The Office of the Opposition Leader on the BPL crisis and announced investigation
Aug 26, 2018 - 6:41:38 AM
The recent news stories about BPL have conveyed unfortunate allegations of a culture of cronyism, favoritism, male chauvinistic behavior and corruption that too many Bahamians find absolutely shocking. To those who know firsthand the true habits of the leadership of the FNM, it is simply no surprise.
However, it is not our intent to offer political jabs as the issue of BPL goes beyond politics, it impacts our economy and way of life in a material way. It is clear that BPL would not be able to successfully access the international capital markets, which has been planned for later this year, unless the claims and counter-claims of mismanagement and abuse of funds by the Board and Executive Management are independently investigated and the appropriate actions taken.
I have publicly called on the Prime Minister to act in the public’s interest and cause for an investigation into this growing controversy and scandal that have engulfed the BPL board. With the subsequent announcement of an investigation, Prime Minister Minnis must now quickly indicate who would be conducting the investigation, the terms of reference for the investigation and clearly indicate what interim actions he will take until the investigation is completed.
With respect to the latter matter, the Prime Minister should immediately remove BPL from the portfolio of the Minister of Works and have the CEO and the Executive Director placed on administrative leave by BPL until after the investigation is complete. To have the three men maintain executive oversight of the corporation throughout the investigation opens the door to the perception of manipulation of evidence and the intimidation of possible witnesses. We are not seeking to be prejudicial but this is the proper thing to do.
The Prime Minister should also not seek to engage companies which are conflicted such as Ernst & Young or PWC as both of these companies are benefitting from current contracts with BPL, given under circumstances which may also raise concerns. Instead, the Prime Minister through his Minister of Finance should ask the Auditor General to conduct this review and provide the Auditor General with all of the resources necessary to complete the review in a timely manner.
As the review would be conducted by the Auditor General, the final report would be shared simultaneously with the full House of Assembly and the Government; this is an important safeguard against the Government burying the report through a failure to disclose its results.
Finally, the Terms of Reference of this review should include a review of the so-called personal expenses of the Executive Chairman; the alleged unauthorized travel of both the CEO and the Executive Director; the CEO's adherence to the policies of the Corporation inclusive of hiring and procurement and the directives of its regulator URCA; and the planning and execution of the Voluntary Separation Programme (VSEP).
The latter point is especially important as the CEO has publicly stated that the VSEP by design has left the Corporation critically short of experienced personnel in some areas. The rationale for putting the Corporation at risk demands answers. In addition, based on projected savings, it would appear that the cost recovery from employee savings due to the VSEP would take three to five years, making the exercise a foolish waste of money.
We implore the Prime Minister to act in the interest of the country and not his party and incorporate these suggestions or risk a further crisis of confidence in the holders of Bahamian Government debt.
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