The new BPL board. From left, Robyn Lee Ogilivie, Debra Wood, Viana Gardiner, Donovan Moxey, chairman, Stephen Holowesko, vice chairman, James Moss, and Ferron Bethel.
Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
IN his charge to the new Bahamas Power and Light board of directors yesterday, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister told appointees their focus is to implement policy and not to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the electricity provider.
The new board gathered yesterday for an orientation session at a time when questions continue to linger regarding the circumstances surrounding the dissolution of the former board and a serious degree of allegations levelled from many sides.
Mr Bannister's comments were an apparent swipe at former board members, who he had previously accused of trying to get involved in the day-to-day functions of BPL.
The minister's own admittance last week that he interfered with ex-board members' work has also shed light on the degree of dysfunction that existed.
Nonetheless, when he spoke to the new board in the conference room of BPL yesterday, Mr Bannister sought to lay out a mandate, stressing the critical need for them to work together, suggesting the "immense" challenges present could become strenuous.
However, he was tight-lipped following these remarks and did not say much in response to several questions from reporters seeking answers to the many questions that remain.
Asked to respond to critics who rebuked him for "chauvinist" remarks and a call for him to apologise to ex-BPL chair Darnell Osborne - for his claims he interfered in a bid to block the company from paying her personal bills including make-up services and the installation of a home security system - he said: "The prime minister has indicated certain things and I will obey what he said. My only comment is the prime minister has indicated that he is investigating it and as his appointee I am not to say anything."
He had a similar response when he was asked by The Tribune whether he regretted making this statement and others.
Ahead of the new board's first meeting, Mr Bannister said there was a critical need for every member to work together, adding the government and the Bahamian people were counting on them to resolve BPL's issues.
He said: "I am counting on you and the government is counting on you to work the issues out as a team. I want to touch on several issues and I want to tell you that the challenges at BPL are immense.
"Let me say very strongly that as the minister, my portfolio says relations with BPL, but BPL is essentially an entity that reports to the government of this country and to the people of this country. So when the Cabinet and the government sets mandates they send them through the minister and that's why it is important, Mr Chairman, and Mr Deputy for you to have a relationship with the minister because it's important for the mandate of the government to be carried out through BPL."
The board consists of chairman Donovan Moxey; deputy chairman M Stephen Holowesko, members James Moss, Debra Wood, Ferron Bethell and Viana Gardiner. Mr Bannister also announced yesterday a seventh member, Robin Ogilvy.
"It's also important for you to remember that as a board your job is to implement policy. I want everyone to appreciate that your job is not to delve into the minutiae of operations.
"The CEO Mr Whitney Heastie, who is highly accomplished, he is going to report to you and a number of other people will report to you.
"If they are not performing in a satisfactory manner then there are things that you can do but you are not as board to seek to come into BPL and run the day-to-day operations that is within his portfolio, that is within his job description. That is something that he has to deal with and, in so far as he performs well, then you are the ones who will judge that and make the determinations."
Mr Bannister also told members they are to prioritise the Shell North America deal. As this agreement already has Cabinet approval, the minister said this was not something the board could change. However, he told members it was one month behind, so any work now should be focused on its memorandum of understanding.
"The government of The Bahamas has determined BPL/BEC will enter an agreement with Shell North America. That is not something that you can change. That is a Cabinet decision. Your job now is to seek as quickly as possible to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Shell. That was the Cabinet decision.
"It is important for the board to get your legal minds - and you have a wonderful legal mind on the board who can give you guidance with respect to the legal opinions that you get. We are almost a month behind with respect to that MOU and it's important for you to proceed with that. That is a decision of the Cabinet of the country."
However, last week, Mr Moxey told The Tribune a review of the Shell contract was high on the agenda for its new board.
"Presently I have no position on Shell whatsoever," Mr Moxey said, after his appointment. "I have to learn what that is. As far as I know, there was a RFP (request for proposals) that was put out, a process was followed and as far as I know Shell was awarded the contract. What I'm going to do as a first course is understand the process by which it was selected. I don't think anything has been signed by the government."