By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
FORMER Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis commissioned an independent investigation into Bahamas Power and Light that rejected former Works Minister Desmond Bannister’s characterisation of Darnell Osborne’s acquisition of makeup and home security services when she chaired BPL’s board of directors.
In 2018, at the height of the controversy over the disintegration of BPL’s board, Mr Bannister told reporters he intervened in the management of BPL after learning the institution covered makeup and home security system bills for Mrs Osborne.
His allegation forms part of the lawsuit Mrs Osborne has filed against the government as she seeks payment related to defamation and wrongful dismissal claims.
FTI Consulting, the foreign management consulting firm Dr Minnis hired to review matters concerning the dissolution of BPL’s former board, interviewed BPL CEO Whitney Heastie, Executive Director Patrick Rollins and board member Ferron Bethel for its report, according to sources familiar with the document.
The men – all allies of Mr Bannister during the board saga – told investigators claims in the media about Mrs Osborne’s makeup and home security services were misleading; they dismissed the significance of Mrs Osborne’s actions in these areas, well-placed sources said.
Mrs Osborne has long said the makeup bill BPL covered was directly related to public relations activities for the institution and that the home security system the company paid for was approved by BPL’s board after Mr Rollins shared a story with her about a retaliation attempt by a former staff member.
Sources said the FTI report largely corroborates her position on these matters.
Mrs Osborne’s former lawyer in her case, Alfred Sears, previously indicated to the press that he would seek $80,000 from the government for her over the defamation issue.
It is not clear whether investigators provided a definitive view or took a side on the other matters related to the board’s breakdown. Sources told The Tribune the report’s review largely reflects what the press has reported about how the board grew dysfunctional over time and ultimately disintegrated into two factions amid disagreements over the Shell deal, the roles of various senior members and Mr Bannister’s treatment of the various players. Otherwise, the report mostly focuses on BPL’s procurement policies and practices and takes a critical view of these.
Clint Watson, the press secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, teased details about the report during a press conference yesterday.
“The former prime minister in office commissioned an investigation into Bahamas Power & Light, the board, the initial board that was led by then chairman Darnell Osborne,” he said. “We’ve not heard from that report. We can confirm today that a report was done by a foreign company. The name of that company we’re going to release to you as well and I think you might be happy to know that we do have this report in hand.
“It is a very interesting read and of course it’s now been sent to the minister responsible for BPL, the Minister of Works Alfred Sears for his review on it. It’s interesting, you want to read this and it may share a very clear picture as to why we never heard about this report which was presented in November of last year to the government. It explains a lot, I’ll say it and leave it as that.”
In April 2019, Dr Minnis told reporters he signed a contract with an international firm to probe the BPL board matter. His administration released no further details about the probe despite questions from the press.
“I learnt of the existence of a report after the press conference (yesterday) and I started receiving international and local texts about it,” Mrs Osborne told The Tribune yesterday. “I was not aware of any report and nobody interviewed me and none of the other board directors who were removed.”
Former Attorney General Carl Bethel said in 2019 that his office would pay a private firm, Rolle & Rolle, to represent Mr Bannister’s interests in the case.
It is not clear if Attorney General Ryan Pinder will continue Mr Bethel’s course of action in the matter. Mr Pinder told The Tribune earlier this week that he will not speak to the matter because it is presently before the courts.
A hearing in the matter took place last week.
According to documents obtained by The Tribune, Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles has issued an interlocutory judgment in favour of the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs had failed to file and serve their list of documents by May 31, 2021. The court had directed that if either party failed to adhere to an order to file the relevant documents by this date, their statement of claim or defence would stand dismissed with costs.
Plaintiffs sought relief from these sanctions. Justice Charles has ruled that she is satisfied that they had a good explanation for not filing and serving their documents at the agreed date.
“The plaintiffs have satisfied the court that their failure to comply with the order was not intentional and was due to the fact that lead counsel had to travel out of the jurisdiction to attend his brother’s funeral and also to seek medical attention,” she wrote. “The court also considered that the plaintiffs have generally complied with other orders of the court.”
Mr Sears previously represented Mrs Osborne and two other former board directors, Nick Dean and Nicola Thompson, in the court matter.