Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat

Paul Gabbadon, who chairs the Caribbean Fisheries Training and Development Institute’s (CFTDI) management committee, is also acting as institute principal – and being compensated with the base salary of $21,138 and allowances in the sum of $1,100.

Government Senate leader Clarence Rambharat, who confirmed this in the Senate yesterday, clashed with UNC Senator Anil Roberts over the situation.

Rambharat said CFTDI is managed by a principal reporting to the management committee. The last principal, who officially retired on June 9, 2012, was employed on contract until departure in September 2019.

“In the absence of a principal, the management committee, guided by the Agriculture Ministry, continued to manage CFTDI’s affairs. In March 2020, Cabinet approved the advertisement and recruitment a principal and until such recruitment and appointment, for the chairman of the management committee to perform the functions of principal.”

Rambharat said from September 18, 2019, committee chairman Gabbadon performed the functions of the principal. He listed Gabbadon’s qualifications and his work in the marine and aquaculture sector for over 40 years, locally, regionally and internationally.

Following Cabinet’s decision, the institute advertised the position of principal from December 3, 2020 to December 28, 2020.

“The publication was delayed because of the onset of COVID-19 restrictions and the reduction in activity at the institute, low uptake of students and in summary, the impact of the pandemic on the day to day operations of the Institute.”

“Based on responses to the advertisement, a shortlist was developed and a potential candidate for the role was identified. With continuation of the COVID-19 restrictions into 2021 and the lockdown/curfew from May 2021, the position wasn’t filled.”

“At the same time, the ministry has been seeking partnerships for CFTDI for the sustainability of its activities and is at an advanced stage of discussions with one private sector entity. That agreement may change the scope of the position of principal.

“The chairman is, therefore, continuing to perform the functions of the principal in addition to his functions as chairman and is being compensated with the base salary of $21,138 and allowances in the sum of $1100.”

He added, “More recently, the European Union (EU) has expressed interest in working with the Ministry in the development of the local seafood sector and identified CFTDI as a prospective partner in that work. Those discussions are at an early stage.”

On Robert’s complaints of poor corporate governance and that Gabbadon should have forgone the chairmanship, Rambharat said the situation was expected to be short term, there was minimal activity and no risk since work was being done on CFTI which is now on “life support”.

He said he considered Gabbadon well qualified and while it wasn’t a perfect arrangement, the course was undertaken pre-pandemic, which changed circumstances.

Rambharat said when he entered the ministry, he had to deal with $900,000 missing – a matter now being prosecuted – so Roberts was in no position to talk of governance.