THA Chief Secretary Orville London yesterday confirmed Dr London, his cousin, will be a consultant to the Finance/Enterprise Development Division, brushing off concerns that hiring him was unethical.
“It is not a situation that you doing him (Dr London) any favour,” the Chief Secretary told Newsday.
Dr London had served for three terms of the THA (12 years) as Finance Secretary in the capacity of a councillor in the Assembly, never having faced the polls.
With respect to the $60,000 pay packet which some have criticised as being exorbitant, the Chief Secretary said the THA Executive sought and obtained advice from professionals from recognised human resource firms. He argued that the going industry rate in this circumstance, according to expert advice, was some $90,000.
The Chief Secretary said that a Note on the hiring of Dr London as a consultant has been approved but was not yet “confirmed” by the Executive Council. In fact, the Note is to go before the Executive Council today at its weekly meeting for official confirmation, according to the Chief Secretary, who indicated he was upset that the issue had become the subject of so much discussion in Tobago.
“It is apparent there has been a leakage. It is very interesting...I find it a little bit disconcerting that an Executive Council Note that has come before the Executive Council, was approved, but not yet been confirmed, could become the subject of so much discussion,” the Chief Secretary said. “There has been a leakage,” he reiterated.
The Chief Secretary said it was envisaged that following confirmation of the Note by the Executive Council, the new Finance Secretary Joel Jack would have announced the hiring of Dr London. Jack won the Bacolet/Mt St George seat in the PNM’s 12-0 defeat of the TOP in the January 21 THA Election.
“The intention was that when the Note had been confirmed, the Secretary (of Finance/Enterprise Development) would have made the appropriate announcement giving all the details,” the Chief Secretary contended.
He stressed that Dr London was being hired on contract as a consultant and not an advisor as claimed by some objectors. The issue shot into the spotlight in Tobago with many voicing their condemnation of Dr London’s contract on call-in programmes in the electronic media. Some have said Dr London’s hiring was a “well designed plan”.
Moreso, as in the run-up to the THA Election, the Chief Secretary had said Dr London and two other THA officials, then Tourism/Transportation Secretary Assemblyman Oswald Williams and former Health Secretary Assemblyman Albert Pilgrim (who had resigned his secretarial portfolio “for personal reasons”), were retiring from active politics and public life.
Reminded of this yesterday, the Chief Secretary noted the three men never indicated they were bowing out of public life.
“All had always indicated that they were willing to continue to be of service to the people of Tobago,” said the Chief Secretary. “They never said they were bowing out of public life; they were bowing out of the Assembly, not willing to be considered for the position of Secretary,” he countered.
On the perception that it was a case of “jobs for the boys” for Dr London to be hired as a consultant in the Finance Division he once led, the Chief Secretary defended the decision, referring to Dr London’s qualifications, experience and service abroad, including stints at development banks in Canada and Africa.
Responding to reports that Oswald Williams, who was Secretary of Tourism/Transportation up until the THA election, had been or would be hired as advisor in that Division, London told Newsday, “I have no information of Mr Williams being contracted by the Assembly as an Advisor in the Tourism Division.”