Sun | Mar 24, 2019

AG: Ramharrack gag was wrong

Published:Monday | February 18, 2019 | 1:56 AM
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte discusses with Prime Minister Andrew Holness a section of the ministry paper on the use of non-disclosure agreements in public-sector contracts in Gordon House on Tuesday.
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte discusses with Prime Minister Andrew Holness a section of the ministry paper on the use of non-disclosure agreements in public-sector contracts in Gordon House on Tuesday.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte says the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the scandal-ridden state-owned oil refinery Petrojam and its former human resource manager Yolande Ramharrack was “ill-advised”.

“Non-disclosure clauses are useful where there is a good reason to protect the information being held confidential. I think we can all agree that the use of the non-disclosure agreement in that contract in question was ill-advised and bad. I don’t think there is doubt at all about it, in light of all of the circumstances,” Malahoo Forte, who advises the Cabinet on legal matters, told The Gleaner. “But we shouldn’t throw away a good tool because it has been poorly, badly or ill-advisedly applied in a particular case.”

Last week, details of Ramharrack’s $13.3-million deal with Petrojam, which were initially shielded from the public under an NDA, were made public. She walked away with $4.1 million after deductions.

Ramharrack, who was hired without the required academic qualifications, was facing 19 disciplinary charges for allegedly utilising her position to cause improper use of Petrojam funds, among other things, when she resigned. The settlement agreement was signed on November 14 and approved the following day.

In an interview withThe Gleaner after the ceremonial opening of Parliament last Thursday, Malahoo Forte said that while NDAs are not uncommon, the one signed with Ramharrack was not appropriate.

“Settlement agreements are not uncommon, termination agreements are not uncommon, use of confidentiality clauses is not uncommon. In the particular circumstances of the HR manager, I think that the use of the confidentiality clause was wrong,” the attorney general said.

policy to fix issue

She expressed hope that a policy direction tabled in Parliament recently will iron out these issues.

“Statutory bodies can be sued and sue in their own right, and they can consult with their own lawyer. You’d note that the recent policy direction that was tabled in Parliament mandates the statutory bodies – the board of the bodies – to consult with the relevant minister if there’s an issue in respect of a non-disclosure agreement that is likely to be controversial. So if you look on the three-pronged guidance that has been given by the prime minster, it should cover, once implemented, the issues that arose in the Petrojam matter,” Malahoo-Forte said.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com