Sun | Jan 23, 2022

FLA UNDER THE GUN

CEO Dalling’s lavish termination clause ruled a policy breach; no prescribed sanctions for violations

Published:Thursday | January 13, 2022 | 12:10 AM
Shane Dalling, chief executive officer of the Firearm Licensing Authority.
Shane Dalling, chief executive officer of the Firearm Licensing Authority.

Financial Secretary Darlene Morrison has admitted that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has become aware of employment contracts that are in breach of the ministry’s policy and guidelines but noted that there are no prescribed sanctions for the violations.

Her remarks come against the background of a concern highlighted by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis in her 2021 annual report in relation to the termination clause of the contract of Shane Dalling, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA).

According to Monroe Ellis, the termination clause in Dalling’s contract is not in keeping with the Fixed-Term Contract Officers Policy Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

She said that the FLA is exposed to the risk of incurring additional termination costs if the CEO’s contract is ended prematurely.

“The termination clause in the CEO’s five-year contract dated April 29, 2020, states that ‘either party may terminate this agreement by giving to the other two months’ notice in writing. Termination by the Firearm Licensing Authority before completion of the contract period shall be accompanied by payment of gross salary for the remaining period of the contract but not exceeding two and one-half year’s gross salary, plus prorated gratuity’,” the report said.

The auditor general argues that that provision represents a material deviation from Section 8(i) of the Fixed Term Contract Officers Policy Guidelines and requires the finance ministry’s approval. However, she said that the FLA did not obtain the requisite approval from the finance ministry.

Chairman of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) Mikael Phillips sought guidance from the financial secretary in relation to contracts that were not in line with the ministry’s guidelines.

“In recent times, we have been issuing directives in terms of compliance ... in terms of people needing to address any breaches, but there are no sanctions on the books, so we are limited in terms of what we can do from the Ministry of Finance,” Morrison told members of the PAAC who examined the second Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure now before the House.

Phillips described as “troubling” the admission from the financial secretary that the finance ministry could not sanction officials at MDAs that violate employment contract guidelines and rules.

While acknowledging that a contract was a legal document, Phillips indicated that failing to correct a clause that contravened the ministry’s own policy would be “a dereliction of duty to the people and taxpayers of the country”.

Morrison said that if the ministry identified an overpayment in an employment contract, the excess sum would be recovered.

“The contract may not be in line with the guidelines, but depending on the situation, (we) will determine whether or not we can recover,” she added.

The financial secretary argued that the requirement was that contracts should be submitted to the Ministry of Finance for approval. However, she told lawmakers that in some instances, they were not presented to the ministry.

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