DAYS AFTER apologising to customers whose data was stolen in a major cyberattack, Telecommunications Services (TSTT) CEO Lisa Agard has been replaced.
A release from the company on Tuesday said former TSTT GM (customer experience and marketing) Kent Western was appointed acting CEO with immediate effect. It did not give any reason for the executive management change, or say whether Agard had resigned or was fired.
Communication Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Clyde Elder told Newsday an e-mailed memo was issued during the day informing staff Agard had been replaced. That e-mail, he added, did not give a reason for her departure.
Elder claimed that information he received was that this was a firing over TSTT's handling of the cyberattack which saw some six gigabytes of customers' personal information – including ID and DP numbers and home and business addresses – being put on the dark web. The Prime Minister subsequently deemed the leak a threat to national security.
"My information is that she was in fact dismissed. But in the corporate world, you don't come out and say a CEO has been dismissed. You come out and say he or she has chosen to resign, or that the parties have decided to go their ways amicably and separately...but I am told it was a dismissal," he said.
Although Agard initially answered a call from Newsday and promised to return the call in an hour, she did not. However, she responded to a WhatsApp message asking for her views on Elder's claim (that she had been fired). Agard said: "I think you need to address your questions to the (TSTT) board."
Board chairman Sean Roach also did not answer calls but told Newsday in a WhatsApp message that the company would not be divulging details surrounding Agard's departure.
"It is not our policy to discuss any matter involving company personnel publicly. We can, however, say that the former CEO's departure was in accordance with the terms and conditions of her contract. As chairman of the board of TSTT, we would like to wish her well in all her future endeavours," Roach said.
Less than five hours before TSTT's announcement, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales told reporters on Tuesday morning that he was not aware of any resignations from TSTT's management.
"When I left my office this morning, I did not see any letter of resignation. It might change, maybe after lunch," he said. Gonzales was speaking to reporters at the opening ceremony for a TTPost records management facility and delivery office in Tacarigua.
Elder said Agard's departure was a step in the right direction. "It is a start, but not the end of the union's concerns, because there are some other players who should be fired along with Lisa Agard. She cannot take this fall by herself. While she is ultimately responsible, she is not solely responsible and there are people who encouraged and created the environment for that cyberattack to happen," he said.
Elder then called the names of several people at TSTT who he said needed to be sacked over the cyberattack. He claimed there was a staunch refusal to spend the necessary funds to protect the state-run company against such attacks. Elder claimed TSTT was neither transparent nor open with the public on the issue.
TSTT's release on Tuesday said Western holds an MBA in innovation and entrepreneurship from Anglia Ruskin University, an MBA in telecommunications from the Telecoms Academy in the United Kingdom, and a postgraduate certificate in general management.
"He brings a wealth of leadership experience to the position, having held senior executive roles in the local, regional, and international telecommunications industry, always with a focus on commercial operations and customer experience," the release said.
Elder called on Western to have a more direct approach with workers and the union.
On October 9, TSTT became a victim of a cyberattack which disrupted certain services. On October 27, international hackers RansomExx said it had infected the company and stole a cache of data.
On October 30, when questioned about this, Gonzales told Newsday reports of a hack were not true. Less than a week later, he would backtrack after TSTT admitted to the breach. Gonzales said he had instructed the TSTT board to have an independent investigation done.
He later explained that his initial comments were made based on what TSTT officials told him. He did not name the person he had spoken to from TSTT. He told reporters on Tuesday TSTT is yet to find an investigator.
"The board has done quite a lot of work towards narrowing into getting a competent body to do the investigation. I intend to continue collaborating by speaking to the board to ensure that the body or the persons to be involved (in the investigation) are competent so we can get an understanding as to what in fact transpired." Gonzales said the board is also doing its own internal investigations.
"They have done a lot of work on that. But we will see what is the outcome of their internal investigation. But based on my policy directive, I'm looking forward to the completion of the independent investigation," he said.
Newsday was unable to get further comments from the minister on Agard's departure.