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By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Tommy Turnquest said he "categorically denies" making any commitment to redeploy laid off ZNS workers in other areas of the public service.
Bernard Evans and William Carroll, presidents of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Unions (BCPMU) respectively, said one of their major "disappointments" in the ZNS lay-offs drama was the mixed information they received from the government.
Denise Wilson, BCPOU secretary general, said the union was "passive in its approach" to negotiations because of assur ...
I just read on a political blog that urban renewal workers are now receiving financial assistance from social services because they have not been paid by the government. I hope this rumor is untrue.
If it is true, then clearly heads must now roll. The minister responsible for urban renewal is Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis. The two co-chairpersons are former Free National Movement (FNM) Cabinet minister and MP Algernon Allen and former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Prime Minister Cynthia 'Mother' Pratt. Urban renewal is Christie's brainchild. The PLP government has allocated some $15 million towards the program. Clearly a lot hinges on it.
So far it has failed to break the back of crime, especially murder and armed robbery. Criminals are now being fired at by police officers in broad daylight on Bay Street. Wait until the American Embassy hears of this latest shootout in Nassau.
I read on a Facebook political blog that vigilante criminals are now targeting the homes and cars of police officers. Nassau is becoming more dangerous by the day. If this urban renewal program fails to bring crime down to an acceptable level, one begins to wonder if the PLP has a back-up plan up its sleeve.
Anyway, urban renewal has been fraught with one controversy after another since it was re-implemented some eight months ago by this PLP government. I cannot understand why such a simple program has had so many hiccups. There was the alleged spat between Mother Pratt and the urban renewal assistant director in Grand Bahama and the ongoing controversy surrounding how the allocated $15 million is being spent. And then there was the issue concerning urban renewal operatives bulldozing the homes of poor Nassuvians without the proper legal authorization.
Perhaps urban renewal's greatest embarrassment has been the shoddy manner in which its employees, most of whom are PLPs, have been treated by the PLP government. It was rumored last year that these workers were not paid one farthing in as many as five months because of some bureaucratic glitch in the government. I understand that the pay issue was finally sorted out in either late November or early to mid-December.
Now I am hearing fresh rumors of the same debacle reoccurring in that program. However, I simply refuse to believe that any government can be this incompetent with respect to not being able pay its workers on a timely basis. If this rumor is true, then one must beg the question if someone in the Christie administration is intentionally making the prime minister look bad and hopelessly inept with these mindboggling and inexcusable blunders. Maybe there is a covert and sinister plan by some anti-Christie elements within his own government to force him into early retirement.
Ever since May 7, there has been one blunder after another due to the poor advice Christie has been receiving from those he has surrounded himself with and from the utterly poor performance of several of his Cabinet ministers, MPs and government board chairpersons. Christie needs to fire several of these underperforming ministers before they cause his government any further embarrassment. With respect to urban renewal workers not being paid, if this rumor is true, Christie needs to clean house at the Ministry of Finance and he needs to relieve Davis of his duties at urban renewal.
With all due respect to the deputy prime minister, I don't think that program is performing as well as it should under him. The prime minister should let Davis focus solely on his Ministry of Works instead of also having to deal with urban renewal.
- Kevin Evans
One of the areas in which Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has been repeatedly criticized has been his speaking ability. A group of boorish FNM impostors has been busy nitpicking Minnis' resume since the day he assumed the leadership post of the party they claim to support.
True, Minnis, as far as I can tell, has never blown anyone away with any speech he has given; nor does he possess the speaking ability or talent to raise the rafters. While it is true that having the ability to give a good speech is a much-desired skill, especially among politicos, it is, nonetheless, an overrated aspect of being a good political leader. Truth is, Minnis does not need to be as eloquent as the ancient Greek statesman and orator Demosthenes in order to be an excellent leader of the FNM or the prime minister of The Bahamas.
Besides, there have been many despicable leaders throughout history who were able to hold their audiences spellbound with their captivating speeches. For instance, mass murderers and dictators Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin, Idi Amin, and Mao Zedong were all excellent speakers who had the uncanny ability to rouse their audiences. The late cult leaders Malcolm X and Jim Jones were also compelling speakers who won thousands over to their causes. Conversely, there have been many great leaders who were dismal speakers. For example, the two greatest men, other than Jesus Christ, to ever walk the earth were not accomplished orators. Their names were the Hebrew lawgiver Moses and the apostle Paul. In their humility, both men admitted that they were not good speakers. Read Exodus chapter four and II Corinthians chapter 11 for yourself and you will see what I'm talking about. Both of these lackluster speakers were used by God to change the course of human history.
So one can see that Minnis' critics have made a mountain out of a molehill regarding his speaking ability. He has already proven himself to be an outstanding representative for his Killarney constituents. I believe he can bring that same kind of outstanding leadership to the office of prime minister, if given the chance.
- Kevin Evans
Critics and naysayers of Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis are becoming impatient with him because there has not been a convention held in the two years since he was elected leader on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at a one-day convention held at the Holy Trinity Activities Centre in Stapledon Gardens...
Miss Arkansas, 18 year old Stevi Lauren Perry, of Hamburg is the new Miss Teen USA. She was crowned Saturday, August 16th at Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort, after beating out 50 other contestants.
Throughout the event, the contestants competed in three categories: swimsuit, evening gown and interview, and the top five finalists were selected. Hilary Cruz, Miss Teen USA 2007, and Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008, crowned the new Queen.
Nassau, Bahamas - Police are requesting the public's help in locating 17 year old Janiea Saunders of Evans Street Off East Street. JANIEA is described as having light brown complexion, slim build and stands at 5'8" tall.
OUTSTANDING trial transcripts have delayed the attempts of three men to contest their convictions for the murder of a policeman by at least a month...
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.