Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) board of directors should not be involved in any deliberations where a company of theirs is doing business with CAL, says Finance Minister Larry Howai. Today, Howai will receive further information he asked for in relation to the alleged request by a senior CAL executive for 19 complimentary tickets to a New York concert and he will be taking the issue to tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting for a decision.
Howai spoke on the issue in between yesterday’s Senate session and briefly during the Senate sitting when asked by PNM senators. The T&T Guardian reported last week that 19 complimentary tickets had been allegedly requested by CAL vice-chairman Mohan Jaikaran for Mother's Day concerts he was co-promoter of in New York and Toronto. In the Senate, Howai told PNM senators Government had made no decision on the issue as it was to be examined by Cabinet.
Speaking to reporters later, Howai, describing it as a “governance issue”, said he received a report on the matter from CAL but he and Finance Ministry officials had a number of questions on which further clarification was being sought before anything was formally taken to Cabinet. He said he was told the information would be available by today and once he had it he intended to raise the matter with Cabinet.
Asked if any jobs were on the line, he said he did not want to pre-empt Cabinet’s talks. Asked about the claim that the process was used in previous years in an arrangement that existed before, Howai said that was a contention that was being put forward by CAL in its report on the matter. “They indicated this was an arrangement for marketing the airline and therefore there was an agreement that part of the cost was picked up by the company and part by the CAL marketing people,” he added.
He said documents were submitted to support the position but the ministry had asked for further clarification on that. “But we have additional questions on which we need to get answers before we proceed with a position to Cabinet,” he said. On Jaikaran’s role, Howai said there was the concern that although Jaikaran had a company that was doing business with CAL, Government expected a director would not be involved in any way in discussions concerning their own business aspect.
He said the board would be the appropriate body to approve any such arrangement and it was expected the director would be excused from board deliberations in such situations. He added: “We are trying to find out if this was done. This information was not included in the information we received but we have asked questions as we have a particular expectation of how things should be conducted.
“There should be some protocol by which this is done. If there’s going to be an approval of any such undertaking, then it should take place in a particular kind of way. We are saying the protocol must be approved at the highest level and the director should not be involved in any deliberations.” Howai said subject to correction, it seemed the director may have liaised directly with the management and “it would have created some degree of discomfort along the line.”
He said the situation should have been handled in a particular way. He said the board would also have to take into account getting value for money. Howai added: “The board has an obligation in how it deals with things like this.” On whether Jaikaran was suitable to have been on the board, Howai said Cabinet would come to its conclusions on the matter.