The Integrity Commission notes with concern, inaccuracies in recent information published in certain media, touching and concerning the inquiry/investigation into the affairs and operations of the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) during the period 2012 to 2018.
The Commission, therefore, reminds that its inquiry/investigation which began in August 2018, was strictly into the affairs and operations of the statutory body, for the period mentioned above and was conducted in accordance with its specific “Terms of Reference”, published then and attached here for ease of reference.
In the conduct of its inquiry/investigation, the Commission invited 40 individuals to participate in interviews touching and concerning the items in the “Terms of Reference”. These individuals included line ministers, senior managers in the line ministries associated with the MNIB, former and present members of the MNIB Board of Directors, former and present members of management and staff of the MNIB, farmers and law enforcement. Thirty-five of the invited individuals consented and participated in the interviewing process, with some being interviewed more than once.
Recently, the Commission has read and heard published reports representing statements made by attorney Cajeton Hood, representing former Chief Executive Officer of the MNIB Ruel Edwards, one of the individuals invited to participate in the interview process.
The Commission is concerned about the false and incomplete information being fed to the public and, solely in the interest of transparency, wishes to share the following:
- On three separate occasions, the Commission invited the former CEO of the MNIB Mr Edwards to an interview at its offices.
- On the first occasion, the invitation was declined, through his attorney.
- On the second occasion, the invitation was considered with stipulations that the cost of his travel to Grenada and accommodation while here was to be borne by the Integrity Commission.
- The Commission, in the interest of natural justice, offered to cover the cost for his travel to attend the interview and return to Trinidad the same day.
- On the third occasion, the attorney informed that the request for the interview was sent to the former CEO who would seek leave from his office in Trinidad and Tobago at a time and date to be agreed to by his managers. We responded in agreement and informed that we would wait to hear from his client, through him.
- To date, there has been no response from the former CEO nor his attorney.
Further, the record reflects the following:
- On 1 February 2019, the former CEO instituted a High Court Claim against the Commission seeking certain orders to the effect that the Commission had no authority to carry out the investigation into MNIB
- On 28 June 2019, the Claim was dismissed by the High Court but subsequently appealed by the former CEO (6 August 2019);
- The former CEO further applied to the Court of Appeal (23 September 2019) for an interim injunction restraining the Commission from proceeding with the investigation pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal – that application was granted by the Appeal Court on 25 October 2019;
- On 3 July 2020, the Commission applied to strike out the Appeal for “want of prosecution” (on the basis that the former CEO was not taking steps to have the appeal heard) or, in the alternative, to set aside the injunction to allow the investigation to continue pending the hearing and determination of the appeal;
- On 12 October 2020, during a sitting of the Court of Appeal in Grenada, the appeal was withdrawn by the former CEO.
The outcomes of the inquiry/investigation have been sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in accordance with the Integrity in Public Life Act Section 44(2); and collaborating stakeholders who lent their expertise in accordance with Section 12 sub-section 2 (b), of the Act.
The Integrity Commission