Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash. 'Tis something, nothing:
'Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed. – Othello Act 3, scene 3.
THOSE plotting to take control of the National Insurance Board did not take the measure of a man who valued his reputation more than his life — a man who was prepared to gamble all his material possessions to fund a court case to save his good name. And so when the smear letter was “leaked” to justify firing NIB Director Algernon Cargill, the instigators must have panicked when an affidavit to which was attached a mountain of supporting evidence to suggest that the accusations were false was filed in the Supreme Court. The National Insurance Board and Gregory Moss, National Insurance Board chairman, were named as first and second defendants.
The lengthy letter of complaint against Mr Cargill was written on November 8th to Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson by Marco City MP Gregory Moss, newly appointed chairman of the National Insurance Board. It was copied to Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Prime Minister Christie, when questioned about the allegations against Chairman Moss last week, said he had learned about them “within the last 24 hours” and so could not comment. However, he must have known that something was terribly wrong at NIB, because just leafing through the court-filed affidavits there is evidence that Mr Christie was copied on many of the problems. A notation on most of them said that there had been no reply from him.
Algernon Cargill signed a contract of employment with NIB as its director and chief executive officer on September 22, 2008 to expire on October 20, 2011. On that date it was renewed for another four years– to October 21, 2015.
In May this year the PLP won the government, and to hear some talk NIB was turned upside down. Up to then NIB exceeded budget, because the director of that department, who had won the Directors Award for his efforts, made certain that no matter who you were you paid your NIB contributions. Already this year— having decentralised what was a centralised department for better control — NIB since June is more than $6 million behind in its collections. The budget is not being met.
Alarm bells went off shortly after the PLP were returned to government. NIB staff realised that a new day had dawned when the newly appointed chairman arrived, ordered Director Cargill out of his executive office to a smaller room, and took the executive office for himself. This was an office that would no longer be occupied on a daily basis, but only when PLP Marco City MP Gregory Moss flew in from Freeport to attend board meetings. However, when it was Director Cargill’s office it was a place of work.
And —for the first time in the history of NIB— the new chairman was given a new car, bought with taxpayers’ National Insurance contributions. It was no ordinary car. It was a brand new $55,000 Ford Explorer. And if one had time to go through the affidavits there is reference to someone that Mr Moss describes as his chauffeur. This at a time when there should be belt tightening, especially after Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the Bahamas’ credit rating from stable to negative. It appears that we are heading for a crash because no one in this government seems to be taking the financial warnings seriously. Have the “all for me baby” crowd returned in earnest?
We have learned that based on actuarial advice NIB was earlier advised that it was overstaffed. However, since May, the new regime has hired at least 50 more person who many say are not needed.
At one time the unions – the public officers union and the management union – had a tussle with NIB insisting that there should be no hiring until management had circulated within the staff that certain positions were vacant, thus giving NIB staff, who were qualified, first option on the jobs. This clause is written into every union contract. It was adhered to until the PLP came to town this year.
However, we now understand that under new direction, there was no internal advertising, and yet not a squeak from the union. It is also understood that a union member, an NIB staff member, who was not renowned for his work ethic, has been promoted to a managerial position — a position created especially for him. It is not surprising to learn that morale is at its lowest in this particular department.
There are also reports that 200 staff members are up for promotion —although there has been no screening to assess their performance. Apparently, Bahamians are back to the old days, one only has to show the party card.
Regular staff on reaching retiring age are being retired, while those over the retiring age of 60 are being rehired. “They are getting around the contract by calling them consultants,” we were told. Again the party card. It is certainly not going down well at NIB.
“There is low morale here,” we were told, “managers can’t discipline anyone. The workers are the ones with the political clout. There is no encouragement here for the hard workers. Those who work are ignored and those who don’t work get promoted.”
Mr Christie, who doesn’t like confrontation and looks for every escape route possible to avoid it, might not realise it, but he has a larger problem on his hands than he realises. What he now has to face makes other upheavals in his previous administration seem insignificant.
So not only has he his ministers to deal with, but he has to sort out the management of NIB, never forgetting that this is the money of the Bahamian people they are dealing with. And this is once that the Bahamian people have a right to demand and to receive the full unvarnished truth.
“At the expense of sounding treasonous,” said one disillusioned soul, “my advice to Bahamians is to withhold all future contributions until this mess is sorted out. These people have to learn that this is not their private piggy bank for the benefit of their friends. This is the people’s money.”