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Bpl Chief Had To Deal With Rogue Purchases

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BPL CEO Whitney Heastie.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) chief executive dealt with “a significant issue” by warning staff they faced termination if goods and services were purchased outside established protocols.

Whitney Heastie told consultants that addressing the ingrained habits of long-serving BPL workers was one of his first moves upon taking the post in October 2017 after the state-owned utility’s management services agreement with PowerSecure was terminated.

The FTI Consulting report, which has been seen by Tribune Business, disclosed: “Heastie said that this was a significant issue when he became chief executive in October 2017. At that time, he recalled, there were certain long-tenured employees at BPL who believed it was within their purview to independently commit to purchasing goods and services.

“There is no realistic way to completely prevent this behaviour, although without an approved purchase order any resulting invoices would in theory be rejected by BPL’s accounts payable department.”

Both Mr Heastie and Joy Darling, supervisor of BPL’s grid solutions unit, said the utility had “made efforts to discourage such behaviour and to encourage compliance with procurement protocols.

“For example, Heastie said he had recently sent a company-wide e-mail reminding employees that such behaviour is prohibited, and may result in termination,” the FTI Consulting report said.

The report and its contents have come under attack for being incomplete and one-sided, with the existing BPL Board and management, as well as the former Board faction headed by ex-chair Darnell Osborne, either complaining they were never interviewed or not given a chance to review and respond to the findings before the final version went to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Tribune Business understands that Desmond Bannister, former deputy prime minister and minister of works, who had responsibility for BPL under the Minnis administration, did not see the report and was unaware of its contents until disclosure by the media. It is also unclear if Dr Hubert Minnis, the former prime minister, reviewed it as no action seems to have been taken by his office.

Meanwhile, BPL’s outgoing Board and existing management are understood to feel they and their reputations have become ‘collateral damage’ in an effort by the newly-elected Davis administration to dig up “dirt” on its predecessor. And, until the full report is published, they are unable to properly defend themselves since they have not seen the findings themselves.

FTI Consulting, in conclusions dating from when it completed its work in 2019-2020, asserted: “BPL lacks a coherent approach for the management and control of its written policies in relation to procurement and tendering.

“In general, FTI found a significant degree of disorganisation and confusion over which written policies have been approved by the Board, which have been superseded, which are in use, and who is or was responsible for managing them.”

The report acknowledged that Shervonne Johnson, who joined BPL in June 2019 as director of risk and compliance, had been given responsibility to clean this up but “disagreement over the protocols for policy approval” was holding this up.

And FTI Consulting also described BPL’s procurement policies as “lacking in several important areas”, including exceptions and overrides to existing policies. “This could diminish employee accountability and have negative effects on the overall culture of compliance,” it warned.

“Although BPL has an approved tender policy, the policy lacks significant detail in a number of key areas, including tendering procedures, the appointment of tender evaluation committee member and committee composition, conflict disclosures and bid evaluation.”

Comments

Bahamianbychoice 1 month ago

I do not believe for a second comments about this CEO dealing with rogue processes are true. I have a feeling this man is part and parcel of the problem at BPL and what has happened over the past four years. Remember he "resigned" from GP Power.

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