Express Editorial : Daily

Much has happened since April 2018 when, in response to media reports of sexual misconduct allegations against former sport minister Darryl Smith, Government spokespeople claimed no knowledge, limited knowledge or “nothing untoward”.

At the time, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was “trying to find out what went on there”; Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis did not know “where you all are getting this story…The media is trying to make a story out of a non-story. I don’t know if you all are pursuing real issues (instead of) trying to set an agenda”; and Attorney General Faris al-Rawi and Minister Stuart Young suggested it was a routine labour dispute.

The public and alleged victim Carrie-Ann Moreau, Smith’s former personal secretary, were justified in expecting a swift, procedurally proper investigation. Under the innocuous banner of “wrongful dismissal” had unfolded a precise detailing of 45 days of sexual harassment allegedly perpetrated by a then holder of ministerial office, corroborated by other members of staff. It stirred a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Apart from the obvious necessity for accountability from Smith, much else relies on the findings and fate of the report into his conduct while he was minister: a) the use and ethics of non-disclosure agreements in the public service; b) the conduct of permanent secretary Joan Mendez to whom Ms Moreau claimed she took her complaint; c) the practice and policies around contracted personal ministerial staff etc.

The report by Permanent Secretary Jacqueline Wilson, Folade Mutota and Elaine Green was submitted on June 4, 2018. Its findings regarding the conduct of some public officers had to be overseen by the Public Service Commission, said the Prime Minister, and they were following due process and natural justice. The public interpreted that to mean the Government was addressing whatever legal matters arose with a view to releasing the report.

This newspaper is unsure what is meant by the report being “unusable” and why simple remedies could not be found in 16 months. We concur with attorney Martin George that it is “highly unacceptable for the Government to not properly account to citizens on such serious allegations…There must be clear and direct accounting…”

The Freedom of Information application being heard before the court should have been an unnecessary default. We find ineptitude of the three-member committee a tough ask and urge the Government to facilitate release of the report. Ms Moreau’s witness statement filed in the Industrial Court, and reported in this newspaper, is a persuasive account of misbehaviour. The investigation has been done. In the absence of access to those informed findings compiled by the Committee, Ms Moreau’s statement stands as a powerful and unanswered accusation.

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