AT LAST the long expected National Insurance Board’s forensic audit report — commissioned by the government last year — is public, leaving more questions than answers.
Speaking with reporters yesterday Labour Minister Shane Gibson commented on the man hours put in by the auditors and lamented having to spend “people’s money on something like this”.
“But,” he added, “we just wanted to make sure that what was being said would accurately reflect what was going on at the Board.”
If that was the mission, then the report was a miserable failure — so far the public has only seen the tip of the iceberg. We shall have to await the court case that Mr Cargill has filed against the Board before we really know all that went on at NIB. We have heard many whispers — whispers that should have been answered, but, if they have any merit, are yet to be dealt with.
In March, Mr Gibson built up public anticipation by announcing that although he had not yet read much of the report — which was yet to be made public — what he had seen was far worse than he had imagined. He promised shocking revelations. When part of the report was leaked to the press, FNM chairman Darron Cash demanded to know where the “beef” was hidden. Mr Gibson had promised scandals, but by the time the report was dragged out, there was nothing new in it.
The object of the exercise was obviously to get rid of Mr Algernon Cargill, NIB director, who was a stickler for the rules and carrying out his duties according to the book. For once, everyone — rich or poor, friend or foe, FNM or PLP — had to pay their NIB contributions under Mr Cargill’s watchful eye. Of course, this certainly would not have made him popular with those individuals and businesses that had not paid their contributions for years. Yet for the first time — under the Cargill regime — NIB was in funds. Certainly the same cannot be said for Mr Gibson’s term in the first Christie government when he was responsible for those funds. Rather, there was a yearly deficit. It was said then that money was spent faster than revenue could be collected. Mr Cargill’s strict observance of the rules quickly reversed that situation.
There have been complaints about Mr Cargill’s high salary and bonuses. However, it must not be forgotten that Mr Cargill had a big job in the private sector, earning a good salary.
When Prime Minister Ingraham returned to government in 2007, he needed an experienced businessman to work a turn-around miracle at NIB if the people’s insurance was to be saved. Mr Cargill did not come cheaply.
When Mr Ingraham found him, he was District Manager and County Chairman, Chevron Puerto Rico LLC, with responsibility for sales, service, marketing, risk management and financial performance for a regional district comprising Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Kitts, Dutch St Maarten and French St Martin, as well as Dominica and St Lucia.
In 2008, he was appointed Director of NIB. He was offered a good salary and bonuses built into achievement. He not only met, but he exceeded the goals set for him. His detractors, would now have the public believe that somehow he managed these bonuses under the table, and paid them to himself. In other words, he was busy stealing the people’s money. Instead, he was busy increasing the people’s savings — more than Mr Gibson could do when he was at the helm a few years earlier. And so, no one could begrudge him earning both a good salary and his promised bonuses. He stole nothing. Anyone who is in business knows that if one wants good returns, one needs experienced staff — and experienced staff is expensive.
However, during his tenure, although coming from a staunch PLP family — many stalwart councillors among them — he must have stepped on some political PLP toes. It would seem that they are certainly out to get him. Someone remarked that they were surprised that Mr Ingraham would hire Mr Cargill because he was such a strong PLP. But that is the difference between Mr Ingraham and the PLP. If he wants the best, he does not let politics stand in his way. In Mr Cargill, he saw a good manager. He was not looking for a good PLP, he was looking for a Bahamian manager who could do the job. Mr Cargill was his man.
The PLP, instead of letting the audit take its course, have had their mouthpieces — including their chairman “Big Bad Brad” — up and down besmirching the Cargill name. The audit had become political.
In the meantime, Mr Cargill has held his peace — until he was called before the auditors and NIB board on Monday. It was then that he opened his Cassandra’s box and released NIB’s secrets. If Mr Cash is looking for his beef, he should sit down with Minister Shane Gibson.
On Tuesday night, Mr Raymond Wells, who with Mr Cargill was accused and suspended from his post, was reinstated by the Board.
Mr Gibson denied speculation that instead of being reinstated Mr Cargill had been fired. He claimed that Mr Cargill was still very much with NIB. “I don’t know that Mr Cargill will be terminated,” he said coyly. “I am waiting on a recommendation from the Board.” That recommendation was expected today.
We predict that he has been fired. And the reason? Shane Gibson and Algernon Cargill, the sound businessman who plays by the rules, cannot co-exist under the same roof. The bottom line? It is either Gibson or Cargill.
We shall let Mr Gibson explain the reason himself: “At the end of the day, the record is clear that whenever I am in office I try to help as many people as I can. So that’s his version of what happened and I guess he’ll have to stick with it. At the end of the day, I am the Minister responsible for National Insurance. I have certain responsibilities. I have certain lines of authority and whenever it is necessary to exercise those, I will exercise them.”
What Mr Gibson does not realise is that he cannot help people with other people’s money. And as Minister he is not free to act as he pleases.
On this page today, there is a letter from Mr Kirkland Turner who explains Section 7 of the NIB Act.
Mr Gibson, not a lawyer, has interpreted that section to give himself far more power at decision-making than he actually has.
That is why we are satisfied that we shall only get the true picture of what is now happening at NIB when the case goes to court. We believe that much will spin around Section 7.
We thank Mr Turner for his input and hope that he will continue writing.