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Tuesday 22 October 2019
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Judge rules for fired EFCL manager

THE Education Facilities Co Ltd (EFCL) has appealed an award of close to $1 million in compensation to its former divisional manager of finance and corporate services, who was fired in 2016.

Justice Margaret Mohammed delivered judgment in Ria Narinesingh’s favour in March and ordered the EFCL to pay $623,445 as loss of income; $100,000 for loss of reputation; $100,000 in exemplary damages; $31,172 in interest and $95,758.35 in prescribed costs.

After the appeal was filed, the judge was asked to put the reasons for her decision in writing and did so earlier this month.

In her ruling, Mohammed said there was “unchallenged evidence” that Narinesingh was “humiliated in front of the other employees” when she was escorted to her office to pack her personal belongings and out of the building.

“The claimant was a professional in the field of finance and accounting and her reputation was adversely affected and her prospects of securing a steady job was also negatively affected some two years after her termination. I was of the opinion that the conduct of the defendant was so high-handed and outrageous that it was necessary to send a signal to public bodies that professionals in their organisations ought to be treated with courtesy and due process.”

She also said the EFCL’s motive in treating with Narinesingh was “intended to humiliate” her.

Narinesingh joined the EFCL in 2012, and became divisional manager – finance and corporate services on April 24, 2013. Her contract was extended for an additional three-year period on March 4, 2015.

She was fired on June 6, 2016.

After the appointment of a new board, after the September 2015 general election, an audit was commissioned. Narinesingh said she was not aware or informed of the nature, extent or findings of the audit or that any acts by her were under investigation.

She was sent on administrative leave on January 29, 2016, and escorted to her office, where she was supervised while she packed her personal belongs.

She said as a senior manager, she was humiliated by the unexplained, demeaning and unprecedented treatment in the presence of co-workers and subordinates. She went on administrative leave with full pay.

Narinesingh was also asked to return the iPhone 6 and SIM card issued to her, which she did.

On February 29, 2016, her “suspension” was extended for a further 30 days, but she said she had not been told any disciplinary action had been taken against her or that she had been “suspended.”

She complained of being disciplined without due process and contrary to the rules of natural justice.

By May 2, she was told for the first time that the alleged audit was a forensic audit and a disciplinary hearing was scheduled to take place on May 6, for her to answer two charges.

It was alleged that she failed to act in the best interest of the EFCL by intentionally deceiving the board by splitting contract values to avoid board approval in many instances and failed to act in the best interest of the EFCL by diverting allocated funds, provided to the defendant by the Ministry of Education for specific contractors, to other contractors without obtaining approval from the ministry.

She claimed in her lawsuit that the EFCL only made limited information available to her with the clear intention that it might rely on other relevant documents in its determination of the hearing.

The EFCL’s position was that she was not entitled to the information requested and in particular she was not entitled to know which board members claimed to have been deceived by her.

Narinesingh, who was represented by Lesley Ann Lucky-Samaroo and Niala Narine, also claimed a prospective employment offer was withdrawn because of newspaper articles on her firing, since then she has not been able to obtain employment and has been doing accountancy on an ad-hoc basis.

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