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Derrick Latibeaudiere heads new HAJ board

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 19, 2014    

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FORMER Bank of Jamaica Governor Derick Latibeaudiere is the new board chairman of the conflictridden Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ).

 Minister of transport, works and housing Dr Omar Davies informed the House of Representatives yesterday that Latibeaudiere will head a small board for the time being, but that more members will be added in due course.

Other members of the new board are head of the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) Lucille Brodber; banker Norman Reid; public servant Maureen Vernon; attorney Susan Lawrence; and financial analyst Kenarthur Mitchell.

Yesterday’s announcement came a week after Davies told the members of the previous board, chaired by a former deputy general secretary of the ruling People’s National Party (PNP) Maureen Webber, to resign after the agency lost its third managing director in eight months.

Karl Bennett, whose resignation as managing director on March 10 triggered the minister’s call, was preceded by Rosemarie Brown, the former chief technical director.

 Brown was promoted to managing director on August 1, but tendered her resignation on November 11, and left December 11 when Bennett took over.

In December, Parliament’s Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) learnt from Audrey Sewell, permanent secretary in the housing ministry, that the agency was not only facing a leadership crisis, but was also reeling from a $300-million operating deficit, which had forced it to seek additional financing from the National Housing Trust (NHT).

 But, in his statement to Parliament yesterday, Dr Davies tried to downplay the crisis which had overtaken the agency.

 “Even as I welcome the chairman and members of the new board, I want to place on record my appreciation to the outgoing board for the significant amount of work that it undertook during its tenure,” he stated.

“Notwithstanding the innuendoes and the rumours that have been circulated, I wish to state publicly that, at no time have I had any reason to question the integrity or competence of any member of the outgoing board,” he declared.

 He confirmed that a restructuring of the agency is to be expedited, based on coallaboration between his ministry and the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

 “This will ensure that stability is restored and the uncertainties which have affected staff members and other stakeholders will be eliminated,” he explained.

 He said that the new board has been charged with the responsibility to accelerate the search for a new managing director.

 In the meantime, Lanie Oakley- Williams, senior general manager for customer relations at NHT and a member of the old board, will continue to oversee the operations at the HAJ.

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