• ‘A number of matters’ behind leader change
• Agency faced probe on ‘excessive’ allowances
• Numerous appointments at revenue agency
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Davis administration has initiated a shake-up of the Customs Department that has resulted in its comptroller, Dr Geannine Moss, being placed on administrative leave.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister, who has ultimate responsibility for Customs as minister of finance, confirmed that multiple personnel changes have occurred among top management when approached by Tribune Business yesterday. They declined to explain why Dr Moss had been placed on leave other than to say “a number of matters” were involved.
“She is on administrative leave,” the spokesman confirmed. “The acting comptroller is Roosevelt Bethel. The financial secretary [Simon Wilson] is not going to disclose why she is on leave because it’s a human resources matter, but there are a number of matters.” They declined to comment further.
Dr Moss could not be reached for comment, and nor could Mr Wilson or Senator Michael Halkitis, minister of economic affairs. However, Customs becomes the latest agency to follow the likes of the Department of Corrections in seeking major leadership changes following the September 16 general election.
It was indicated to this newspaper that, having been placed on leave, Dr Moss is unlikely to return to the comptroller post. Highly-placed Tribune Business sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her response to a major internal government probe into Customs had been awaited when the Minnis administration was voted out of office.
This newspaper was told that an audit had been initiated into “allowances” that some Customs officers were claiming, and being approved for, when they went out to inspect containers and other imported goods on-site. It is understood that Ministry of Finance officials felt some of these “allowance” amounts were “abusive”, excessive and “hard to justify”.
“There was an audit into a particular allowance that Customs officers get when they look at containers on-site,” one source said, describing it as akin to a “transportation allowance” to cover auto fuel and other costs. “There’s a few that she [Dr Moss] signed-off on that appeared excessive. It was really difficult to justify the amount being paid.”
While there is nothing to suggest that Dr Moss did anything wrong, Tribune Business was told that the audit report and its findings were completed and passed to an “audit committee” within the Ministry of Finance prior to last year’s general election. The comptroller’s response to questions put to her by the committee was anticipated when the administrations changed.
Customs management looks significantly different as a result of various changes and promotions that have now taken place. Ralph Munroe and Ken Flowers now hold the posts of deputy comptroller, the latter having responsibility for Freeport.
And, appointed to the posts of assistant comptroller, are Cloretta Gomez, Theodore Wright, Harold Fowler and Celeste Cox, sources told this newspaper.