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I read with keen interest a letter that was published in the February 22 edition of The Nassau Guardian. It was written by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Member of Parliament for Fox Hill Fred Mitchell. Mitchell was responding to a column that was published recently by the daily which had called for him to apologize to Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Dion Foulkes over some comments he (Mitchell) had made after his name was caught up in an alleged scandal in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2002 and 2007.
Let me state from the outset that I do not necessarily agree with what the FNM senator did. Mitchell has a right to defend his name, but he went about it in the wrong way. I think the wrongest thing for anyone to do is to respond to an opponent when furious. When you are livid, you tend to make the wrong decision because you are not thinking clearly. I think this particular case should be handed over to the police. Foulkes had tabled a document in the Senate about an alleged visa racket that went on while Mitchell served as minister of foreign affairs. Mitchell obviously feels as if he has been unfairly treated by the FNM and The Nassau Guardian.
In fact, I think he has even filed a lawsuit against a government official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is at the center of this controversy. Mitchell took aim at not only Foulkes in his letter, but also at Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette and Lynn Holowesko, president of the Senate. I am a bit curious as to why Mitchell is so livid with The Nassau Guardian, though. I read the editorial in the February 22 edition of The Freeport News, and I was left wondering what's the big deal. While I can understand his frustration with the daily for not taking the official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to task for spilling her guts to U.S. officials, I cannot understand why Mitchell has decided to pick a fight with the newspaper.
I am beginning to suspect that PLP supporters believe that The Nassau Guardian and The Tribune are rooting for the FNM. For some strange reason, the PLP and the two media giants seem to have a frosty relationship. Mitchell always seems to have an issue with the two dailies. FNM parliamentarians like Zhivargo Laing, Carl Bethel, Neko Grant and even Ingraham are perennially attacked by the writers of two popular PLP Internet dailies. Yet, I don't recall any of them dignifying any of the dailies with a response. I think Mitchell knows exactly what I am talking about.
In all honesty, I have never seen a politician in this country this angry. I believe the PLP MP is treading on dangerous soil by attacking Ingraham and his parliamentary colleagues. At the end of his letter, Mitchell states that in this forum he cannot say what he would like to say to them (that is, The Nassau Guardian). I shudder to think what he meant by those closing words. The Fox Hill MP also spoke about a blood libel by the FNM senator and there being enmity between himself and Foulkes' house. The fact that he would mention the house of Foulkes is very chilling. Is that a threat? If so, what exactly does Mitchell intend to do with the FNM senator's family? At a time when the city of Nassau is inundated with bloodshed, Mitchell's words could not have been more inappropriate and irresponsible. Also, it sets a very bad example to the criminal elements who are reeking havoc in the capital.
The editor of The Nassau Guardian rightly took exception to Mitchell's choice of words. I too had read Mitchell's comments, and I thought that he had gone way too far. In fact, I was astonished. I don't see why Mitchell is attempting to defend the indefensible. The editor has called on Opposition Leader Perry Christie to warn the Fox Hill MP about the offensive words he has uttered about Foulkes in the press. But I think the editor is wasting his time. Contrary to what Mitchell said in his scathing letter, don't hold your breath editor. Christie won't tell him to retract those words. Besides, the opposition leader has recently complained about his MPs and candidates being unfairly targeted by the governing party. If anything, Christie might be sympathetic to his party colleague.
In the final analysis, I believe Mitchell must leave The Nassau Guardian alone. If he thinks he can defeat the daily, then he's got another thing coming. The oldest newspaper in The Bahamas has dealt with the United Bahamian Party (UBP) and the administration of the legendary Sir Lynden O. Pindling. The Nassau Guardian has seen politicians come and go. And Mitchell will be no exception. The editor was right to question his choice of words. He should apologize to not only Foulkes, but to this entire country.
- Kevin Evans
The highly-anticipated National Insurance Board (NIB) report is now being revealed by The Nassau Guardian.
The report is actually split into two -- one folder addressing in great detail allegations made against (now suspended) NIB Director Algernon Cargill in a November 8, 2012 letter sent to Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson by (now former) NIB Chairman Gregory Moss.
The letter advised that the board had voted to terminate Cargill and it outlined a series of damning allegations.
Before determining whether to follow through on the board's decision, the government hired Grant Thornton (chartered accountants) to complete a forensic review and present findings.
The report that we address in today's paper deals with the auditors' findings relating to those allegations made against Cargill, which he has vehemently denied in legal documents filed by his attorneys last November.
The full report (or reports) will be in the public domain once they are tabled in the House of Assembly.
In our articles this week, we will highlight some of the key findings.
Minister Gibson has previously told reporters he found the report "shocking".
We make no judgment on this matter one way or the other and only seek to present the findings of the auditors whose services were paid for by tax dollars.
Taxpayers of course have the right to know how their money was spent, and the general state of their cherished social security agency.
As we reported on our front page today, the auditors concluded that there was no evidence that the former minister responsible for NIB (Hubert Ingraham) approved the bonuses received by Cargill between January 2010 and May 2012.
A legal opinion from Thomas Evans, QC, determined that the NIB Act requires that overbased increases in salary and bonuses for the director and other members of the executive management get the approval of the minister.
Executive bonuses totaling $723,333 were paid during the period January 2010 through May 2012, according to the NIB report.
Executive bonuses in 2010 were in the range of 15 to 71.8 percent of the base salaries of executives.
Cargill received a 71.8 percent bonus on his 2010 base salary of $145,600, the NIB report said.
"It is interesting to note that in 2007, Mr. Lennox McCartney, former NIB director, recommended that bonuses should be 10 percent of salary," the report said.
The legal opinion attached to the report said, "...Nothing has been produced for our inspection to show that the minister had approved any such action (bonuses for Cargill and other executives).
"In these circumstances it is our opinion that such actions were ultra vires both the board (of NIB) and the human resources sub-committee and consequently are void and of no effect."
Grant Thornton requested the legal opinion from Evans to determine whether the authorization and payment of executive salaries and bonuses without the knowledge of the Human Resources Committee, the board of directors and the minister, were in accordance with the rules and regulations of the NIB Act.
Evans also said specific bonuses and salaries paid to executive management personnel, if made without the knowledge of the board of directors or the members of the human resources sub-committee and without the approval of the minister would also be void.
"There is, however, a caveat which arises out of the fact that the board of directors approved the budget that included the salary increases in question," the legal opinion stated.
"It is immaterial that neither [then NIB Chairman Patrick Ward] nor Mr. Cargill nor the human resources V.P. specifically brought these to the attention of the Board since directors owe a duty to the corporation to exercise fair and reasonable diligence in discharging their duties and to act honestly.
"It was therefore incumbent on the directors to ensure that they had all of the details of the budget that they were being asked to approve and not to approve the same unless they were able to justify the same.
"It was their business to ask questions until they were satisfied that they knew fully what was contained in the budget. It may not be therefore open to the directors to now complain of not being told of the salary increase component of the budget."
The auditors devoted 66 pages of their nearly 300-page report to the issue of bonuses and salaries.
Much of it includes board minutes from meetings over several years.
There is no evidence to suggest that HR Committee members, Rev. Etienne Bowleg or Debbie Ferguson knew the details of the executive bonuses paid, the report said.
The new board in 2012 suspended the executive bonus program.
The report said that in an interview with the auditors, Ward stated that management negotiated contracts so that they would get bonuses that would be linked to the bonuses the management union got, with no reference to performance measures or operation/financial targets.
He stated that historically the HR executive review committee handled HR matters for all senior management personnel.
They never openly discussed salaries and bonuses at the board level because of the confidentiality issue, especially with fellow board members who happen to be presidents of three prominent unions.
The board approved the charter (that is, the Human Resources Committee Terms of Reference), which gave the committee full responsibility and authority to deal with matters relating to management's salaries and bonuses, which should be in the board minutes.
Every year as a part of the budgetary process the Board of Directors would be aware of the overall parameters that would be set for the allocation of budgets.
They would not be aware of the individualization or specifics of the annual budget (say for salaries and bonuses) but would be aware of the pool (that is, the total amount).
Grant Thornton determined that the Human Resources Committee and full board should have received specifics and knowledge of the executive bonuses "for proper discussion and decision".
The Nassau Guardian previously reported that eight NIB executives and one person on contract collectively received bonuses of $723,333 between January 2010 and May 2012, with Cargill taking home $194,791.66 in bonuses during that period, according to information on NIB's files.
Grant Thornton also said it has seen no correspondence or approval from the minister with responsibility for NIB (Prime Minister Ingraham) to increase Cargill's base salary from $140,000 (per his initial contract dated October 20, 2008) to $163,072.
It said Cargill's base salary was eventually increased to $175,000.
Cargill's employment as NIB director over Mr. Darron Cash and Anthony Curtis, based on documents received by Grant Thornton, appear not to have been reviewed or approved by the Human Resources Committee, the report also said.
CREDIT CARD ISSUE
In his November letter to Minister Gibson, Moss also alleged that Cargill used his corporate credit card to incur in excess of $240,000 in charges over a period of three years for various charges which should otherwise have been subject to the normal purchases effected through the Purchasing Department of NIB.
Grant Thornton concluded that NIB has no documented credit card policy and the Chief Internal Auditor Whitney Patton stated in an interview with Grant Thornton dated November 29, 2012 that he was not aware that a credit card was issued to Cargill.
Purchase of supplies, electronic devices such as cell phones, iPads, iPhones, camera, other IT hardware could have been subjected to the normal purchasing oversight handled by the Purchasing Department instead of at the discretion of Cargill, the report said.
There were two credit cards issued during the year 2009 through 2012. They were issued only to Cargill in January 2009 and Chairman Gregory Moss in July 2012, respectively. Both credit cards had a credit limit of $25,000, according to Grant Thornton.
"We inquired with [Mrs. Sonia Gill, financial controller] if there was a documented authorization to issue credit cards to Mr. Algernon Cargill and Chairman Moss, the report said.
"According to Mrs. Gill, there was no documented authorization to approve the issuance of credit cards to both," it said.
"However, Mrs. Gill provided us with documentation on how the credit card of Mr. Moss was processed and collected from Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). We were not provided with documentation on how the credit card of Mr. Algernon Cargill was processed and collected, as according to Mrs. Gill, she is yet to locate them."
Amid controversy surrounding NIB, Minister Gibson instructed the Board to cancel the credit cards in January.
Total credit card charges from January 1, 2009 through October 31, 2012 totaled $273,541.16 of which $272,493.01 was reported as business expenses and $1,048.15 was reported as personal, the report said.
It said according to Gill, the personal charge of $1,048.15 was recorded as a receivable from an NIB official.
"Based on our review of the expense summary of Mr. Algernon Cargill and its attached supporting documents and correspondences, we found out that the total charges of $272,493.01 were not solely incurred by him but were also incurred by other NIB employees through use of his credit card," Grant Thornton said.
"Also, we were not able to view 24 percent or $65,887.35 of the total credit card charges as the supporting documents were not on the files provided to us."
Grant Thornton also said, "Based on our review of all credit card purchases, we noted that all purchases were not in compliance with the policy on Delegated Authority to Spend Budget Allocations."
Cargill used his credit card for meals in addition to his travel and subsistence allowances, according to the report.
The auditors concluded that NIB's policy on Delegated Authority to Spend Budget Allocations is inadequate as it did not have a policy specific for executive managers and directors in terms of approval of their own requisition of goods or services, replenishment or credit card charges, reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses and other payments.
Cargill has also denied the allegation that he improperly used his credit card.
In his court-filed affidavit, he said, "On the instructions of Mr. Patrick Davis and Mr. Gregory Moss, NIB's Internal Audit Department, led by Whitney Patton, CPA, and Nakeisha Simms, CPA, reviewed every transaction performed on the credit card from January 2009 to June 2012.
"In their summary of findings, they stated that 'Discussions with Mr. Patrick Ward, former chairman NIB, revealed that approval was given to the director to obtain and use a credit card for the purpose of business development and conduct of Board business, as well as to execute purchases where credit card payment is required; to mitigate against the inherent risk present when in possession of cash; and for use as and when required as is customary in today's business environment'."
Cargill also said, "The Internal Audit Department has completed their review and has not found any misuse of the NIB corporate credit card by me or any NIB executive."
Minister Shane Gibson has said the report from Grant Thornton will be tabled after Cargill gets an opportunity to respond to the findings.
We hope that this happens sooner, rather than later, as the public deserves full access to it, and at the end of the day needs to have confidence in the current and future viability of its social security agency.
We also hope that the NIB saga will improve how that entity as well as how other government departments and corporations are managed.
It is safe to assume that most wealthy and middle-class Bahamians have had humble beginnings. And then there are others who were raised with platinum spoons in their mouths.
The same, I believe, can be said of our politicians, past and present. I think it was Sir Lynden Pindling, our first prime minister, who used to say that he wanted to wipe away the tears from every eye. As noble as this rhetoric might have been, it will never become a reality on this side of the Parousia.
There are 31,665 unemployed Bahamians, as per the latest jobs report of the Department of Statistics. There is a growing sense of disillusionment among the Bahamian underclass towards politicians. More and more Bahamians are beginning to accept the fact that some politicians are only into getting their votes every five years. Those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths cannot even begin to appreciate the plight of the Bahamian underclass. And those who were once poor but are now living in the lap of luxury seems to have intentionally forgotten about their humble roots.
In The Bahamas, there exists a wealth gap between most politicians and their poor constituents. Due to the fact that the economy lies in shambles, an increasing number of Bahamians are living like slumdogs.
I personally know a young lady who is behind on her mortgage by at least three to four years. She now owes the bank at least $30,000. She has a trade, but has worked sporadically over the last five years or so due to the scarcity of jobs, as the above jobs report can attest to. Her water, phone and electricity are all off because of her inability to pay her bills. During the decade of the 1990s when the Bahamian economy was robust and was growing by leaps and bounds, this young lady was thriving financially, as was the case with thousands of other Bahamians who are now finding it hard to make ends meet. But due to the current economic malaise, these people are now living like slumdogs.
- Kevin Evans
The full member swim team representing The Bahamas at the CARIFTA Swimming Championships quickly picked up from where they left off on Thursday evening, in the second session yesterday.
The team opened up the four-day swim meet, taking place at the Betty Kenning Kelly Aquatic Centre with a big medal haul. Albury Higgs, Joanna Evans and Zach Moses all advanced to the finals of the 200-meter (m) free in their respective events. Also moving through the preliminary round was Matthew Lowe, who competed in the 15-17 boys' 200m free. Trinidad and Tobago swept the event leaving Lowe to place fifth in 1:58.19.
In the 50m fly, both Megan Reid and Keitra Lloyd moved onto the finals. Reid led the way for The Bahamas with 32.50 seconds, which is the third fastest time ahead of Friday night's finals. Lloyd's preliminary time was 33.40 seconds. Amira Pilgrim had the best time and held on to win the gold leaving Reid to settle for silver and Lloyd the sixth spot. Pilgrim's time was 30.90 seconds and Reid's was 31.96 seconds. Tiara Myrie was the bronze medalist. She stopped the clock at 32.22 seconds with Lloyd swimming 32.76 seconds.
The Bahamas was represented in the girls' 13-14 fly, with Andreas Weech and Simone Sturrup hitting the water in the finals. Weech was among the favorites to win a medal. She swam 31.32 seconds in the preliminaries and Sturrup swam 31.58 seconds.
Farion Cooper returned in the boys' 50m and posted 28.71 seconds during the opening session of the swim meet. He would place eighth overall in the finals, swimming 29.02 seconds. The winner was Zuhayr Pigot of Suriname. Pigot's golden time was 26.81 seconds. Placing sixth in the 50m butterfly was Taryn Smith. T'Auren Moss led the pack of swimmers in the boys' 15-17 division for the 50m fly event. Moss' time of 25.47 seconds made him the favorite heading into the finals, but he finished third and teammate Evante Gibson fourth.
A silver medal was picked up by Leslie Campbell in the 100m backstroke. She split the Guadeloupe swimmers Charlotte Backovic and Florence Genipa from pulling off the sweep. Campbell's time was 1:11.95 and Backovic's 1:10.18. With two swimmers in the finals of the boys' 100m backstroke, Team Bahamas was hoping to pull off the sweep, but had to settle for second and eighth. Dionisio Carey got the silver and Meshach Roberts placed eighth. Adding to the medal count was Bria Deveaux, in the girls' 15-17 100m backstroke. She was the sole competitor in the event for The Bahamas. Je'Nae Saunders placed 13th overall.
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
As the Bahamas Swimming Federation prepares for the hosting of the 2012 Carifta Swimming Championships in April, the local swimmers are starting to fine tune themselves by turning in qualifying performances.
During the latest meet Saturday as the Sea Bees Winter Invitational was held at the Betty Kelly Kenning Aquatic Center, more than 20 qualifying performances were produced along with a pair for the Caribbean Islands Swimming Championships.
Joanna Evans of the Lucayan Lightning Swim Team turned in the two CISC qualifiers. Her first mark came in the girls 13-14 400 metres freestyle in four minutes and 45.82. The qualifying ...
Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government are both determined to follow through with their pledge to offer a 10 percent discount in light bills to BEC customers in the not too distant future. The chairman has also vowed to reconnect 7,000 disconnected customers. According to Miller, 50 percent of these customers owed less than $2,000...
Today, Monday October 8, 2012 the former DNA MICAL Candidate
hopeful and former longest serving Program Manager for Junior Achievement
Bahamas was handed down a verdict by Magistrate Carolyn Vogt Evans in Court # 6 of a No case to answer in the matter of alleged missing funds from the Junior Achievement Program in the some of $15,000.00 fifteen thousand dollars in a Preliminary Enquiry trial.
Memorial Service for the late Mrs. Terriceta Russell, 96, of Nicholl's Town, Andros, Bahamas, will be held on Saturday, September 18th, 2010 at 11:00am at The North Andros Congregation of Jehovah's Witness, Queen's Highway, San Andros. Officiating will Brother Pedro Knowles.
Terry is survived by her children: Emmie Walkes, Maria Miller, Lillian McNeil, Alva Knowles, and Tommy Russell; two adopted daughters: Sonia Russell and Rena Evans; sister: Nurse Neila Dames; brothers: Dunlope Dames and Reginal Dames; son-in-law: Benneth Knowles and Will Miller; daughter-in-law: Rosemary Russell; sister-in-law: Albertha Dames; Twenty seven grand children: Cleo Forbes, Burnie Pratt, Clari ...