Categorized | Court, International, News, Regional

Sean McLaughlin, whistle-blower, and our Governance – Capacity Challenge

What lesson does the recently “settled” Sean McLaughlin whistle-blower case have for us?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 8, 2019 –  In recent days, a quietly whispered word began to spread across Montserrat that the 2014 MDC whistle-blower has won a “settlement” of his case[1] regarding improper dismissal; specifically, “breach of contract, breach of the provisions of the Labour Code 2012 in respect of wrongful termination of his employment and breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.” Similarly, in the June 2018 hearing, Justice Miss Agnes Actie noted that “the defendants [MDC, DfID and Mr. Dawson of DfID] have not challenged the fact that there exists a cause of action for protection of the claimant as a whistleblower.

Yes, this is the very same case that was splashed across the Daily Mail in May 2015 and which was echoed in local and regional media.  

Those bare-bones facts are already painfully instructive.

For, they strongly suggest that the case could not be dismissed. Also, that the lawyers for the defendants thought it was unwise or unsafe to carry the case to open court, given powers of discovery of evidence and rights to question witnesses (and so what might come out). 

Let the words of the June 2018 judgement speak as to the facts alleged by Mr McLaughlin regarding events in or about 2014:

“The statement of claim states that the claimant was employed by Montserrat  Development Corporation (MDC) under a contract of employment for 3 years.  The Department of International Development (DFID) is a Government Department of the United Kingdom which provided funding for the MDC. The claimant alleges that he became aware of misappropriation of funds and reported the matter to DFID.  The claimant alleges that he suffered victimization from Board members of MDC and DFID as a result of his whistle blowing and his contract of employment was eventually terminated. He contends that the defendants breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as they failed to provide him with protection as a whistle blower . . . . reasons were not given for the termination and . . . the termination was in breach of Article 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights which places a positive obligation on the first, second and third defendants to protect his rights as a whistle blower.”

Notice, “reasons were not given for the termination” – which sounds sadly similar to how the first Programme Management Office (PMO) Head, Mr Carl Gomersall, was frog marched out of Government HQ on a no-cause clause dismissal in July 2017.[2] That was followed by nearly two years of foot-dragging delay before a successor was secured in March this year[3]; continuing the damage done to our programme and project management credibility. Where, it is obvious that development/ donor agencies and potential investors alike are going to connect the dots for themselves through due diligence and draw their own conclusions, whether we like it or not.

Plainly, cases like these reduce our already poor balance of credibility as regards our ability to govern, manage and carry out (that is, “implement”) key development projects and initiatives. Of course, our focus is not on those who may say whatever they wish in the local media or on those who are inclined to take such arguments at face value.

No, our real problems lie with DfID, with the CDB, with the EU, with the UN and with potential investors.  Have we asked ourselves just why CDB sent a large, high powered delegation here to carry out workshops and then publicly warned us regarding proper project governance when they launched the Port development project last May[4]? Maybe, we should.

Almost as bad, such developments give added force to the sort of lurid headlines we have seen in UK Tabloids.

What are we to do?

For one, while successes like the launching of the Port project and the progress of the Fibre Optic Cable project or the Solar PV plant project are heartening, we have to fix our capability and reputability to soundly carry forward key development projects. Otherwise, for cause, we will have zero credibility where it counts. This also feeds into the tendency to drag out long-needed aid projects.

Long term, we have to build capacity for project management, for linked programme and portfolio management, for financial management (including procurement) and for sound governance:  

  • Mr Gomersall’s vision that we should implement the world class Axelos system for project, programme and portfolio management capacity-building, training, certification and governance should be dusted off.[5]
  • For sure, it will be far harder to dismiss us if we have world class certifications, training programmes, governance systems and a growing track record of sound performance. Especially, if these are UK based, and so “speak the same language” as DfID etc.
  • We cannot get away from this: we will have to do some painful weeding out of corruption, waste, undue delaying and the like.
  • We have some restructuring and long term planning to fix. That’s why we should move towards programme-based project cycle management and management by results approaches.[6]
  • On linked procurement, accounting and financial management, there is no need to re-invent the wheel – well established “generally accepted . . . practices” are standard.
  • Just to illustrate, if you need car parts or warranty services for equipment, one normally goes to the certified dealer without need to bring in questions of three competing bids on made- in- sweatshop “equivalents.” Just as, Duracell and el cheapo batteries are simply not comparable. Quality assurance costs more (in the first instance), but is well worth it.
  • Indeed, the charter of good governance and development partnership MoU with the UK that we have discussed in these pages in recent weeks[7] are clearly also relevant.

Likewise, it is time to stop the widespread rhetoric against consultants, analysts, advisors and technical cooperation officers. Capacity-building takes time that we don’t have given some urgent needs. Meanwhile such people can be a key part of the needed capacity-building and mentoring. Similarly, ever since Churchill, Commonwealth governments have made good use of so-called “special advisors” brought in as trusted, in-the-chest consultants.  Where also, for certain specialists it often does not make sense to hire staff; for such, it makes sense to buy-in services. Or even, to put certain service providers on a regular retainer. 

If you doubt this, ponder the role played by a Dutch advisor who Mr Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore brought in from year to year to help that nation plan and carry forward its development breakthrough.  While we are at it, look at the sobering steps he took to deal with corruption (which led to at least one suicide by an exposed official).

And yes, looking to the Singapore model would not be a bad idea at all.[8]


[1] See, June 2018: https://www.eccourts.org/sean-ross-mclaughlin-v-montserrat-development-corporation/

[2] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-head-of-programme-management-office-installed/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-port-development-launched/

[5] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-13-2017-prince2-and-moving-towards-an-economy-transformation-programme/

[6] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/caricom-results-based-management-systems-channel-5-belize/

[7] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/%ef%bb%bfmontserrat-fixing-governance/ and https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/

[8] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-8-2016-the-singapore-example-for-development-and-transformation/

Leave a Reply

Please Support The Montserrat Reporter

This is bottom line for us! Unless we receive your support, our effort will not be able to continue. Whatever and however you can, please support The Montserrat Reporter in whatever amount you can (and whatever frequency) – and it only takes a minute.
Thank you

TMR print pages

Flow Xmas Handset Offer-Prepaid ZTE LITE 7-day

Know about your Land Transactions

Newsletter

Archives

Bank of Montserrat – Scholarship Offer

FLOW - Back to School

https://www.themontserratreporter.com/mni-back-to-school/
https://indd.adobe.com/embed/2b4deb22-cf03-4509-9bbd-938c7e8ecc7d

What lesson does the recently “settled” Sean McLaughlin whistle-blower case have for us?

BRADES, Montserrat, October 8, 2019 –  In recent days, a quietly whispered word began to spread across Montserrat that the 2014 MDC whistle-blower has won a “settlement” of his case[1] regarding improper dismissal; specifically, “breach of contract, breach of the provisions of the Labour Code 2012 in respect of wrongful termination of his employment and breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.” Similarly, in the June 2018 hearing, Justice Miss Agnes Actie noted that “the defendants [MDC, DfID and Mr. Dawson of DfID] have not challenged the fact that there exists a cause of action for protection of the claimant as a whistleblower.

Yes, this is the very same case that was splashed across the Daily Mail in May 2015 and which was echoed in local and regional media.  

Insert Ads Here

Those bare-bones facts are already painfully instructive.

For, they strongly suggest that the case could not be dismissed. Also, that the lawyers for the defendants thought it was unwise or unsafe to carry the case to open court, given powers of discovery of evidence and rights to question witnesses (and so what might come out). 

Let the words of the June 2018 judgement speak as to the facts alleged by Mr McLaughlin regarding events in or about 2014:

“The statement of claim states that the claimant was employed by Montserrat  Development Corporation (MDC) under a contract of employment for 3 years.  The Department of International Development (DFID) is a Government Department of the United Kingdom which provided funding for the MDC. The claimant alleges that he became aware of misappropriation of funds and reported the matter to DFID.  The claimant alleges that he suffered victimization from Board members of MDC and DFID as a result of his whistle blowing and his contract of employment was eventually terminated. He contends that the defendants breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as they failed to provide him with protection as a whistle blower . . . . reasons were not given for the termination and . . . the termination was in breach of Article 10 of The European Convention on Human Rights which places a positive obligation on the first, second and third defendants to protect his rights as a whistle blower.”

Notice, “reasons were not given for the termination” – which sounds sadly similar to how the first Programme Management Office (PMO) Head, Mr Carl Gomersall, was frog marched out of Government HQ on a no-cause clause dismissal in July 2017.[2] That was followed by nearly two years of foot-dragging delay before a successor was secured in March this year[3]; continuing the damage done to our programme and project management credibility. Where, it is obvious that development/ donor agencies and potential investors alike are going to connect the dots for themselves through due diligence and draw their own conclusions, whether we like it or not.

Plainly, cases like these reduce our already poor balance of credibility as regards our ability to govern, manage and carry out (that is, “implement”) key development projects and initiatives. Of course, our focus is not on those who may say whatever they wish in the local media or on those who are inclined to take such arguments at face value.

No, our real problems lie with DfID, with the CDB, with the EU, with the UN and with potential investors.  Have we asked ourselves just why CDB sent a large, high powered delegation here to carry out workshops and then publicly warned us regarding proper project governance when they launched the Port development project last May[4]? Maybe, we should.

Almost as bad, such developments give added force to the sort of lurid headlines we have seen in UK Tabloids.

What are we to do?

For one, while successes like the launching of the Port project and the progress of the Fibre Optic Cable project or the Solar PV plant project are heartening, we have to fix our capability and reputability to soundly carry forward key development projects. Otherwise, for cause, we will have zero credibility where it counts. This also feeds into the tendency to drag out long-needed aid projects.

Long term, we have to build capacity for project management, for linked programme and portfolio management, for financial management (including procurement) and for sound governance:  

Likewise, it is time to stop the widespread rhetoric against consultants, analysts, advisors and technical cooperation officers. Capacity-building takes time that we don’t have given some urgent needs. Meanwhile such people can be a key part of the needed capacity-building and mentoring. Similarly, ever since Churchill, Commonwealth governments have made good use of so-called “special advisors” brought in as trusted, in-the-chest consultants.  Where also, for certain specialists it often does not make sense to hire staff; for such, it makes sense to buy-in services. Or even, to put certain service providers on a regular retainer. 

If you doubt this, ponder the role played by a Dutch advisor who Mr Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore brought in from year to year to help that nation plan and carry forward its development breakthrough.  While we are at it, look at the sobering steps he took to deal with corruption (which led to at least one suicide by an exposed official).

And yes, looking to the Singapore model would not be a bad idea at all.[8]


[1] See, June 2018: https://www.eccourts.org/sean-ross-mclaughlin-v-montserrat-development-corporation/

[2] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/head-of-pmo-dismissed-without-cause-the-premier-laments/

[3] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-head-of-programme-management-office-installed/

[4] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-port-development-launched/

[5] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-13-2017-prince2-and-moving-towards-an-economy-transformation-programme/

[6] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/caricom-results-based-management-systems-channel-5-belize/

[7] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/%ef%bb%bfmontserrat-fixing-governance/ and https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-why-do-we-need-a-development-partnership-mou-with-the-uk/

[8] TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/de-ole-dawg-part-8-2016-the-singapore-example-for-development-and-transformation/