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Breach at NHT? Controversy surrounds moratorium being enjoyed by boss of state agency

Published:Sunday | May 6, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter

A yearlong moratorium on a $28-million National Housing Trust (NHT) loan to the agency's managing director is raising eyebrows in several quarters.

The company's policy clearly states that staff members are only entitled to a two-month moratorium on loans from the organisation, and that the amount of the loan should not exceed 2.5 times the staff member's annual salary.

Responding to Sunday Gleaner queries, NHT Managing Director A. Cecile Watson said she would refer what she described as an "anomaly" to the recently appointed board for its consideration.

The Sunday Gleaner understands that the loan was approved in 2011. The new board took up office only a week ago.

Ammended loan

Watson explained that in 2010, the NHT amended its construction loan policy to enable its customers to have a period of up to 12 months before they begin repayment.

"A segment of my loan relates to construction/home improvement and I sought approval for a similar arrangement, and this was approved by the (then) chairman," said Watson.

"At the time of take-up of my loan, it came to my attention that the staff loan arrangement related to construction had not as yet been amended to be in keeping with the revised policy to our contributors," she added in a written response.

Efforts to reach the former chairman were futile. However, yesterday the new NHT chairman, Easton Douglas, told The Sunday Gleaner that he did not know why Watson referred to it as an anomaly.

Douglas did not provide any documentation to show the grounds on which the moratorium was granted to Watson.

He said it was his opinion that the stay of payment being enjoyed by the managing director is covered under the 2010 amendment because it was his view that it applied to all contributors and beneficiaries.

However, later in the interview, Douglas read from a memo penned by Watson on May 3, 2012 to the board of directors captioned 'Twelve-month moratorium for repayment of construction loan/home improvement loan facility: staff mortgage'.

In the memo, Watson was asking the board to extend the moratorium on staff loan home improvement/construction loans from two months to 12 months.

Meanwhile, Watson did not deny or confirm the amount she borrowed from the trust, but said the mortgage was above board.

"A mortgage loan accorded to me by the NHT is in keeping with my contract terms, and the amount is in keeping with the policy that relates to other staff members," she said. Douglas concurred.