Wed | Aug 15, 2018

"Not the best exercise of judgement", USF chairman addresses nepotism claims

Published:Tuesday | July 17, 2018 | 1:27 PM
Universal Service Fund (USF) CEO, Suzette Buchanan (left) and Robert Lawrence, Chairman of USF - Contributed photo

Chairman of the Universal Service Fund Robert Lawrence has suggested that the agency's Chief Executive Officer Suzette Buchanan acted in poor judgement when she gave her daughter a job.

Buchanan hired her daughter to manage the fund's social media accounts.

The parliamentary opposition has accused the agency of nepotism and cronyism in relation to hiring practices at the state entity.

In a statement, Lawrence said the agency’s human resource policy does not prohibit the hiring of relatives of employees but, according to him, states that in the hiring of permanent employees, ‘sound business judgement must be made’.

According to him, while the policy is silent on temporary engagements, having the daughter of the CEO engaged to provide any type of service to the organisation could be construed as not the best exercise of judgement.

Lawrence said Buchanan was made aware of a possible issue with the employment engagement after her daughter discontinued the arrangement.

He said she subsequently advised the Board who appropriately addressed the matter.

The fund chairman rebuked calls for the CEO to be dismissed over the hiring.

Full Statement 

 

Chairman of the Universal Service Fund Robert Lawrence has sought to clarify claims of nepotism and cronyism at the state-run Technology Agency, reiterating that the USF adheres to a transparent process in the filling of all permanent positions.

Claims of a biased employment process have been made in the public domain after the USF declared that the daughter of CEO Ms Suzette Buchanan temporarily assisted the Agency with its social media presence.

In clarifying, Mr Lawrence said the Agency’s HR policy does not prohibit the hiring of relatives of employees but rather states that in the hiring of permanent employees, ‘sound business judgement must be made’.

He added that while the policy is silent on temporary engagements, having the daughter of the CEO engaged to provide any type of service to the organization could be construed as ‘not the best exercise of judgement’.

Ms Buchanan was made aware of a possible issue with the engagement after her daughter discontinued the arrangement. Nevertheless, she advised the Board who appropriately addressed the matter.

“I have always operated with the utmost integrity and transparency. Now that we are clear on that policy, I will work alongside management to ensure there is no recurrence of such incidents within the organization.” She said

The USF has 17 permanent employees. The Agency does not have a dedicated staff member to manage its social media accounts. The USF has applied to the Ministry of Finance for the approval of additional permanent positions to better enable the entity to meet its expanded mandate ushered in by the amended Telecommunications Act.

Among the proposed positions is that of a Communication Officer, with responsibility for the Agency’s social media presence.

According to Buchanan “At the time the Agency did not have a strong social media presence. Her focus was on raising awareness of the entity to help extend its reach”

The USF CEO stated that her daughter initially provided her services at no cost, after which an arrangement was instituted.

“She was engaged for the short-term, performing entry-level tasks and was not on staff. As such, she received no benefits or allowances. In May, she advised in writing that she would no longer be able to provide her services, and as such, the arrangement was discontinued” Buchanan said

Chairman of the USF says with the strides the Agency has made under the current CEO and her proven track record of performance, dismissal would have been too drastic a penalty.

“As a Former Board Member and CEO of Caymanas Track, she had stewardship of over 400 employees and managed billions in annual revenue. That experience coupled with her business acumen and marketing skills made her a natural fit for the organization.” Lawrence said.

He added that Buchanan excelled during the interview process and continues to demonstrate astute leadership.

“The position was advertised, and following a competitive interview process the best candidate was chosen by a panel and so far, the board is satisfied with her work.”

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