Curiouser and curiouser best describes the conflict between the chairman of State-owned Tourism Trinidad Ltd (TTL) and the Government regarding the tenure of the Board of Directors of the tourism state enterprise.
On one hand is chairman Janelle Penny Commissiong who contends that the board’s term expires in August 2021 since, at TTL’s annual general meeting on February 19, this year,“Corporation Sole accepted the resolution that the board be re-appointed for another two-year term”, effectively extending its term to August 2021. On the other is Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell who says the board was appointed on August 19, 2017 by Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Finance for a two-year term which ends in August 2019.
Given the obvious difference between these two positions, the Ministry of Finance has launched an investigation to “determine the origin and authorisation of any other development which purports to have occurred outside of the necessary Cabinet oversight”.
This should be an easy one to settle since the decisive office-holders involved are the same person, Colm Imbert, who is both Minister of Finance and Corporation Sole. Following the example of the Spoiler classic Himself to Himself, Minister Imbert simply has to ask himself, as Corporation Sole, what position he carried to the TTL’s AGM of February 19 and whether it contradicts Cabinet’s position. It matters not whether Minister Imbert or his representative attended the AGM as Corporation Sole. What matters is the position carried by Corporation Sole when the agenda came to Item 6, “The Election of Directors”.
As a wholly-owned State company, the only shareholder with voting rights would have been Corporation Sole which raises questions about chairman Commissiong’s reference to a “resolution that the board be re-appointed”. Who put forward the resolution, how was the vote taken and by whom?
One assumes that there are minutes of this meeting detailing all proceedings with an accurate description of what took place. If the representative of Corporation Sole deviated from the Government’s position or inappropriately allowed a vote to be taken regarding the board’s term of office, that should have been evident from the moment the TTL’s board submitted the minutes to the Minister of Finance and its line minister, the Minister of Tourism. If the minutes raised no alarms, then one can assume that the Government had no problem with the re-appointment of the board, the assumption here being that minutes were indeed submitted which accurately reflect the AGM’s proceedings.
Ultimately, however, it may make little difference. Directors of State boards serve at the pleasure of the government. If the government is satisfied with their performance, they may serve a full term and even be re-appointed. If not, they can be removed at will, for reasons both valid and invalid. There are few winners in battles between State boards and governments. It affects the enterprise, employee morale and the brand with deleterious consequences for the government and the country.
Given the depressed state of T&T tourism, this is a conflict that neither the sector nor the economy can afford.
The best solution to the TTL dispute may be the quickest.