Deep-seated internal rivalry within management is costing SIPA heaps

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By Alfred Sasako

(in Guangzhou, China)

INTERNAL rivalry within the top echelon of the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) is deep, resulting sometimes in explosive exchanges, denials and counter-denials, a special investigation by Island Sun has revealed.

Some believe the internal division has created a plethora of outstanding issues which they say is the genesis or beginning of on-going problems at the nation’s oldest State-Owned Enterprise (SOE).

In one instance, it was a complete defiance of orders and was linked to the sacking of former Chief Executive Officer, William Barile, although Harbour Master Judah Kulabule denied the issues were linked.

“Yes I remember all those accusations blaming me for helping John Paul to be employed as a cadet. Some of them were vicious and came from Management,” Capt Kulabule said.

“The truth is, it was the board who encouraged me to continue with employing the cadets. (I have proofs).”

The initial email which triggered the debate was from Director Glyn Joshua, who said the whole mess at SIPA began with the unprocedural hire of SINU part-time student, John Paul.

“I have seen and read the exchanges of emails regarding John Paul. For some of you who do not know the genesis (beginning) perhaps the facts I provide will shed some light, and having given the facts, you can weigh and decide whether John Paul was unfairly treated,” Mr Joshua’s email dated July 27 this year, began.

Mr Joshua gave a detailed account of the case involving John Paul, who initially worked at SIPA as a part-timer during his SINU semester break.

“A few days before the resumption of the new semester, all part-time students including John Paul were released from SIPA as was the practice. However, a few days later Human Resources (HR) Office found out that John Paul was held back by the Harbour’s Department, contrary to the goodwill arrangement for employing part timers,” the email sent to all heads of Divisions, including new CEO, Eranda Kotelawala, said.

Attempts by HR to terminate John Paul’s temporary engagement fell into deaf ears.

“The matter was brought to the attention of then CEO, William Barile. His directive to release John Paul was again defied,” according to the email.

“The Harbour Master (Judah Kulabule) was called into the CEO’s office for an audience. The discussion again centered on John Paul … for his release from SIPA. The meeting was tense and achieved nothing.

“After the meeting the CEO suspend(ed) the Harbour Master for insubordination (in) defying lawful instructions. It was a sad result for all of us then,” the lengthy email said.

“The John Paul saga eventually led to the suspension of William Barile and finally his termination. This is a separate issue, but had its roots from the same issue.”

Mr Joshua summarised his observations on the John Paul saga in this way.

“I am of the opinion that SIPA spends considerable amount of time (with good intention) dealing with this case. It is costing SIPA in time, money, relationships within harbours, other employees, the Management and the Board. The employees are watching how we handle this case,” he said.

“I ask the following questions:

  • “Why are we bending over backward for John Paul. Who is John Paul? What makes him so special over other employees that we continue to support despite his continuing defiance of lawful instructions? Is he irrepressible or irreplaceable?
  • “The cost to this debacle already in rents alone is $300,000. If we cost our time, effort (and) relationships that are affected, it will double. The allocation of a pilot’s house to John is unprocedural and incorrect. The house type is for middle managers which he is not entitled to and the responsibility for allocation for the type of house rests with the EMT (Executive Management Team) after proper consultation,” Mr Joshua said.
  • “The Harbour Master(was) suspended over this case, Mr Barile has been sacked with its roots stemming from this case, the straining relationships in the Harbour’s Department has some bearing on this case, the strained relationship between senior management and the Harbour Master is over this case, why are we other qualified Harbour personnel ignored?
  • “One of the senior cadet(s) has resigned, who else will? Is it worth our time focussing on one soul and ignoring the rest?, he asked.

It is understood Mr John Paul is on study leave in Europe, although he was suspended from duties.

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