By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
LABOUR Minister Shane Gibson yesterday denied any involvement in the release of confidential National Insurance Board documents that disclosed the salaries and bonuses awarded to executives.
Following the morning sitting of the House, Mr Gibson charged that anyone who sought to equate the privacy rights of a politician to that of an executive was “completely deranged”.
“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would I do something stupid like that?
“The difference between executives and politicians is that politicians run for office. Once I open myself to run for office as a politician I’m placed in a different category and to a higher degree of scrutiny.
“Now executives who are working at NIB, we have no right whatsoever to be disclosing their personal information, none whatsoever,” he said. “It takes a real warped mind person to compare releasing information on an executive to releasing information on a politician.”
According to Mr Gibson, an investigation has been launched after there were a series of leaks at the National Insurance Board. Operations at the quasi-government agency have come under heavy criticism after allegations made against suspended director Algernon Cargill were released to the public. Since then, Mr Cargill has filed a writ in the Supreme Court against the board and chairman Gregory Moss, which outlined further allegations of impropriety and misuse of taxpayer funds.
A forensic audit is now being conducted by Grant Thornton Bahamas. The report was originally slated to be released next week, but the firm contracted to conduct the audit told The Tribune that the projected release date is now January 8.
Mr Gibson said: “You haven’t seen shocked yet, based on the initial investigation the board did when they made their determinations that will be used as a basis and a part of the investigation.”
According to Mr Gibson, all benefits paid to National Insurance workers must receive prior approval by the minister responsible.
Mr Gibson said: “Patrick Ward has no shame, when I look at all the comments of the board members saying they had no knowledge of these bonuses how could he make that decision in the absence of his board? He has no statutory power as chairman, it lies with the board of NIB, not with the chairman.”
Under section 40 of the National Insurance Act, which governs officers and employees of the National Insurance Board, there are five actions that must receive prior approval from the minister.
Without such approval, the board cannot: Assign to any post a salary, which is above the highest level of that governed by any industrial agreement to which the Board is a party, or make an appointment to such a post; make any appointment of a legal adviser to, or medical officer of, the Board; terminate the employment of any person who holds such a post; or make any provision for the payment of any pensions or gratuities or other like benefits to any officers or other employees of the Board by reference to their service.
Last night, Mr Ward maintained that the awarding of bonuses and other payments was provisioned in individual executive contracts, including that of suspended director Algernon Cargill. All contracts were approved by the minister, according to Mr Ward.
Stating that he could not delve into any further details due to the court action and his eligibility as a witness in the pending lawsuit, Mr Ward said: “I happily stand by the fact that anything that was done relative to any compensation matter was properly dealt with.”
He added: “They can say anything inside of parliament because they have privileged, he can’t say that outside of parliament.”