A major shake up appears to be under way at the National Housing Corporation (NHC), with news of the sacking of General Manager Lanette Napoleon-Young.
A source familiar with the development told Barbados TODAY this evening that Napoleon-Young, who was appointed under the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration that was ousted in the May 24 general election, received her termination letter today.
However, when contacted Napoleon-Young would neither confirm nor deny the report, stating that under no circumstances would she discuss the matter.
“You need to go to whoever gave you the information and get the details,” she told Barbados TODAY in a terse response.
The state agency responsible for providing affordable homes for Barbadians has been in the crosshairs of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in recent times over its handling of a number of projects, including the controversial Grotto project at Beckles Road, St Michael.
The corporation is also no stranger to controversial changes at the top, the most recent of which came at a hefty cost.
After the DLP won the 2008 general election, ending 14 years of BLP rule, then Director of the Urban Development Commission George Edghill was fired, with then Prime Minister David Thompson telling a news conference that followed the first DLP Cabinet meeting that Edghill had been terminated with immediate effect.
Edghill brought a wrongful dismissal case against the administration and was awarded $809,744.43, with interest at six per cent and cost for two attorneys.
The source who spoke to Barbados TODAY stopped just short of stating that Napoleon-Young was wrongly dismissed, while suggesting action against her was taken without the approval of the board of directors.
“As far as I am aware the previous board was disbanded and I would like the Government to tell me if a new board was constituted after Parliament was sworn in. If there is no board then it means that this is a one man decision,” the source said, seemingly pointing the accusing finger at Minister of Housing George Payne.
Barbados TODAY also understands that the Rural Development Commission is at a standstill, having been given orders to halt all projects pending the completion of an audit.
“All these things represent an abuse of power as it runs against the protocol which governs that statutory corporation. I would really like some answers. Was this a board decision and if not who made the decision? I really want answers to these things otherwise it smells like victimization,” the source stressed.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to contact Payne but was unsuccessful up until the time of publication. However, another source explained that there is a board in place, headed by accountant Douglas Skeete, with Edghill as his deputy.
The source also told Barbados TODAY the board met with Payne at 2p.m. today following which Napoleon-Young and her deputy, Garvey Alleyne were summoned.
It was not immediately clear if Alleyne was also given the boot.
Back in 2013 the NHC was asked by the then Opposition BLP to account for over $40 million received in monthly advances without parliamentary approval. A former NHC chairman was among those summoned to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) investigating the advances to NHC from the Ministry of Finance, as well as a string of other “anomalies”.
The committee, chaired by then Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, had summoned three top Government officials attached to the Ministry of Housing and the NHC following concerns expressed in the Auditor General’s Report about the submission of NHC audits for 2008-2011. Under intense questioning from Mottley in the Senate Chamber, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Ronald Bascombe, NHC Napoleon-Young, Financial Controller Carolyn Barton and Chief Legal Officer Henrietta Bourne-Forde admitted that the corporation had substantially increased its staff in the last six years, had rejected a bid by a construction firm in favour of another company charging $5 million more, and was insolvent.