Paria Tragedy shows Twisted Corporate Culture

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Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

FIVE divers employed with LMCS were sucked into a pipeline on Berth #6 at Paria Trading Company, Pointe-a-Pierre on February 25, 2022. One diver, Cristopher Boodram, spent close to three hours crawling through a pitch-black pipeline, promising his fellow divers he would return with help.

Boodram made it out. The others did not.

Two days later at a media briefing, Paria chairman Newman George indicated the four remaining divers were dead.

What followed this incident captivated the nation and raised more questions than answers. Questions, that despite a $15 million plus Commission of Enquiry, are still left unanswered.

The biggest question is who would be held responsible?

The CoE report, released to the public last week, pointed blame at LMCS and Paria. Paria shoulders the most blame, as it was determined it effectively thwarted rescue efforts by LMCS and other dive professionals, leading to the deaths of the four divers. The report stated, “Paria made little or no attempt to rescue, in that they failed to manage and coordinate the resources that were available,” 

It was recommended by CoE Chairman Jerome Lynch that Paria be charged with corporate manslaughter, stating, “… we find that there are sufficient grounds to conclude that Paria’s negligence could be characterised as gross negligence and consequently criminal.”

Whether the DPP will carry through with these recommendations is yet to be seen.

What has bothered me and has bothered all of us, is that despite the failings of the management team and the board of directors, no one has been let go from Paria. Everyone is still collecting paychecks and cashing in big job perks.

Had the Paria board and its management team had any shred of integrity, they would have stepped down. Guilty or not, they should have stepped down. And if they refused to do so on their own cognizance, then the government, who is the owner of Paria, should have removed them.

The government should have then done a full investigation into the process of granting contracts in order to see if certain elements of safety and training had been overlooked. Let us not forget that LMCS does have some responsibility to bear about what happened that day. Did they have proper rescue protocols, were the divers properly qualified according to international best standards, why did they win their bid? These are all things that should have been investigated by the government.

But the fact that neither the board nor the management team in charge during that horrific ordeal voluntarily resigned or were asked to resign is a direct reflection of the twisted corporate culture in government businesses, where no one takes responsibility for their fudge ups and no consequences are doled out.

Take for example the TSTT data leak. Then CEO Lisa Agard got pitched under the bus. Her position was revoked, and we were all told to be happy. But, the board should have gone too. Why? If Agard was aware of the danger of data hacks, as it is being alleged, so was the board. If she and her management team chose not to take the necessary precautions to ensure TSTT data was safe due to costs, the board would have been very aware. At any point, they could have pressured Agard in taking the steps needed to protect the company, even if it cost millions. But they didn’t. So, when things hit the fan, they all whistled and chucked poor Lisa out of the door.

In many cases, it comes down to how executive and board bonuses are determined. The more profitable the company, the bigger the bonus. What’s a great way to keep profits up? Reduce spending during the fiscal year. Hell, it’s easier than taking big decisions to expand business, that may not immediately produce the millions one needs for a fat bonus cheque.

With government-run businesses, boards are usually padded with political friends and allies. Yes, there are some incredibly talented and knowledgeable people on our national boards, but there are also some people there with little to no experience in the sectors they are expected to run businesses in.

So, with no accountability, no serious repercussions and getting on certain boards without the expertise that would be handy, being a government-appointed board member is the sweetest job around. Even if you are found responsible for the death of four men due to your negligence and interference, your job is still safe.

We are all still raw from the Paria incident and until we see people lose their jobs, corporations taken to court, and new laws and regulations drafted, there will be no justice for Yusuf Henry, Kazim Ali Jr, Rishi Nagassar and Fyzal Kurban. May they find eternal peace.

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