Political commentator Dr Winford James has been removed from the Studley Park Enterprise Limited (SPEL) board with immediate effect.
Addressing Thursday’s post-Executive Council media briefing at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine made the disclosure, saying James would be placed on the Venture Capital Equity Fund Ltd Board under the Division of Finance, Trade, and the Economy.
On March 28, James, the brother of Trevor James – Secretary of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Renewal which is responsible for the Studley Park quarry, was among 11 committee members appointed for a year to oversee its operations.
Since then, concerns about a possible conflict of interest were raised by members of the public in Tobago.
Augustine said, subsequently, the appointment was under review as he had heard the public’s concerns and he listens.
He said Dr James’ matter was discussed by the Executive Council.
“This is one of the reasons why I took so long with the review. I even asked Secretary James to provide me with a justification of why he thinks we should keep Dr Winford James on the board.
“I wanted to be sure that in the final decision that I make, that I was not overreacting and that I was not reacting to noise in the space but that I was doing what is a diligent thing to do.”
He said he has decided to err on the side of caution.
“I have listened, and I have taken two decisions. I would accept responsibility for Dr James being on that board because Secretary James did the dutiful thing of bringing it to Executive Council.
“We did review it and, truth we told, we just did not see an issue with the fact that it is a sibling. We just felt that he was qualified, he has a proven track record. So, in that regard, I take responsibility. More than that, I have taken the decision that we would remove Dr James from the Studley Park board and that Dr James will assist me across on the Venture Capital Fund Ltd board instead.”
This board, he said is “responsible for what we call start-ups. That is the board that is responsible for getting businesses going and started.
“The truth be told, most of the businesses under the Venture Capital Fund Ltd, have not done very well, and its not because the products are bad or that they are products that people don’t want, it is because we have not had sufficient hand-holding, we have not had sufficient support for these businesses.”
Augustine said he believes the Venture Capital board will be a better fit for Dr James given his experience in turning around the fortunes of the Mt Pleasant Credit Union.
He said the executive is yet to decide on a replacement for Dr James but that deision should be made by Tuesday as there are quite a few names under review.