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Miller: Ey ‘Stooped So Low’ Over My Lunch Bill

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE Water & Sewerage Corporation’s (WSC) immediate past chairman yesterday blasted Ernst & Young (EY) for “stooping so low” as to challenge his $2,900 meal expenses.

Leslie Miller, the former Tall Pines MP, slammed the accounting firm for being “so trivial” in including the Corporation’s payment of his lunch bill among the ‘other irregularities’ identified in its forensic audit.

EY’s probe of the Corporation, tabled in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, found it was required to pick up the tab for Mr Miller’s East Villa Restaurant lunches even though this was not officially part of his contract. “Although not specifically approved in his contract, EY noted that former chairman, Leslie Miller, would frequently dine at East Villa Restaurant and have the bill sent to WSC for payment,” the forensic audit found. “During his term as chairman, WSC paid $2,900 for Mr Miller’s meals at East Villa Restaurant.”

The outspoken Mr Miller immediately hit back yesterday, suggesting that such “privileges” were common for Board chairman and executives at Bahamian state-owned enterprises (SOEs). He suggested his successor as Water & Sewerage Corporation chairman, Adrian Gibson, was likely receiving similar benefits.

“Every executive or every chairman or every Board has such facilities and certain privileges,” Mr Miller told Tribune Business. “It’s so trivial to be so low and come out with these things that make no sense.

“The chairman there now will have the same privileges. How do you get to that level in an international accounting firm; to stoop to that level. How’s that possible?”

Mr Miller also blasted EY’s finding that he “used his influence as a Member of Parliament” to persuade the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to approve the awarding of a $5.56 million contract to construction firm, Island Site Development (ISD).

Due to the terms of the Water & Sewerage Corporation’s infrastructure improvement loan from the CDB, the latter’s approval had to be obtained before contracts were awarded to project vendors.

Documents attached to the EY report show that the CDB initially rejected the Corporation’s decision to award the ‘South Andros Water Supply Infrastructure’ contract to Island Site Development.

An August 11, 2016, letter from William Ashby, a portfolio manager in CDB’s economic infrastructure division, said: “The recommended bidder, Island Site Development, did not satisfy the Qualification Requirement that a minimum Current Ratio of 2.0 be demonstrated over the two years from 2014 to 2015.

“Accordingly, in accordance... with the Instruction to Bidders in the tender documents for the contract, we recommend that the Water & Sewerage Corporation award the contract to the lowest evaluated bidder which satisfied the qualification criteria.”

An August 25, 2016, e-mail purportedly from Mr Miller responded by saying the Corporation “appreciates your justification for the revised decision”. However, it quickly countered: “Please be advised that the Government of the Bahamas is completely satisfied with the works done by ISD and their financial viability.

“Therefore, we are not in agreement with your decision to reverse awarding the contract to them and hereby request the ‘no objection’ to the award of the contract to ISD be given as directed by the Board.

“As you might be aware, this is the election season in the Bahamas and we are seeking to ensure that the economic pie is shared among all deserving contractors and, in this case, it is ISD.”

The CDB reversed its original decision just four days later, giving its ‘no objection’ to the contract award to Island Site Development - a company described as “first class” by Mr Miller yesterday.

Defending his and the Corporation’s position, the former chairman also slammed the EY report’s reference to his e-mail as “an absolute lie”, adding that he never used this method to communicate.

“I wrote no e-mail to the manager or anyone else. It’s an absolute lie to say I sent an e-mail. I’ve never sent an e-mail to anybody in my life,” Mr Miller told Tribune Business.

The August 25 e-mail, attached to the EY report, carries Mr Miller’s name and cell phone number at the bottom. However, his name does not appear as the ‘sender’, who appears to be a ‘Dodee Fox’. This suggests that while Mr Miller may not have sent the e-mail itself, it was sent on his behalf.

The former chairman, meanwhile, argued that Island Site Development won the south Andros contract “on merit” and had “the best price by far”.

“Island Site Development had the best proposal in there,” Mr Miller told Tribune Business. “They had the best price by far. Island Site Development is a company that probably can do better work than any foreign company in this country.

“It’s first class, first class. We awarded that contract based on price and merit, and we got quality for money. Their price was the lowest, no ifs and buts.”

Mr Miller also followed Opposition leader, Philip Davis, in seeking to discredit EY and its forensic audit findings by questioning why the company appeared to have a monopoly on all such assignments from the Minnis administration.

“Why is is that every time they [the FNM] win they go to the same company?” he asked. “Why is there no competitive bidding? They go to the same company [EY] all the time without any bids.

“Why is it always them when we have all these accounting firms in the country? Why is it the same firm for every government contract? It’s the same political trait to downgrade the people there [in government] before. Why are you doing it? I’d like to know the cost associated with that audit. Why do these things?”

Mr Davis has written a letter to EY’s global head calling for a ‘peer review’ of the company’s Bahamas practice by its fellow accountants, claiming that it is being used to help conduct a politically-motivated witch-hunt against members of the former administration. Some, though, view this call as an attempt to distract from the audit findings.

Comments

Dawes 2 years, 7 months ago

And this is why nothing will ever change over here until the collapse comes. Those at the top (yes of both parties, however one more so then the other it seems) see nothing wrong with spending money that isn't theirs and then get all defensive when questioned. I note that he says all the board members of all state owned enterprises, and not at all enterprises. As the private sector would not tolerate this, but as it is only the Bahamian tax payer that has to pay the difference, well they just need to bend over a bit more.

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DonAnthony 2 years, 7 months ago

Is Mr. Miller blind to so many conflicts of interest? Let’s see he just happened to obtain a $28 million dollar loan from a bank predominantly owned by the government, one where govt officials can dictate who is granted loans and on what terms. Why did he not obtain a loan from a privately owned bank? Then he is granted a huge lease from the government while he is a member of the same government. Then he is moved from one cushy government chairmanship to another all the while having corporations that are losing millions of dollars pay for his lunch and heavens knows what else. What a parasite. We need to privatize as many govt corporations as possible and those we do not should be managed independently from government influence. We need legislation to ban all members of parliament and their families from any government contract or lease. No wonder Mr. Miller loved being in government so much, he was a parasite to the Bahamian taxpayer. This lease needs to be canceled immediately and let Mr. Miller challenge it in court. A broke country like The Bahamas can not afford such cronyism any more.

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Porcupine 2 years, 7 months ago

And, if he has a non-performing loan with BOB, now being paid by taxpayer money at Bahamas Resolve, the government should immediately seize his assets, selling them for whatever the market will bring until his loan is paid off in full. Miller is a parasite of the worst kind. Always pointing elsewhere when he is caught.

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TalRussell 2 years, 7 months ago

But Ma Comrade Don Anthony, not by any means to excuse WSC paying $2,900 for Potcake's meals at East Villa Restaurant.- but don't you too find it ”strange why "KP" would lump under PLP's immoral spending - a $13 million payment owed to BEC, along with $7.5 million owed to Arawak Homes - yet says nothing about what hell were these immoral millions dollars owed for? How long the wait transparency? They're either immoral, or they're not, right? KP, why not share some that immoral transparency with the people? Who owns East Villa?

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DDK 2 years, 7 months ago

Who owns the Villa, Comrade?? Please share!

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hrysippus 2 years, 7 months ago

Mr. & Mrs. B. Chea, or the used to.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 7 months ago

And who owns Island Site Development Co. Ltd.???????

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bogart 2 years, 7 months ago

......and Othet Mp Cooper wants to keep Board members still in place to continup.even after losing election.....and other colleague MP who wants to keep a running utility bill widout getting cut off cause dey on da list ....as inelegant ......as dining out in a restsurant many Bahamians both black an white cant afford on the sweat VAT TAXES of these same people .....an charging dem fer it .....even though no contractural agreement .... People cant find bed in PMH....get medevine.....not enough ambulances.....dying an put in bathtub wid ice....Bey tings aint right when da gubberment goosing yinna from PMH to da morgue and charging yinna fer 5 star restairant meal wid valet parking......muddoes dred....an look how long dis tek fer Bahamuan people to find out!!!...year after year a scropping catchin hell ......chillren hungry....an gubberment people .....dining in 5 star restaurant white or red wine mussey Moo Goo Gai PAN, sweet an sour pork, General TSa chicken...mussey cheesecake....valet parkin......an pore people wid light an yellow water cut off gettin charge fer dis...monkey oncle dred!!!

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ohdrap4 2 years, 7 months ago

as for me i can only afford VIP kung po, but the day old rice gives me heartburn.

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TheMadHatter 2 years, 7 months ago

So far the only one i hear pending jail time by the courts is the gal from C.O.B. All the rest, just talk and more talk. All kinda supposed crimes - but nothing referred to the police. The smokers lounge in the House of Assembly building is a friendly place where all gold and red are brethrens.

It's the people's time to pay an extra dime.

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bogart 2 years, 7 months ago

On his complaint that EY "stooped so low" over his lunch bill.......EY doing a forensic audit would have had to list all the items entrees etc lunches which were not part of his contract which was charged to the Corporation......listing each lunch bill date and time along what they were spending the unauthorized money for as in the cost of any meals like Moo Goo Gai pan, .....apple pie wid ice cream on top, tips ......valet parking.....and accounting had a duty to justify ....and someone had to approve the payment an one or two signatures on the Company cheque.? before payment is justified an Made!!! .....all these lunch bills detailing what was eaten, if other guests etc have to be on record for suditors......Actually EY should have itemized and given a breakdown on every penny costing the $2,900....this is clearly dtayed as an "irregularity" and not a part of the contract!!! It seems EY or someone else was remiss in not detailing exactly what added up to this $2,900. As no number of lunches is unlikely to add up to exactly rounded to $2,900.

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 7 months ago

I am tired of both the pettiness and the excess. For Gods sake someone please put in writing what "privileges" the board members are entitled to so we don't have a situation where everybody making up their own rules.

This is much ado about nothing. We just had a man forge someone's signature on national tv, why isn't he charged by the police and before a magistrate?

If you spend 25 a meal for lunch, minimum and let's say you eat out 2 days a week for 48 weeks that's 2400 and that's not including drinks, appetizer or dessert. And it's only 2 days. I don't need to spend 5 million dollars to drag 5 men in chains before the court for 1500, fire one man for stealing a $2000 water hydrant, find out Leslie Miller likes to eat at East Villa and that Audley Hanna as chairman have time to read about who doing what with their mouth. This is ridiculous. How much money they spent on this audit?

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bogart 2 years, 7 months ago

Tribune One year in jail for stealing rice and tuna valued $3.15

Tribune story Friday, October 13, 2017

A young man 21 years old. Living on McKinney Drive. Thats $3.15 (THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTEEN CENTS)

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ohdrap4 2 years, 7 months ago

and, i recall back in 1991 or 1992, a man was sentenced to three months for stealing bread and cheese.

he was killed in prison after 4 days.

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stillwaters 2 years, 7 months ago

Lesley just wants to eat in peace. My God, though!!!!!!!!!

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