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CONFLICT OF INTEREST

By AZARD ALI Sunday, August 17 2014

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A private company registered in the name of Franklin Ali, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation (TTPOST), has raised concerns among directors of the board as to a possible conflict of interest.

A Sunday Newsday investigation revealed the private company, “Justal Ltd”, up to this week was listed, according to the Companies Registry, as a company “still active” despite objections going back to seven years ago by management of a TTPOST subsidiary that “Justal” was competing with its business operations.

Sunday Newsday obtained documents from senior Postal Workers’ Union sources that showed a direct conflict of interest as far as “Justal Ltd” and TTPOST’s subsidiary — Trinidad and Tobago Mailing Systems Limited (TTMSL) were concerned.

Sunday Newsday’s attempts to contact TTPOST’s chairman Ali, to explain how “Justal Ltd” came into being and why he resigned as Manager, Operations at TTPOST in 2007 when the subsidiary - TTMSL - complained of his company’s attempts to solicit contracts to the detriment of its business prospects last week proved futile.

Sunday Newsday understands this matter of conflict of interest would be discussed at the next board meeting of TTPOST given the fact that “Justal Ltd” is still registered as an active company with Ali listed as the principal owner.

In October 2013, Ali was made chairman of TTPOST, along with other directors commissioned by the new Public Utilities Minister Nizam Baksh. The present board consists of Harry Bisram (vice chairman), Cherry Ann Rajkumar, Terrence Williams, Nadira Lyder and Reginald Critchlow.

Among the documents made available to Sunday Newsday is a letter dated August 29, 2007, in which TTMSL’s chairman, Edward Ince, writes to attorney Margaret Rose who was a director of TTPOST then, complaining that Ali had set up a business called “Justal Ltd” while he was TTPOST’s manager (Operations). Ince complained in the letter that the aim of “Justal Ltd” was to provide mail-folding, inserting, sealing, addressing, packaging and delivery services for TTPOST.

Ince went on to complain to Rose, who at the time chaired TTPOST’s Legal Committee, that “Justal Ltd” was in direct conflict with TTMSL “which is a subsidiary of TTPOST”.

Ince’s letter to Rose stated:

“We have researched ‘Justal Ltd’ via the Companies Registry and this company was set up and has listed as its principal owner and director, Mr Franklin Ali (Manager, Operations TTPOST). We suspected this irregular activity for sometime but only recently received written confirmation from two of our clients demonstrating that ‘Justal Ltd’ and Mr Ali, have been soliciting and referencing existing and potential clients of TTMS.”

Ince was said to be currently out of the country and could not elaborate on the letter. Asked about the 2007 letter sent to her by Ince, Rose, stated in an emailed response that she did recall a letter sent to her by Ince in August 2007, but did not have sight of a hard-copy to confirm its contents. Rose, executive director of Caribbean Procurement Institute, said she was currently in Greece, but can confirm that at an August 2007 TTPOST board meeting at which she was present, a decision was taken to introduce what she described as a “conflict of interest policy” for employees.

Referring to Section 14 (1) (b) of the Postal Corporation Act which states that every board member must give in writing that he or she shall not engage, directly or indirectly, in any business or professional activity which would conflict with the functions of Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation, Rose stated:

“Notwithstanding, I have been able to confirm that (1) At the August board meeting, at which I was present, a decision was taken to introduce a conflict of interest policy for employees and (2) Mr Ali resigned from the position of GM of operations in October/November 2007.

“With respect to any specific actions taken by the board re the contents of the letter, may I suggest you refer any further questions to the current chairman and/or consider a Freedom of Information application.”

Several messages left at TTPOST last week for chairman Ali to respond to Sunday Newsday enquiries went unanswered. An online search of the company’s registry listed in the Ministry of Legal Affairs web page, lists “Justal’s” address as No 17 Sunset Cove, La Romaine, with the status: “Active”. The company’s registration number #1208687 and date of incorporation of January 13, 2006, corresponds with the hard-copy records from a search in the Company’s Registry, Ministry of Legal Affairs, Port-of-Spain, which lists Franklin Ali as the incorporator of the company, with occupation and his address listed as: “Manager, Operations, Trinidad and Tobago Postal Company (TTPOST), Union Hall, San Fernando.”

Section 14 (1) of the Postal Corporation Act makes it clear to every board member that they should give in writing, a notice to the board, an undertaking that he or she shall not engage, directly or indirectly, in any business or professional activity, which would conflict with the functions of the Trinidad and Tobago Postal Corporation.

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