HAS THERE been another mysterious leak in the Cargill National Insurance Board inquiry?
If so, has it perchance been timed to divert public attention from the PLP’s dismal failure in office and concentrate public anger on the seeming advantage taken of NIB funds?
Of course, the PLP are quick to again blame former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, because at the time the NIB bonuses were paid, NIB was in his ministerial portfolio.
It is strange that the “leak” should come so soon after National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson — after promising that the auditor’s report would be laid on the table of the House last Wednesday — reversed his position, explaining that there had been a delay. That delay, he said, was because government wanted to give Mr Cargill “an opportunity to respond” to the “adverse findings” in the report, “before NIB decides what their next step is”.
“So soon as he has had an opportunity to respond, which is in 14 days,” Minister Gibson told the House, “and the Board has had an opportunity to make a decision as to how they will proceed, then the report will be tabled in parliament.”
It seems rather late in the day to be calling a person in for questioning after an audit has been handed in and an opinion already given. It would seem that judgment has been made before the person under examination has even been invited to explain his side of events. Remember, we do live in a democracy which is supposed to guarantee fairness.
However, Mr Gibson, when he spoke in the House on May 1, gave the impression that Mr Cargill had already had a copy of the report and would have 14 days to reply to “sections that might not have been in his best interest.”
The Tribune, always suspicious of politician’s statements, decided to double check for accuracy, only to discover that on the eve on Mr Gibson’s House statement, Mr Cargill had not yet seen the report. His lawyer, Alfred Sears, was off the island until Monday, May 6.
A letter written to Mr Cargill’s lawyers inviting their client to a meeting to discuss the adverse findings was delivered to the law firm three working days before Mr Gibson’s announcement in the House. Replying to NIB on the eve of the House meeting, Mr Cargill’s lawyers said that their client reserved the right to pursue his remedies, including judicial review, against the auditors and others for breach of his right to due process of law, negligent misrepresentation and further damage to his reputation. “We hereby put you on notice,” they wrote, “that any further publication of this Report will be the basis of a claim for aggravated damages.”
Although Mr Gibson did not mention the lawyer’s letter in the House the next day, he told members that there was no telling when the forensic audit would be made available for public scrutiny.
However, certain sections of the report became available for public consumption Monday morning — just in time to take the heat off a government fallen out of public favour.
Apparently, it is claimed that Mr Algernon Cargill, suspended NIB director, is listed as an officer of a company owned by his brother from whom NIB rented an apartment. However, records will show that as a result of a request by the auditors, the legal firm of Davis & Co on January 24 this year wrote to Grant Thornton’s managing partner Paul Gomez to inform him that their corporate records showed that Godwin A Cargill was the sole beneficial owner of the shares of Jes-El-Car Ltd – the company that rented the apartment – not Algernon Cargill.
Apparently, Grant Thornton also sought a legal opinion as to whether 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.
It was the view of Mr Thomas Evans, QC, that if certain salaries and bonuses were paid to executive management without the knowledge of the board of directors, members of the Human Resources sub-committee and without the approval of the minister, they would be void.
However, there are minutes that show that at each Board of Directors meeting, the chairman discussed the summaries of all Human Resources meetings, including the executive compensation. Apparently, the auditor’s report claims that there was no evidence that Rev Etienne Bowleg or Debbie Ferguson knew the details of the executive bonuses paid.
However, we have selected the minutes of one of several Human Resources Committee meetings which shows that these bonuses were discussed in detail.
For example, on Feb 28 last year – present Patrick Ward, Etienne Bowleg, and Debbie Ferguson – the chairman advised that he had received recommendations for salary increases for executives for 2012. He said he would “review the recommendations and finalise based on an average range of 2-4 per cent in overall adjustments and the individual performance of executives”.
At another meeting on December 1, 2012 – present Patrick Ward, Etienne Bowleg, Debbie Ferguson — they discussed “the executive evaluations and advised that the review was completed for executives on the newly-installed Halogen System and was reviewed with the chairman. The director advised that although the team was performing satisfactorily, he wanted to continue to focus on leadership, dealing with change (or change management), taking responsibility and team building.
“The chairman confirmed that the review process will be finalised before year’s end.
“Executive compensation: The chairman advised that the committee agreed that the budgetary guidelines will be used for the awarding of salary, increases for 2012 and performance bonuses based on individual performance and the performance of the board and that he would negotiate these with management on behalf of the committee.”
And so the minutes of the regular committee meetings continued, each showing all members in place (except on one occasion when Debbie Ferguson was absent) when salaries and executives’ bonuses were discussed and all Human Resources committee members seemed to be awake, of sound mind and aware of all the decisions they were making about executive salaries.
At the end of the day, we shall soon know whether this is another smear campaign or whether all the rules were followed.
However, in Mr Cargill, government has certainly got more than it bargained for. One has to admire his feisty spirit — a spirit that is not afraid to fight injustice as he sees it.