Thursday, March 24 By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister conceded yesterday Bahamas Power and Light needed new leadership after its board of directors in recent times remained “locked” in dispute on every critical issue at great cost to the company.
Despite coming to a screeching halt before it could tackle the lion’s share of BPL’s problems, Mr Bannister said the appointment of a new board was not a negative reflection in any way of the achievements and integrity of the outgoing board.
A day after the board dissolved, the minister confirmed the relationship among board members “deteriorated”. These factors presented the basis for a new board of directors, which the minister said he expects to be appointed by tomorrow.
His statement further substantiated The Tribune’s account of the brewing situation that contributed to the board’s unexpected disintegration.
However, when the minister was asked to comment on who was being eyed to constitute the new board, he declined comment.
Sources close to the matter have said selections have been made and are now with Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling. The sources declined to reveal the names as the governor general has to formally approve them.
In the meantime, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard said he had no concerns as he received assurances from Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis there would be swift resolution. He said his main concern was BPL workers and it did not appear they stood in any immediate danger.
“As minister with portfolio responsibility for Bahamas Power and Light I wish to thank the outgoing board members for their service,” Mr Bannister said in a brief statement yesterday.
“I have delayed issuing this statement out of respect for a board member who is travelling and could not easily be contacted. I have still not been successful in contacting that member. The outgoing board may proudly point to a number of notable accomplishments during their tenure.
“Accordingly, the appointment of a new board does not reflect negatively in any way on the achievements or integrity of the persons who have given service to BPL and to the country.”
The minister continued: “Regrettably, in recent times the former board remained locked at loggerheads with respect to virtually every critical issue. This became costly to BPL. Moreover, as relationships within the board deteriorated, three members offered their resignations. In those circumstances, it was important that the company seek new leadership.
“It is anticipated that a new board will be immediately appointed as the utility works to accomplish its goal of ensuring that reliable power is available to all residents of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Out of respect for the former Board members I do not intend to discuss this matter in any further detail.”
This statement came after sources told this newspaper the minister demanded the resignations from the remaining board members after three of them - vice chairman Patrick Rollins, Ferron Bethel and Whitney Heastie, BPL’s CEO – voluntarily resigned first. However, The Tribune has been told the remaining three further requested a meeting with the prime minister to air their concerns. It is unclear what became of this purported meeting.
It was the proverbial last blow in the minister’s ongoing battle to mediate issues between Chairwoman Darnell Osborne and certain members.
In an interview with The Tribune on Tuesday, one ex-board member who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said had Ms Osborne resigned long ago, the board would have had no issues in successfully carrying out its work. Under her leadership, the source claimed the board was without direction, leaving much of BPL’s critical issues unaddressed.
Ms Osborne rejected the allegations telling The Tribune her record spoke for itself, but she would not speak to the resignations or what caused them.
“I am a champion for good corporate governance, transparency and accountability,” Ms Osborne said in response to questions from The Tribune on Tuesday. “My record speaks for itself. I work on behalf of the Bahamian people and transparency and accountability is how I conduct business.”
She maintained that claims to the contrary were part of an effort to “spin” the true picture of what took place concerning the board and its members.
Nick Dean, Nicola Thompson, as well as Ms Osborne, Mr Rollins, Mr Bethel and Mr Heastie make up BPL’s board.