The man who, up until last month, had responsibility for the National Housing Corporation (NHC), today said Barbadians should not be surprised that his successor, George Payne, is shaking things up at the state entity.
Former Minister of Housing Denis Kellman’s comments come on the heels of the sacking of three NHC employees this week, including General Manager Lanette Napolean-Young.
Deputy General Manager Garvey Alleyne is acting as interim head until a new general manager is appointed, Barbados TODAY was told.
Also receiving dismissal letters were Human Resource Manager Sheona Kellman and attorney Toni Jones-Patterson.
The former minister steered clear of criticizing the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration over the firings, suggesting instead that his successor was merely providing the change that Barbadians voted for.
“All I would say is that the minister has his job to do and he has the mandate which the public has given him. So whatever he does is well done,” said Kellman, who was responsible for the NHC until the Democratic Labour Party was swept out of power in the May 24 general election.
“It’s no longer up to me to say who works at the NHC, that time is over and it is not up to me to pass judgment. The new minister has to know what his vision is and what he wants to do. It is his right to make his own judgment because when I was there I made my own judgment,” he stressed said.
Kellman was accused of nepotism after his namesake was hired as the human resources manager back in August 2016, much to the chagrin of workers and their representative, the National Union of Public Workers.
The appointment of an outsider over Paula Blackman, who had acted in the position for more than a year, triggered a walkout by scores of NHC workers.
But Kellman maintained at the time that the similarity in the last names was merely a coincidence and that Sheona Kellman was the best person for the job.
Under Kellman’s stewardship, the NHC was also criticized for the way it did business in the construction of high-rise apartment buildings at Valery and the Grotto, both in St Michael.
In a blistering 32-page report, Auditor General Leigh Trotman had slammed the state agency for failing to carry out the necessary financial and technical review on the two housing projects, stating that the NHC had broken the law by using financing from a specific fund to pay the contractor for the Valery project when it had no money to do so.
“Such a review would have assisted the [NHC] board in determining whether the proposals as presented met the corporation’s policy objective of providing housing for lower income persons in a cost-effective manner,” Trotman had said.
However, Kellman had repeatedly maintained that the statutory corporation, which is charged with providing affordable homes for Barbadians, was well advanced in improving the way it was being managed and did business.
While he insisted he would not second-guess Payne, the former minister remained adamant today that the NHC was headed in the right direction under his supervision.
“He has to know what he thinks is right and what he thinks is wrong and will be up to the unions and the workers to say if they agree,” Kellman said of Payne.
“I know where I wanted to take the NHC, I knew my vision and the record would show that NHC was on its way to go where I wanted it to go once my ideas were implemented,” he added.
Back in 2013 the housing agency 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, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Ronald Bascombe, as well as Napoleon-Young, Financial Controller Carolyn Barton and Chief Legal Officer Henrietta Bourne-Forde, admitted that the corporation had substantially increased its staff in the previous six years, had rejected a bid by a construction firm in favour of another company charging $5 million more, and was insolvent.