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Editorial: Disturbing Cases Involving Public Monies

Most of us had never heard the name Melissa Hall, a former general manager of the Bridge Authority, until we read the ruling on her claim for a pay out after being let go from her job.

The facts of the case are quite astonishing and lay bare the cancer we have long suspected lies at the heart of working in public office in The Bahamas.

Ms Hall had joined the bridge authority board in July 2012 and just five months was made the general manager. Her salary appears to have been well into six figures which is an incredible amount of money - how difficult can it be to oversee the gathering up the daily dollars collected at the turnstiles, report back to the board on how things are going and what needs to be done next?

In her contract Ms Hall was provided with a termination clause which gave her 30-days notice should her employment come to an end.

In April 2017 - just a few weeks before the general election where the FNM stormed to power - Ms Hall’s contract had an incredible change.

Instead of 30 days notice she was now on THREE YEARS and.

How did this come about? Had the board suddenly discovered something about her which meant she was so vital to the bridge authority’s operations she had to be ‘locked in’ to her role.

No. That’s a million miles from the truth.

Ms Hall herself decided her notice period needed improved and she drafted an addendum to her own contract and had it emailed to then-Labour Minister Shane Gibson.

Did any alarm bells go off for Mr Gibson? Surely in his position as a cabinet minister and with the protection of public funds part of his responsibility he would have asked a few questions. Again, no. He just agreed to the change.

As Supreme Court Justice Bowe Darville said in her ruling yesterday: “Even a blind man could see that it was a well calculated form of entrapment. What was even more apparent was the fact that the plaintiff (Hall) was not satisfied with her salary structure prior to 2017 and sought to increase the same beyond measure.”

Justice Darville continued:”... To have claimed a notice period of three years was delusional on her part.... (and a) clear and rank abuse of power.”

When the FNM came into office shortly afterwards Ms Hall’s fears came to fruition when she was let go from the bridge authority. What followed was her claim for more than $600,000 based on her three years notice clause.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens in this case now.

Likewise in two other public finance issues which came up yesterday.

First was the Auditor General’s report into failings at the Ministry of Youth and Sport.

In this case the AG conveniently left out any names as he detailed the bypassing of correct processes for the issuing of contracts, a board bypassed by the ministry.

We all of course can recall that former minister Lanisha Rolle resigned from her role after then-Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minister “locked down” her ministry when numerous irregularities were brought to light.

To add more fuel on to the public finances fire, Works and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears revealed serious issues had been raised at the Public Parks and Beaches Authority.

According to officials who briefed Mr Sears in the weeks running up to the September 16 election ALL contracts held by the authority had been renewed - even with contractors who had been underperforming.

Does this sound familiar - companies happily carrying on with valuable contracts despite the change in government? The former administration seemed to have a simple way of dealing with this issue - especially on high-value contracts - by simply not paying what was owed and operating a ‘see you in court’ policy knowing this is a long and expensive road to travel.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming months.

In one day we heard of three disturbing cases involving public monies. Will anything be done or is it just another cross we have to bear?

Comments

The_Oracle 3 weeks ago

How about appointing based on qualification and merit? So simple but so far beyond the Political machinery's grasp. For that matter, why not elect based on merit and not populism? Or how about we vote against incompetence and graft, seeing as that is how we appear to vote, against personality.

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SP 3 weeks ago

Pirates doing what pirates do and everybody acting like they're surprised!!!

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FrustratedBusinessman 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Independence was the worst mistake ever made in this country.

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licks2 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Shane Gibson. . .AGAIN?? What it is about that man and gown tail that makes him do serious dumb stuff??

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realfreethinker 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Venus fly trap. That 3" triangular patch of real estate has corrupted kings and emperors

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