In addition, 15 Defence Force officers are to be assigned to the household staff, government sources disclosed yesterday.
De Souza, a Portuguese who grew up in Goa, India, was dismissed three weeks ago after a breach in the confidentiality policy of the official household was reported to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. De Souza was summoned to a meeting with Capt Gary Griffith, security adviser to Persad-Bissessar, who informed him his services had been terminated.
Under the PNM administration of Patrick Manning, de Souza was seconded from the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain to the Prime Minister’s Residence in 2007 where, as executive house manager, he was the head of the household. He took up this position on November 7, 2007, two days after the general election which the PNM won. His salary as executive house manager was $30,870 per month.
Manning had the residence built by Chinese firm Shanghai Construction Group at a cost of more than $100 million.
Subsequent to her election as Prime Minister on May 24, Persad-Bissessar had de Souza take reporters on a tour of the residence.
After he was fired late last month, de Souza returned to his position as an executive housekeeper at the Hyatt but has since proceeded on leave overseas but sources said they do not expect him to return to Trinidad at the end of his vacation. De Souza could not be reached on his cellphone for comment.
Sources revealed de Souza was questioned about his relationship with Manning before his dismissal. He has been replaced at the Prime Minister’s Residence by house manager Linda Aadersson, who is from Sweden and who was hired on February 19, 2008 during Manning’s term.
Her salary was $12,000 per month. Aadersson’s appointment is temporary since arrangements are being made to have a Defence Force officer appointed as comptroller of the household at the La Fantasie residence.
Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Edmund Dillon confirmed the search for a comptroller.
“We are still screening some persons but no final decision has been taken. We are looking at a number of people including those who have retired as well. It is being worked on as we speak. We are there to serve the Government in any capacity that we are called upon to do,” Dillon told Newsday.
He said the Defence Force welcomed the move to have an officer appointed as the head of household at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
Prior to Manning’s hiring of de Souza, members of the Defence Force served as the heads of household at the official Prime Minister’s Residence.
Griffith had served as comptroller of the residence under former prime minister Basdeo Panday between 1999 and 2001.
Manning also had members of the Defence Force as comptrollers during his administration between 2002 and 2007, Colonel Sharon Alfonso and Capt Elizabeth Williams, before hiring de Souza on his re-election in 2007.
Three weeks ago, Griffith had disclosed there would be a review of the security and support staff at the Prime Minister’s Residence inclusive of the sub-contracting of staff from Hyatt and Udecott. Udecott and Hyatt staff managed the residence under Manning, and most of them were non-nationals.
Sources said Persad-Bissessar plans to replace the foreign staff with locals.
Apart from a comptroller, 15 Defence Force officers are to be assigned to duties at the official residence.
Sources said Persad-Bissessar felt locals should be hired in preference over foreigners.
In his last administration, Manning instructed that his household staff should include foreigners which were 20 Filipinos, an Indian, a St Lucian, a Swede and a Portuguese national.
Seven Trinidadians were the only locals assigned to the former residence under Manning. Even security officers assigned to guard Manning were mainly from African countries, such as Nigeria, and it was reported the former prime minister did not trust the local police.
The Filipinos and other foreign staff were hired from the Hyatt, and their duties ranged from being room attendants, cooks, laundry assistants to a butler.
Once the household staff is reorganised, Persad-Bissessar is expected to officially occupy the Prime Minister’s Residence before the end of the year. Sources said Persad-Bissessar has moved some of her personal belongings into the official residence and has overnighted there several times.