Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Delinquent technocrats at fault? - Graham claims officials failed to put Samuda on right path

Published:Sunday | May 14, 2017 | 5:34 AMChristopher Serju
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A failure by technocrats in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries to guide portfolio minister Karl Samuda on the process governing applications for the importation of powdered milk in Jamaica has been cited as a major contributor to the imbroglio centred on the dismissal of agronomist Hugh Graham as chief executive officer of the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB), a statutory body.

In a letter dated March 9, 2016, to Rosemarie Jadusingh, logistics manager of Wisynco Group Limited Joan Butler, writing on behalf of the administrator of the Trade Board, explains that the denial of an import permit for powdered milk from Colombia was primarily on the grounds that the country is not a permitted source for the product.

It states further: “We are also advised that this information was communicated to your company by the Chief veterinary service officer, Veterinary Services Division, Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, at a meeting held on Thursday, December 19, 2016.”

STANBERRY’S ASSISTANCE

Graham, who has retained the services of the law firm Henlin Gibson Henlin to challenge his dismissal, said that he sought the help of the agriculture ministry’s permanent secretary, Donovan Stanberry, on the issue. He said he was prevented, at times, in his effort to educate the minister, by Sandor Pike, director of agricultural market and credit services.

“We will be pursuing appropriate measures as per our instructions to bring about a resolution in accordance with his rights and contract or as otherwise acceptable to him,” attorney Georgia Gibson Henlin told The Gleaner.

Graham points out that at a meeting convened on January 18, 2017, and attended by Wisynco executives, Samuda directed the technocrats to grant approval for the company to import 100 metric tonnes of powdered milk for resale on the local market, despite their objections on technical grounds.

Thereafter, Graham wrote to Stanberry, seeking his assistance to get the minister’s directive in writing but never got an answer. Graham also took exception to the very involved role of Pike, who has ardently advocated for the permit licence to be granted, especially in light of his informed position.

“The arguments put forward by Mr Pike that there is ‘space’ to accommodate the applicant are false, irresponsible, and would clearly be injurious to the local production. It was made clear to Mr Pike that no new entrants, especially in the powdered milk ‘sachet market’, were being considered,” he shared with The Gleaner.

Graham also claimed that Pike provided incomplete and misleading information to the minister in an open forum, where representatives of the applicant were present.

“Mr Pike stoutly advocated for the granting of the permit of the applicant ... . Mr Pike has been lobbying the JDDB to grant the permit to Wisynco since the inception of the request. The management and staff of the JDDB are unduly distressed, unsettled, and demoralised by the constant attacks and verbal instructions to issue a permit to this particular applicant. Wisynco is not the only applicant denied a milk powder permit,” Graham told The Gleaner.

After a press conference hosted by Samuda on Wednesday, Pike engaged The Gleaner and claimed that Graham had acted inappropriately throughout the matter. He said that Graham had acted improperly in other cases as well but could not provide evidence.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com