PRINCES Town MP Barry Padarath slammed the government for being “hypocritical” in refusing to release details of a non-disclosure agreement signed as part of a $150,000 settlement to a former Ministry of Sport employee, while at the same time championing whistle-blower legislation.
The government, he said in a release, was engaging in “legal tactics to stifle information in the public interest through non-disclosure documents” and suggested Attorney General Al-Rawi consider the Australian and UK Freedom of Information models as they relate to public-interest disclosures.
The Sport Ministry settled with a former personal assistant to the minister, Darryl Smith, last January, just before the employee’s case was to be heard before the Industrial Court. Sources have told Newsday that the suit was based on wrongful termination after the employee had made a complaint about sexual harassment by a high-ranking member of the ministry.
Padarath also chastised Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis for comments published in yesterday’s Newsday. Robinson-Regis, he said, was either ignorant of the details when she claimed it was an Industrial Court matter, or else she was purposely trying to mislead the public, because she seemed to be implying that the court settled the claim.
“If the government wants us to believe that this was an Industrial Court matter and that is the justification for utilising a non-disclosure agreement, then why did the ministry settle out of court before clearing up any issues surrounding the alleged misconduct of public officials and instead opted to pay out taxpayers’ money?” Padarath questioned.
He also called for former permanent secretary at the Sport Ministry Natasha Barrow to clarify how the settlement was decided and what the claims against the ministry were.
As custodian of the public interest in any ministry the PS, in this case, Barrow, owes a public duty to the country to confirm or deny statements in the media about the allegations of sexual harassment by high-ranking members of the ministry, Padarath said.
“These pertinent questions will not go away,” Padarath said, and it remains in the public interest to know whom the non-disclosure agreement is protecting, and why.
Padarath said he will therefore continue raising these questions on the government’s policies on sexual harassment in the workplace as well as sexual harassment legislation when Parliament resumes. He added that he was prepared to challenge the law that protects the identity of an alleged sexual predator in the public interest in this matter.