Augustine: THA units dismantled to improve efficiency

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine. File photo/David Reid

Several units in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) require some restructuring in order to make them efficient.

So said THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine on the heels of last Wednesday’s revelation that the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) under the Division of Community Development, Youth Development and Sport will undergo some restructuring.

At the post-Executive Council media briefing last week, Secretary with responsibility for the division Terance Baynes said CEPEP had become top-heavy, and restructuring was necessary to ensure it achieves its objectives. Baynes confirmed the restructuring of the programme, which will affect 14 workers, all in management positions. He said the Executive Council had agreed to give CEPEP workers a salary increase.

Weighing in on the Tobago Updates morning show on Facebook on Monday, Augustine said: “No one was sent home because they are of another political party or political affiliation.”

He said to date, three units within the assembly have been dismantled.

He delved into the Division of Infrastructure, which has disassembled its Monitoring and Evaluation Unit.

“This unit was meant to evaluate the work of the engineers in works at the works department, but not one single member of that unit was an engineer themselves. Not one single member of that unit had the capacity to really monitor and evaluate.”

He said units like that were established by the political directorate of the day.

“We decide we want to give some people a job, we set up this unit, pull them in on the unit – but there were no real checks and balances in terms of ensuring that people were qualified for the role and functions.”

He said when the PDP came to office it realised the unit was not effective, saying the chief administrator had been begging for reports on some units for a long time.

At the Office of the Chief Secretary, he said the Community Partnership Unit had to be closed.

“When I came into office, I noted that sometime in 2016 the former chief administrator Raye Sandy gave instructions, upon the instructions he received from then chief secretary Mr (Orville) London, to close down the unit. So Mr London, who started that unit, gave instructions that the executive was no longer desirous of keeping that unit in place, and then chief administrator Raye Sandy gave instructions for the unit to be closed and no one to be given new contracts.”

He said elections came in 2017 and the then Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles decided to extend the unit for a few months. Those few months, he said, turned into a few years.

“But by the time I came into office, I am seeing where former chief administrator (Bernadette) Koroma, she’s writing them in 2021 and 2020 begging for reports, asking what have you done, asking for records of activities and performance – and can’t get it. Eventually, she got a report.”

That report, he said, “basically said that workers were out with the candidates campaigning in the election of 2021. Then you look at the overall productivity and you ask yourself, is this something a unit within the THA should be spending money on?”

On Cepep, he said the organisational chart was definitely top-heavy, as the programme had more managers than needed.

“You have a lot of duplication. You have a lot of people who don’t have sufficient work to do at the top. We said we would design the organisational chart for maximum functionality and maximum productivity, (and) allow everybody at the top to reapply. After they have reapplied, some would be successful. Those that are not successful, we would then redeploy into vacancies that exist across the system.”

He said in the initial stage, it would look like firing, but that was not the case.

Asked what divisions might be restructured next, he said: “All divisions are going through this exercise. All divisions are looking at how we can be more efficient. All divisions are looking at their build-out and looking at what works (and) what does not work.”