Mon | May 29, 2023

Senior HEART official retains lawyer in job fight

Published:Friday | February 3, 2023 | 8:58 AM
The staffing changes at the HEART/NSTA Trust took effect on February 1. - File photo.

At least one of the three senior officials at skills training agency HEART/NSTA Trust, whose positions have been recently filled by temporary appointees, has hired a lawyer.

Senior Director, Corporate Services and former Acting Managing Director Novelette Denton Prince confirmed that she has sought legal advice.

"I can't say anything right now on the issue," she told The Gleaner on Thursday.

HEART, which reports directly to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is also saying little on the matter, declining to confirm whether the three have been sent on leave or are the subjects of any internal investigation.

"As a general principle of accountability, the Trust consistently examines its various institutions and departments," HEART said in an emailed response yesterday.

"The Trust is, however, not in a position to comment on any individual case as to do so may prejudice the rights of individuals, breach due process, and compromise any investigation that may or may not be taking place. Until a review is complete, there can be no finding."

On Wednesday, Acting Director, Human Resource Management & Development William Malabver advised staff of the changes that took effect on February 1.

Christene Gittens is acting in Denton Prince's position.

The other two officials are Senior Manager, Human Resource Management, Sonia Ingleton and Manager, Human Resource Management, Oneke Dixon.

Geraldine Recass Blair is acting for Ingleton while Paula Grey Bernard has assumed acting appointment in Dixon's post.

Ingleton said she could not immediately comment yesterday while telephone calls to Dixon have gone unanswered.

The multibillion-dollar training agency has been rocked by a series of scandals over its governance and use of taxpayers' money in the last three years.

In January 2022, Professor Alvin Wint was named the chairman, replacing businessman Edward Gabbidon, who stepped down in December 2021 amid public concerns about him holding the chairmanship while being the CEO of a company that is a major technology supplier to HEART.

It was also revealed that HEART paid out undisclosed millions in new salaries to senior executives before getting the required approvals.

Permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Audrey Sewell, later told a parliamentary committee that the contract of the former managing director, Dr Janet Dyer, was not renewed because she approved the salary hikes without authorisation from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.

After revealing that HEART spent more than $5.7 million on a board retreat with senior managers at a luxurious St Ann hotel in October, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told Parliament in December that the agency was in need of a refocus and would be subject to a comprehensive strategic review.

Dr Taniesha Ingleton was permanently appointed managing director in August 2022, over a year after Denton Prince acted in the role.

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