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Concerns raised about new energy minister...Olivierre has been embroiled in lawsuit with NGC

Published: 
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Nicole Olivierre

The ability of newly sworn in Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre to work with the National Gas Company (NGC) and her capacity to manage this critical sector are being called into question as oil prices continue to slide.

Olivierre, the newly elected La Brea MP, has been embroiled in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit with the management of this critical state agency, which now falls under her control. 

Yesterday, political analyst and economist Indera Sagewan-Alli expressed reservations about Olivierre’s appointment given the pending lawsuit and her inexperience.

“I cannot see how sensible it would be to have a minister in a ministry to whom an institution has to report to while she is embroiled in a litigation with them. So it is anybody’s guess at this time as to how this is going to play out or be resolved,” she said.

In 2012 Olivierre, who was employed at NGC since 2002, filed a complaint of wrongful dismissal against the NGC at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). She alleged racial discrimination by the company, claiming that NGC refused her access to opportunities for training and promotion based on her race. The matter is still before the EOC.

Sagewan-Alli said she believed a critical factor at this time was the minister resolving the lawsuit and determining to what extent she could work with the NGC.

“Is she prepared to drop the lawsuit in the interest of good faith? To say, look the past is the past, but now I am on new things. Is she prepared to do that? I think we will just have to wait and see,” Sagewan-Alli said. 

Sagewan-Alli said that only time would tell if Olivierre would be able to look past her previous interaction at the NGC and work with the state enterprise’s senior management. 

She said Olivierre should be given the benefit of the doubt.

“If she follows in the words of her political leader, who has indicated he is the Prime Minister of the entire country, which means that she is the Minister of Energy for all the country and including all the institutions that must report to her, therefore she must act with fairness,” Sagewan-Alli added. 

She said there was no way the Energy Minister could avoid having to work very intimately with the NGC, which is one of this country’s major sources of income.

“I think resolution of this particular issue has to be done ASAP. We know that the board will change and the PNM will put in its own board, so she will not have a problem or challenge working with a board of the government’s choice, but the senior management will remain. 

“Is there an acrimonious relationship with her and the senior top management?” she asked.

While Olivierre has a degree in engineering, Sagewan-Alli questioned how many years of experience and depth of experience she has.

“It is something we have to be very concerned about because of the (Energy) sector,” she said. 

Olivierre declined to share her cellphone number when approached by the Sunday Guardian after being sworn in at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, on Friday. She therefore could not be reached for comment.

NGC congratulates Olivierre

Last night, NGC Marketing and Communications manager Roger Sant did not comment on the matter, but said in a release:

“On behalf of NGC, we wish to extend our sincere congratulations to Ms Nicole Olivierre on the occasion of her appointment as The Honourable Minister of Energy and Energy Industries. We take pride in the appointment of one of our own former employees to this important position and extend our best wishes to the Honourable Minister for every success in the fulfillment of her duties.” 

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