Gov’t fires Commissioner of Information Charles Ramson

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The Government has fired Commissioner of Information Charles Ramson and has left funding for this office blank.

“We recognise that this a statutory office and the contractual employment of the last commissioner having been terminated, the Department of Governance and the Office of the Prime Minister will be looking at what measures to have the office resituated,” Prime Minister MosesNagamootoo said Monday during the consideration of budget estimates for his Secretariat.

The Prime Minister said Senior Counsel Ramson was dismissed for rendering his office dysfunctional.

The 2019 budget estimates show a revised payment assigned to the Commissioner of Information for 2018 in the amount of $22.8 million.

The Office of Commissioner of Information is provided for under the Access to Information Act. Mr Ramson was appointed by then President Donald Ramotar on June 24, 2013.

The Prime Minister said the Office should be held by someone who is “fully qualified,” the Department of Public Information (DPI) quoted him as saying.

Mr Ramson, who served twice as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, had sued the Government for monies owed to him and had accused the Government of leaving him dysfunctional by starving him of resources.

In February 2017, Minister of State Joseph Harmon reported that issues regarding the work of the Commissioner were handed over to the President due to concerns of the Prime Minister.

Harmon said that the Prime Minister was responsible for the laying of constitutional reports in the National Assembly and receives reports from constitutional entities.

However, he is quoted by the DPI as saying the Prime Minister reported that the matter was no longer under his control because under the Act, the contract of employment for the Commissioner falls under the presidency.

“The concern which had been raised by the Prime Minister is that the Commissioner has not presented reports for a number of years,” Harmon said then.

Harmon also at the time pointed out that “the Commissioner of Information is a person who the public must have access to and he should be the person who gives information…but the Commissioner of Information is locked away from the public and could not have been performing his duties.”

During Monday’s consideration of the estimates, Harmon, who answers to the National Assembly for the Ministry of Presidency, deferred the matter to the Prime Minister, who made the announcement that Ramson’s contract was discontinued.

In early 2017, Ramson had sued the Government for his salary, emoluments and benefits, saying his right to work was violated.

He said that post 2015, his accommodation and staff were “degutted in stages”, both unilaterally and by mutual arrangement.

He claimed to have relocated to his property for an agreed period of three months which came to an end on December 31, 2015.

“In that event, I continued to report to work routinely, commencing at 07:00h and have always been ready, willing and able to meet the legal responsibilities of my office,” he had stated.

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