By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DARRON Cash, former chairman of the Free National Movement, said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis should solicit recommendations from Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis concerning who should investigate the disintegration of Bahamas Power & Light’s board last week.
Following days of back-and-forth between former members of BPL’s board and Works Minister Desmond Bannister, Dr Minnis said on Wednesday a “proper investigation” will be launched into the saga, though he did not say who will conduct that probe.
Mr Cash said: “To the extent an inquiry is necessary, the participants ought to be independent persons whose judgement will be accepted and respected by the majority of Bahamians. The prudent course of action would be for the prime minister to confer with the leader of the opposition and get his advice on who ought to be a part of that inquiry so that at the end of the day the investigations and its conclusions will generally be accepted by the government and the opposition.
“It would be a tremendous measure of maturity for the prime minister to confer and to follow through on the suggestions made by the leader of the opposition as to who ought to be a part of that inquiry so that when a report is presented, they don’t engage in political theatre and waste the time and money of the Bahamian people.”
In a letter released on Sunday, former members of BPL’s board, Darnell Osborne, Nicola Thompson and Nick Dean, said Mrs Osborne, ex-chairwoman, was disrespected and undermined while another faction on the board was allowed to “run amok”. In response, Mr Bannister said he only interfered to prevent BPL from covering the personal expenses of Mrs Osborne, including make-up services and the installation of a home security system.
It was later confirmed the home security system had been approved by the board, during a period of tense negotiations at BPL. It was also alleged by sources close to the matter that the security system was agreed by the board after BPL Executive Director Patrick Rollins shared an experience of having his car destroyed by fire as chairman of Nassau Flight Services. Mr Rollins said only Mrs Osborne among the board members upgraded her home security after he had recounted his story.
The Tribune understands there was a make-up bill submitted for services rendered in connection with a company branding photoshoot, which included scores of other employees. Mr Bannister - made aware of this explanation - contended he was referring to a different bill which reflected make-up services for only Mrs Osborne.
Mr Cash said while the letter of the former board was an appropriate reaction to their dismissal, Mr Bannister’s counter-response was not.
“The debate about what was happening within the corporation was not about $750 or $900 or $3,000 decisions,” he said.
“The debate was about decisions aggregating to millions and millions of dollars and so it seems to me that the public’s responses ought to be about the issues surrounding the million dollar decisions as opposed to the hundred dollar decisions. The former directors’ public statements were not about the government or any accountability body seeking to hold them accountable for the hundred dollar decisions. Disputes or conflicts about hundred dollar decisions and reimbursements for make-up ought to be held in private.”
A million dollar decision that appeared to divide the board concerned whether it should buy two pairs of turbochargers for the ageing Clifton Pier plant. Mrs Osborne’s faction of the board is understood to have been concerned about a lack of documentation to support a $4 million proposal for the turbochargers, including lack of shipping, duty, VAT and installation cost details. However, Mr Bannister said this week that delay in purchasing the critical parts subjected Bahamians to load-shedding and power outages this year, a predicament that will cost millions.
Mr Bannister declined to discuss the matter and the impending BPL investigation yesterday, saying it would be improper to do so now that Dr Minnis has taken over.
No stranger to boards of public companies, Mrs Osborne is a major backer of the FNM. Her fundraising prowess generated thousands for the party ahead of the last general election, The Tribune understands. Nonetheless, Mr Cash said he does not believe the fallout from the BPL saga will have ramifications for the FNM’s internal party dynamics.
“The overwhelming majority of people who assume responsibility for leading boards as chairman do so at tremendous sacrifices to themselves and their own professional involvement because the overwhelming majority of these organisations require substantial amount of time and energy to do a good job,” he said. “The implication is more-so what it means as far as any government encouraging other professionals to leave their businesses, their work places to serve in these roles if they cannot be assured of being treated with dignity and respect by the government that appoints them. If they decide not to serve because they cannot be assured of being treated with dignity and respect and having their reputations protected, then they will not serve and the country will be worse off because of it. Whatever ramifications rebounds to the party are of significantly less importance.”
A fellow certified public accountant, Mr Cash said Mrs Osborne had cultivated a strong reputation in the accounting community over the years.
“She has been an outstanding leader in the financial services sector, leader of the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants,” he said.
“In her last tenure she did outstanding work and as president both in her previous affiliation with BICA and in her tenure as president has earned the stellar reputation and respect of her peers. In that regard, she is certainly a person of integrity and someone with an outstanding reputation. The pettiness that has been suggested certainly don’t appear to be consistent with her reputation as a professional who knows the value of corporate governance.”