Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 16th 2013 Contents A5
Saturday, November 16, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
While Health Minister Fuad
Khan s wife Carol Bhagan-Khan,
may be well qualified for the job of
NWRHA director of health, the
problem is perception of
favouritism, say two experts.
Former head of the Public Service
Reginald Dumas and Senior Counsel
Israel Khan both cited perception as
a problem in the situation.
They commented after Bhagan-
Khan eventually picked up the post
this month after topping applicants
for it in April and getting the job.
Following certain public criticism at
the time, she said she was undecid-
ed. But she eventually took it in
November after being asked again.
Dumas said: "I truly sympathise
with her. This is a very difficult issue
as she s between a rock and a hard
place and perhaps should have erred
on the side of caution and refused
the job in the interest of transparen-
"In the interest of transparency,
to which this government says it is
wedded and given the poor political
image it has in that area, it s better
to err on the side of caution and not
take the job. In politics, perception
is reality," he said.
"On one hand she seems to have
the qualifications for the post and
it s wrong to say because someone
is somebody s husband and they re
a government member, therefore
they couldn t get work. But on the
other (hand) there s the political
aspect - the how it go look aspect.
That s where the difficulty lies."
"In instances like this, to be
absolutely above board, it may be
of damned if you do and damned if
you don t."
Dumas said the NWRHA board
is chosen by Cabinet of which the
Minister of Health is a member.
"So it s awkward, and it may seem
unfair, but you have to consider the
optics of the situation---how it
looks---so I d think it s better to err
on the side of caution especially
given the poor reputation govern-
ment has on transparency.
Also as they move closer to general
polls, you have to be particularly
careful as a government from a polit-
ical point of view."
Dumas said Khan was among
those who protested when former
prime minister Patrick Manning
appointed his wife as a Cabinet min-
Senior Counsel Israel Khan said
there was no conflict of interest in
Bhagan-Khan s situation where her
husband s status was concerned.
Khan (SC) said, "I don t see it as
conflict of interest in that she has
the constitutional right to own prop-
erty and that means if a job is given
to her that is above board,--- she has
applied and followed all procedures-
she can consider it."
"It s unlike the position of Mrs
Manning, a non-elected member
being appointed to Cabinet and the
Education Ministry where the hus-
band appointed the wife," he said
"From what I ve read, Mrs Bha-
gan-Khan seems to be qualified and
has other qualifications besides in
law, so I don t see why in such a
small country the lady should get
any flak. She clearly knows what
she s getting into and seems she got
the courage to stand up on the issue
which involves a relatively small
position and $20,000 salary."
He admitted though that the sit-
uation might create perception issues
for "doubting Thomases", as it may
be viewed her husband was minister
and Bhagan-Khan was in an organ-
isation under his Ministry s super-
"Though the minister has super-
visory eyes, NWRHA is an inde-
pendent body. So we must play it
by ear and see what happens. The
Minister isn t supervising her---isn t
her boss---and she isn t accountable
Yesterday, NWRHA board mem-
bers stood by Bhagan-Khan s
appointment. Deputy chairman
Frederick de Coudray said Bhagan-
Khan did apply for the job which
was advertised and the process went
according to all usual procedures.
Another board member, Ronald
Hinkson added: "The lady is both
a specialist in a particular field and
a lawyer and out of all the candidates
who were interviewed she was the
"I can t say and don t know if
there any favouritism . I remember
when she was interviewed but I m
sure she s more qualified than Hazel
Hinkson said he did not see a
conflict of interest arising since the
Health Minister was not in charge
of the NWRHA s operations where
Bhagan-Khan s post was concerned.
"The ministry and board are miles
apart in how they operate. The min-
istry provides oversight of what is
going on in the RHA, but there is
no heavy hand of the ministry to
intercede or interfere," Hinkson
She should have refused job
Experts on appointment of Fuad's wife:
Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan says he
has asked Opposition People s National
Movement (PNM) MP Dr Amery Browne
if he was interested in serving as technical
co-ordinator of the National AIDS Co-ordi-
nating Committee (NACC), a position
Browne once held under the past PNM
But Browne has called for Khan to follow
procedure on the issue.
Khan said yesterday he was seeking people
who were capable at the job "and there aren t
many", adding he had asked Browne about
The programme was shifted from the Prime
Minister s Office to the Health Ministry
Khan said Browne had previously worked
with the programme and he was aware that
Browne had made a lot of progress in the
field over 2003 to 2007.
The minister said the job was previously
held by Dr Brian Armour, but he left to
become chief county medical officer.
"So there s a gap to be filled urgently and
I ve inquired of Dr Browne if he d be interested
in heading the programme along with Dr
Colin Furlonge. My responsibility is to seek
the best and Browne is very good," Khan said
Saying he hadn t offered Browne the job
per se, Khan said if Browne was interested
he would have to go through the necessary
interviews and all formal processes.
Asked how this could work, with Khan as
Health Minister and Browne an Opposition
MP, Khan said he expected Browne would
do his political job, criticise him as minister
when necessary and do the national HIV
centre job as he would have to.
Contacted yesterday, however, Browne
said: "My hard work and achievements as
the technical director of the National AIDS
Co-ordinating Committee are well known
within the region.
"In close partnership with then chairman
Angela Lee Loy, we initiated and established
a dedicated team that made significant strides
against HIV, in collaboration with a wide
range of non-governmental agencies, gov-
ernmental departments and regional and
"Other countries were actually visiting our
shores to learn how to rapidly scale-up a
nationwide awareness and coordination pro-
gramme," he said.
"It was a sad day when this Government
disbanded the NACC and seriously set back
our national response to HIV."
"I m pleased Minister Khan seems inter-
ested in strengthening the national response
at this time, but he knows fully well that as
a health professional I don t engage in tele-
phone deals, secret contracts or negotiation
"If he wishes my professional assistance
in a non-political capacity or the input of
any other experienced health professionals,
he d follow proper procedure and trigger a
transparent process within the ministry.
"If any other approach is taken he could
find himself accused of conjuring this poten-
tial recruitment as a mere distraction away
from some of the ongoing HR challenges
within the government service." (GA)
Minister eyes Amery
for Health job
Karryel De Gale and Josiah Santana performs during the NGC National Junior Arts Festival
Command performance at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, yesterday. The couple received
awards for best male and female dancers, best overall dancers, best modern dancers, best
dance costume and best folk dancers. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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