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Tuesday 19 February 2019
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Right step, YTEPP

THE Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP) is one of a few state entities whose sole purpose involves putting youth on the right path. So the decision of the YTEPP board to dismiss its CEO after his shocking appearance before a parliamentary committee is particularly welcome, not only because it was the appropriate response, but also because it sends the correct message.

It was only a few days ago, after a separate committee made damning findings in relation to another state corporation, that this paper lamented, on this page, the lack of accountability in the public sector. Parliament committees often unearth sleaze and improper practices yet no one seems to pay the price but taxpayers. The YTEPP board, in a pleasing variation, has bucked this trend.

Undoubtedly, any officials accused of wrongdoing must be given a chance to respond to the allegations against them. And all indicators point to this happening in this case. There must never be a rush to judgment without a proper appreciation of the facts.

But with regard to Nigel Forgenie, it is now undisputed that he oversaw the employment of a relative at the organisation and misled the Parliament’s Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee on the matter. In truth, given the gravity of his error, the board had little choice but to terminate him. This is particularly so given the ethos of YTEPP.

In 1990, YTEPP was introduced as a national response to the growing problem of unemployed and unemployable youth. It was first created as a temporary programme to provide vocational skills training to youth between 15 and 25. The programme received World Bank funding but is today fully owned by the Government.

There could be nothing more antithetical to fair employment practices than nepotism. Such nepotism, in the context of high levels of unemployment among youth, is not only damaging, it is also dangerous. Even supposedly well-placed university graduates are having trouble finding jobs, and some have succumbed to depression, according to secretary of the Psychiatrists Association, Dr Varma Deyalsingh, in a recent Newsday report.

Though it is not unlawful to hire a relative, specific procedures must be implemented to ensure qualified people who can do the job are not unfairly disadvantaged.

One of the basic measures would be frank disclosure.

Another would be independently-constituted recruitment panels, empowered to sift through applications objectively and based on clear criteria.

Forgenie’s dismissal shines a spotlight on the degree to which the state sector has been effective in policing itself.

Ironically, the question of employment practices was only last week raised in relation to Caribbean Airlines Ltd by the Joint Select Committee on State Enterprises.

While this latest development is a sign of maturity on the part of YTEPP, the State must keep working on its own regulation if TT is truly to grow up as a society.

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