thus far been denied other members of that board. Such members, he said, were publicly ridiculed by those allegations.
In his 14 months as a member of the Board of Commissioners at the Port Authority, Mr Ferreira says he neither experienced nor participated in any questionable activity
He now contrasts this with what he said have been similar allegations regarding WASA, where again here the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet speak of a deep-seated culture of corruption and mismanagement. But here, he says, the chairman has been promoted, the board has not been dismissed, the former Acting CEO has reverted to his substantive position and the union has become the scapegoat, despite the fact that all allegations of corruption, including questionable contracts were approved by boards and management, past and present.
He asks how long will double standards continue to be the norm, whether there is one law for WASA and another for the Port.
He calls on the administration to right what he sees injustice inflicted upon the dismissed Acting General Manager and the deputy.
What is of vital importance here, is that Mr Ferreira could have written these sentiments in a letter and have it hand-delivered to the Prime Minister. He could have taken it to him in person, given the unquestionable access he enjoys.
That he has chosen to make these observations and recommendations public, speaks volumes for both the strength of his sentiments, and the force that lies behind the public airing of uncomfortable truths.
Without merit, he was personally affronted by being associated with the stain of corruption and what he concludes also as the baseless assaults on the integrity of the two most senior executives in the organisation. He challenges the further injustice inflicted upon them, having now to go to court in order to clear their names, such that they can reap the just reward from their years in that vineyard.
Coming from one of its own, in every manner of speaking, the government appears duty bound to show cause, where why and how Mr Ferreira’s assertions may be without merit, if it chooses to sidestep his public appeal.
Pointedly, too besides, he lays this directly at the feet of his friend, the Prime Minister.
THE AUTHOR a veteran journalist