Former Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley today sought to set the public record straight in terms of his recent renewal of Cranston Browne’s contract as chief executive officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
In a statement to Barbados TODAY, Lashley also took issue with statements made by the Mia Mottley led Government in the aftermath of the May 24 general election, which he said gave the public the wrong impression that contracts were concluded “in an improper manner” by the former Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government with a view to tying the hands of an incoming administration.
“The effect of these statements has been to bring the reputations of members of the former DLP Cabinet into question. Having served as Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth under that said Cabinet it is incumbent upon me to protect my reputation, particularly when untrue and unsubstantiated remarks are made which relate to matters which fell under my responsibility,” Lashley said in breaking his silence on the issue.
In this regard, Lashley, an attorney-at-law, took particular umbrage to a recent statement, which he said has been unfortunately repeated in the press, that Browne’s contract had been renewed “nearly two years before it was due to expire”.
“Since I was the minister responsible for the approval of any renewal of the contract of the CEO of the NCF at the time, any claim or suggestion that a decision was made to renew his contract ‘nearly two years before it was due to expire’ especially where it is being alleged that such action was done immediately prior to a general election in an attempt to ‘tie’ the hands of an incoming Government, could only be intended to suggest that as minister I acted improperly in the circumstances, and by extension, invited the Cabinet to be party to such an improper act,” he said, adding that “none of this of course is true since the contract of the CEO of the NCF expired on April 21, 2018 and all usual and accepted procedures were followed with respect to its renewal”.
Lashley further explained that Browne was first employed as CEO of the NCF in April, 2016 on a two-year contract and “pursuant to clause 4.2 of that contact, from as early as January 18, 2018, gave the Board of the NCF the requisite notice that he was desirous of having his contract renewed.
“The Board at its meeting of February 22, 2018, after receiving a report from the Human Resources Committee of the Board recommending the renewal of the CEO’s contract, considered that Mr Browne’s contract should be renewed for a two-year period commencing April 22, 2018.
“On March 6, 2018, the CEO of the NCF, acting in accordance with established practice referred a number of decisions of the said Board meeting of February 22, 2018 to the ministry for ratification, including the renewal of the CEO’s contract.
“By letter dated May 8, 2018 addressed to the minister, the chairman also wrote inviting approval of the recommendation to renew Mr. Browne’s contract,” Lashley said.
However, he further explained, while presenting the necessary supporting documents, that “prior to referral of the matter to the Cabinet for its consideration, he had requested an appraisal of the CEO’s performance which was provided by the chairman.
“Having received the Board’s recommendation and in accordance with established practice with respect to the renewal of the contracts of all CEOs of statutory corporations (of which the National Cultural Foundation is one), and the results of the appraisal, the minister by Cabinet Paper invited the Cabinet to consider the recommendation [and] at its meeting of May 17, 2018 the Cabinet considered and approved the minister’s recommendation that Mr Browne’s contract be renewed for a period of two years effective April 22, 2018,” Lashley added.
He also pointed out that he had communicated the Cabinet’s decision by letter dated May 22, 2018 to the then chairman of the NCF.
However, he said “in the preparation of the contract, I’m informed that the NCF management made an error in the first paragraph with respect to the date of the contract and repeated the old date of April 22, 2016, when in fact it should have stated April 22, 2018.
“I am advised that corrective action is to be or has been taken by the NCF management in that regard. In any event, in light of the sequence of events cited above with regard especially to the dates of the decisions of the board and the Cabinet, it is clear that this was an obvious ‘cut and paste’ error in the actual preparation of the contract itself.
“You will also see that clause 4 of the said contract reflects the correct dates for the commencement and duration of Mr Browne’s new contract,” said Lashley, who also supplied a copy of Browne’s contract, as proof of his claims.
The former Minister of Culture therefore said it was “ludicrous” for the current Government to suggest that the renewal of Browne’s contract for a period of two years prior to the general election was an attempt by the former DLP government to “tie” the hands of the new Government particularly since the outcome of the poll of May 24, 2018 would have been unknown and clause 16(1) of Browne’s contract allows for either party to terminate the contract by giving three months notice.
In fact, Lashley maintained that his actions and those of the previous DLP administration suggested “prudence and the following of well established and proper practice governed the decision to renew Mr Browne’s contract”.
“The statement therefore that Mr. Browne’s contract was renewed two years before it was required to be renewed, is not only untrue but has the effect of reflecting negatively on my stewardship as a minister of the Government and to impugn my good name and reputation,” Lashley stressed.
His comments come on the heels of yesterday’s report by Barbados TODAY that veteran broadcaster Carol Roberts is tipped to replace Browne at the helm of the NCF at the end of Crop Over which culminates here on August 6 in Grand Kadooment.
The Mottley led Barbados Labour Party received an overwhelming mandate in the May 24 poll in which the DLP was ousted from office in spectacular fashion, losing every seat it held in the previous Parliament.
Since then, a number of political appointees have been shown the door, including the General Manager of the state run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation Doug Hoyte and his counterpart at the Transport Board Sandra Forde, with Browne expected to be next to go.