Baroness Scotland brings more controversy to the Commonwealth

A report from Caribbean News Now.

Dominica-born Baroness Patricia Scotland, the current Commonwealth secretary-general, has lost yet another case in the Commonwealth Secretariat Arbitral Tribunal, adding yet more controversy to her already embattled tenure.

The case – Ojiambo v Commonwealth Secretariat – was brought against the Commonwealth by a former deputy secretary-general, Dr Josephine Ojiambo, a Kenyan national.

The Commonwealth Tribunal in a judgment issued on 14 December 2018 found that the Scotland-led Commonwealth Secretariat “breached its contractual obligations to Dr Ojiambo”. Ojiambo will be entitled to compensation and costs that will run in to at least £250,000 not including the Commonwealth Secretariat’s legal and tribunal related costs.

This latest Commonwealth dispute was personally dealt with by Scotland and the Tribunal found her wanting in the application of her mind. The Tribunal recorded in its judgment, “We would have expected to see a clear record of the secretary-general turning her mind to these issues, having regard to the institutional significance of the position of DSG.”

Together with the Venuprasad v Commonwealth Secretariat case, another case Scotland lost recently at the tribunal, which ordered a record payout, the Commonwealth under Scotland will be paying out about £1.25 million in 2018-19 towards compensation, costs, legal fees for Secretariat lawyers, tribunal costs, etc, in just two cases.

It is unprecedented for a Commonwealth secretary-general to lose back to back tribunal cases pertaining to employment issues within a span of a few months and where a large amount of Commonwealth taxpayers’ money has to be paid out as a consequence of Scotland’s discreditable actions against senior Commonwealth staff.

Another case is expected to be heard by the Tribunal shortly involving Koffi Sawyer, a Cameroonian who was dismissed by Scotland’s friend Nigel Morland but had to be reinstated. A large payout is expected in this case also.

In the last 33 months, Scotland has:

(a) employed friends and cronies – Lord Patel of Bradford, Lolita Applewhaite (who is well beyond the permissible Commonwealth retirement age, including the discretionary band), Matthew Doyle from New Labour, Jo Phelan from a PR firm, Nigel Morland (a family friend) and Barnie Choudhury (Lord Patel’s friend) – at exorbitant salaries;

(b) spent vast sums of Commonwealth taxpayers’ money in refurbishing her grace and favour Mayfair residence;

(c) escaped scrutiny from a weak and pliable Commonwealth Board of Governors through a combination of manipulation and obfuscation, including where a former chair of the board suppressed a letter from the chair of the Audit Committee that expressed serious concerns regarding the baroness’ financial extravagance;

(d) made arbitrary appointments under the guise of her “discretionary powers” that flouted all recruitment norms, costing the Secretariat (and Commonwealth taxpayers) in excess of £750,000;

(e) been indicted by the UK Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) for media stories that came out about her cronyism and misuse of public resources; and

(f) spent vast sums of Commonwealth taxpayers’ money on lawyers and PR firms to “protect her”.

A staff survey of Commonwealth employees undertaken in October-November 2018 revealed low staff morale and high levels of staff dissatisfaction. The Commonwealth Secretariat has had to discontinue a lease on a building that was launched as the ‘Commonwealth Hub’ by the Queen in June 2016 because of its precarious financial position.

Internally, the Commonwealth Secretariat is reported to be in chaos.

Scotland’s trail of incompetence, maladministration and questionable appointments has now resulted in the British government (which currently holds the Chair in Office of the Commonwealth) raising the question of the governance of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the current secretary-general’s contract.

This comes at a time when the Britain is leaving the European Union and needs the support of the Commonwealth to underpin its strategy for a Global Britain.

Scotland’s complaints to IPSO in 2016 against a range of articles that exposed cronyism, corruption and misuse of public resources were rejected by the media watchdog.

Irregular appointments by Scotland:

Lord Patel

Besides appointing Patel and his firm, – KYA Consult – to review the workings of the Commonwealth Secretariat and paying £180,000, another firm that is chaired by him – India Business Group – was appointed by Scotland as the Commonwealth’s strategic partner for the first India-Commonwealth SME Trade Summit held in May 2017. Patel has not declared his association with India Business Group, the trading name of India Business Consultancy Limited, in his House of Lords Register of Interests. Neither of these contracts was subject to tender.

Rola Khouray

Scotland contracted another of her friends, Rola Khouray of an Italian firm, Cloudburst Foundation, to work on the Commonwealth’s Climate Change Programme. They were given substantial funds running to six figures to organise climate change events in Marlborough House in October 2016 and May 2017. Again, no invitation to tender was issued

Commonwealth Secretariat staff appointments

Immediately following her appointment more friends from outside — Lolita Applewhaite, Barnie Choudhury and Nigel Morland — were appointed to senior posts without proper advertisement or recruitment procedures.

Nabeel Goheer (assistant secretary-general from 2017), Joan Nwasike (human resources director from 2016-2018), Katalaina Saplou (peace and governance director from 2017) and Tres Ann-Kramer (head of good offices from 2017) were some of the other Scotland cronies appointed without their positions being advertised or interview processes being held.

The cost of these irregular appointments made by Scotland amounts to over £1 million.

Lawyers and reputation management consultants

Scotland hired lawyers — Carter Ruck and Mark Stephens/Howard Kennedy – to defend her against media articles.

Scotland hired lawyers Bretton Woods Law to defend her at tribunal cases brought against her.

Scotland hired Quiller Consultants in November 2016 to manage her reputation.

The amount spent on lawyers and reputation management consultants exceeds £500,000 (and counting).

Private Investigators hired to target Commonwealth Secretariat staff

Patel referred at least one member of staff – Joshua Brien – to these private investigators.

British attempts to question Scotland’s suitability

On 27 September 2018, Commonwealth foreign affairs ministers met under the chairmanship of the British foreign secretary in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Two weeks before the meeting, Foreign Secretary Hunt sent Commonwealth foreign ministers a letter enclosing a synopsis of the Report of a High-Level Review Group on Commonwealth Secretariat Governance.

The issue of Scotland’s contract and suitability to continue as secretary-general was the principal (and only substantive) agenda discussed at the meeting. Reports confirm that few Caribbean ministers were supporters of the status quo.

Maldives

While on a visit to Kuala Lumpur in August 2016, Scotland had a private luncheon meeting with the Maldives minister of justice of, Azima Shukoor, at the Intercontinental Hotel. Shukoor had specially flown in to Kuala Lumpur for this meeting. This was a below the radar meeting and never reported.

Shortly after this meeting, the Maldives left the Commonwealth but is currently looking at rejoining.

Shukoor, as attorney general of the Maldives a few years earlier, engaged Scotland in 2012 to advise the then government on the legal status of the Maldives being on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group’s agenda. This engagement included a controversial pay-off of $50,000 to Scotland in addition to her consultancy fees of £75,000.

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