Express Editorial : Daily

The Darryl Smith report, published exclusively in the Sunday Express over the past two weeks, has blown the lid on the Government’s cover-up of the deeply disturbing pay-off to the personal secretary of former sports minister Darryl Smith.

Far from being a committee whose actions compromised the course of natural justice, as declaimed by the Prime Minister and Attorney General, the investigation by journalist Sheila Rampersad found the trio of Jacqueline Wilson (chairman), Elaine Green and Folade Mutota had delivered a diligently-produced report with what appears to be some inconvenient truths for the Government.

The committee found senior public servants of the Sports Ministry deliberately excluded the Government’s Personnel Department (PD) from the negotiations with Ms Carrie-Ann Moreau despite the fact that the PD is the authorised office for conducting such negotiations. Its damning conclusion was that this was done “to ensure that the matter could be contained within the MSYA and any potential damage to the former minister could be minimised.”

The legal strategy employed in silencing Ms Moreau was the requirement that she sign a non-disclosure agreement before receiving a $150,000 settlement. A critical issue raised by the committee was the payment of this sum without the required Cabinet approval. It explained: “… since the allegations in this case involved the personal conduct of a Cabinet minister, it was for the Cabinet to determine if they were prepared to accept collective responsibility…” So far, it would appear that the Government has no qualms about burdening the public purse for the alleged private misdemeanour of a political colleague.

As head of the Cabinet, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley must account for the Government’s continuing failure to protect public funds in this matter. At least two weeks before he decided to fire Smith from the Cabinet on April 10, 2018, Dr Rowley would have become aware of the payment made without Cabinet approval and the surrounding circumstances when details were exposed by the media. And yet, despite this, he proceeded to protect Smith by re-assigning him from the Ministry of Sports to the Ministry of Housing until April 10, the day after the Sunday Express published the details of Ms Moreau’s complaint of sexual harassment filed with the Industrial Court.

The Wilson Committee’s report does not say if it turned up any information on exactly when the Prime Minister became aware of the Moreau-Smith matter or whether he was involved in the process. We do, however, note the still dubious role of his personal attorney Michael Quamina in securing the agreement with Ms Moreau.

Whether or not Dr Rowley chooses to consign the Wilson Committee’s report to the dustbin of history is now moot. The Government has enough information and authority to pursue the recovery of the $150,000 paid out from the public purse. As the PM did in announcing the Wilson Committee, the Government can lift the NDA to facilitate the recovery and pursue other action as warranted.

Similarly, regarding the public servants involved in the settlement, the Public Service Commission must fulfil its responsibility to protect the integrity of the Public Service. Nothing changes any of this.

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