Highlights — 01 November 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
6 Immigration staffers transferred “immediately”

While no politician has been charged, or seemingly even investigated in the matter of the “Penner Passport Scandal,” the clerical workers of the Immigration Department appear to be taking a hit from Government.

Amandala has confirmed that at least six public officers from that department have been suddenly transferred with immediate effect. Further information has not been forthcoming, but we understand that a shakeup is taking place within the department that is expected to affect at least fifty percent of its personnel over the next few weeks.

During the course of this week, rumors were rampant that 11 clerks from the Immigration Department were transferred to another government department. Earlier in the week, Industrial Relations Officer of the Public Service Union, Ray Davis, said that he, like everyone else, had heard the rumors – but he had not received anything official.

Today, however, in an interview with KREM News, Davis said, “As a matter of fact, I went to the Immigration Department this morning to get a feel of what was happening. Indeed, I found out that some officers have already been transferred. From the information I have so far, the persons affected are second class clerks, first class clerks and a data entry operator. So it seems to me that the support staff at the department have been the ones that have been affected so far with transfers. I must say, though, that transfers within the public service are a normal practice, and everyone in the public service is subjected to transfer as a part of the regulations, so such transfers would not particularly raise any flags. The difference for us, which would raise a flag, would be if it is done outside of the transfer period… and I don’t know where these persons have been transferred to, but I would hope that we would hear something from them and that they would at least confirm the news, especially in the event that they are transferred to different stations.”

While we have been told by a former public officer that this type of mass transfer within government departments is – for the most part – unprecedented, Davis told Amandala that there is usually a stigma regarding the transfer of public officers, but pointed out that transferals assist public officers to be more “rounded” in their job expertise.

When prodded on whether the mass transfer of 6 clerks within the same department – at the same time – is unusual, Davis replied that he has no problem with the transfers; rather, he stated that he is more concerned about why the officers who have been affected did not see the need to liaise with the union.

Davis said that he stands ready to speak with the public officers so that their concerns, if they have any, can be addressed.

Later that day, Davis confirmed that according to documents he had seen, six junior staffers from the department were transferred the same day. When asked as to whether he knew if the transfers were linked to the investigations into the recent passport scandal, Davis said that it would be hard not to make that connection.

He said, “I could see that if there is a problem with a department, especially the magnitude of the problem within the Immigration department, they would want to start to do things to fix the problem, so I definitely think that would come as part of the solutions that they have in mind. We at the Union would be concerned that everything is done in accordance with the regulations, because there are regulations that govern how persons are transferred.”

Davis also said that he is “waiting patiently” to hear from the three suspended officers because he is interested in getting to the bottom of their situation and finding out what is their side of the story.

We have also confirmed that yesterday afternoon, Immigration Minister Hon. Godwin Hulse, along with the Director of Immigration, Maria Marin, and the Immigration CEO, Candelaria Saldivar-Morter, met with representatives of the social partners; that is, the NTUCB, the Chamber of Commerce and the churches. The topic of the discussion was the proposed changes to the Immigration Act that will be tabled at Friday’s House meeting. According to one source who spoke with KREM News, very serious proposals were made to the unions in connection with the Immigration amendments to the laws. We were told that those proposals will now be taken back to the membership of the unions for approval.

In regards to the swift transfer of the six clerks of the Immigration Department, Amandala understands that the matter was raised by NTUCB President, Dylan Reneau. We’ve been told that in response, Immigration CEO, Candelaria Saldivar-Morter, noted that this “happens every so often,” and that the action is within the purview of the department.

Meanwhile, sources within the department claim that there is escalating dissatisfaction in the department because it seems that only clerical staff are feeling the effects of the shakeup, while the higher-ups are not being scrutinized.

As a matter of fact, the Police Commissioner, Allen Whylie, confirmed some time ago that the criminal investigation into the recent passport and nationality scandals is focused on missing files and staffers who are possibly involved, but not on the former Minister of State, Elvin Penner, who actually recommended and signed the passport and nationality documents.

Also of note is that while the Nationality section remains closed, no one from that unit has yet faced any disciplinary action.

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