Corruption watchdog backs sacked minister

A global watchdog set up to fight political corruption has come to the defence of a Derry woman sacked from her post as a minister in the Trinidad and Tobago government.

Bogside native Mary King (nee O’Doherty) was removed from her position as Minister of Planning, Restructuring and Gender Affairs amid allegations of improper conduct. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar sacked Ms King following advice from the Attorney General that she had acted improperly in failing to declare her interest in a company which was awarded a contract by her department.

However, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian-based Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) - which Ms King is a member of - has come to the defence of former planning minister.

John G Williams has accused the Trinidad and Tobago government of denying King an opportunity to give her side of the story and questioned the government’s motives for removing her from office on the grounds of integrity.

“We have the highest regard for the integrity of Mary King and we are deeply concerned about what has happened to her, in view of the record on corruption of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago,” Mr Williams said.

He added: “We know that the Government is new but we are not aware it has made any significant moves towards fighting corruption.

“What we know is that Mrs King was fired without enquiry, no due process, not asked to present her case and it was done by an attorney-general who is new in office.

“In view of the Government’s poor record in fighting corruption, we call on the Government to put all cards on the table and to do nothing further until the Integrity Commission has concluded its investigations and published its report,” Mr Williams said.

He insisted that it did not appear that Mrs King had been afforded the right of due process of law in the face of allegations of any misconduct in office.

He said the Trinidad and Tobago government should review their actions and ensure that everything they do is in accordance with the law and is ethical and transparent.

Mr Williams said that although he had read newspaper reports and heard what had transpired he was not in possession of all the facts and while he could not speak on the real issue he strongly believed that Mrs King should have been given the opportunity to defend herself.

Mrs King is alleged to have failed to disclose her family’s interest in web design firm IXanos Ltd, “participated” in the selection process for the award of a contract and placed her secretary on the evaluation committee which recommended the award of a TT$100,000 to the web design company.

Her sacking followed a TT Sunday Express investigation which exposed details of the alleged process leading to the award of the contract which both she, her husband and her son have an interest. Mrs King sits on the Global Board of GOPAC and was responsible for forming a Caribbean chapter of the group which has 700 members in 80 countries.