PLP Chairman, Bradley Roberts

PRESS STATEMENT: A most recent development at the country’s water utility made it quite clear that the FNM Government’s policy of “Stop & Cancel” has no boundaries, not even in clear cases of impropriety.

Some two weeks ago, an ex-employee of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, who was terminated for nefarious dealings, or involvement in a conflict of interest deal, was reinstated at the corporation, leaving most managers and staff stunned.

What was most interesting was that just months prior to the reinstatement, the employee, under the protection of the Industrial Tribunal, made a contrived and self-serving statement regarding the negotiation process for a planned reverse osmosis plant at Perpall’s Tract under the Christie Administration.

The specific rationale for the scurrilous attack was not immediately clear but at that time the Progressive Liberal Party was certain of two things:

1.     The claim/statement would not be repeated outside of the Tribunal, because it would be challenged and proved to be very costly for the ex-employee and those behind him; and

2.     In the fullness of time the real reason for the irrational grandstanding would be revealed.

We did note, however, that two weeks after the utterance, an announcement was made that the present General Manager was being returned to WSC, as Acting GM. Six months removed from that date, the fired employee, who was suing WSC for large sums of monies, claiming unjust termination, was dusted off and fully reinstated at the Water Corporation.

The PLP is aware that the move to bring the newly ‘anointed hero’ back in the fold was orchestrated by the newly confirmed General Manager, who himself was under investigation for tampering with official bid documents, amongst other things, and was in the process of being terminated. The Party also understands that the recent reinstatement was allegedly made with the support of the Board of Directors and the Ministers with responsibility for the W&SC.

What is even more interesting about this reinstatement, and the eerie silence at the Corporation, especially amongst the Executive staff, is that the employee was allegedly fired from his General Manager position at Consolidated Water Company (Bahamas) for conflict of interest as well.

The question the Progressive Liberal Party, the employees of WSC and others who are aware of the state of affairs, ask is – “what is brewing at WSC and what mega deal(s) are the reinstated employee, his benefactor and ‘friends’ after?”

What makes this even more amazing is that the executives of WSC were recently forced to forgo a significant portion of their monthly allowance, in an unprecedented move to cut expenses.  It now appears that there may be a correlation between the allowance reduction and the timing & justification of bringing the fired employee back.

Actions such as these set a bad example to our young people, as it flies in the face of the assertion that ‘Crime Doesn’t Pay’. It appears that it does at this particular government corporation and the Progressive Liberal Party is again demanding that the Prime Minister, Minister Earl Deveaux and Jr. Minister Phenton Neymour come clean to the Bahamian Public.

When the FNM came to power in May 2007, they found a corporation that was making great strides to retool WSC and modernize the water and wastewater sectors. A Corporate Road-map and Strategic Framework plan were in place, projects were underway throughout the islands, WSC was fully engaged and being regarded as proactive in many matters, including attempting to raise monies for its projects through public/private sector partnerships.

This was all being transparently measured by a published Balance Scorecard, which was used to challenge both WSC and the government to deliver quality service to the Bahamian public.

This Administration also met a Board lead review process that had identified several employees, including senior managers, whose actions warranted in-depth investigations and eventual termination.

It was under this process both the recently reinstated engineer and current general manager were identified as warranting scrutiny and action.

The PLP wishes to note that despite attempts by Jr. Minister Neymour and a handful of current executives to characterize the former Board as a one-man band, the Board was comprised of seasoned professionals that included, Robert Wells, Robert Cox, Ehurd Cunningham, Phillipa Delancy, Rosetta Booth and former Chairman Donald Demeritte & Abraham Butler. The Board, throughout its tenure, took pride in trying to restore WSC to profitability.

With the full support of former Minister Roberts, it took the board 2½ years to initiate proper corporate governance and install some semblance of order at the corporation.

The PLP is concerned that this current edition of WSC board may not be as independent as it ought to be, or that all information pertaining to the circumstances surrounding both parties may not have been shared with the Board. Most certainly, we are aware that the current WSC Board Chairman, who unlike his counterpart at BEC, is strangely quiet on all matters and think it is possible that he may have been instructed not to share certain information with his colleagues.

In this regard, we wish to highlight the almost incestuous relationship enjoyed by the current General Manager, Minister of State Neymour and the reinstated engineer. According to numerous WSC employees, these three gentlemen religiously get together for drinking and planning sessions every week and were even noted to conduct such meetings at the Ministry of Environment premises.

As the PLP monitors the progress of these three friends and the Corporation, the following questions must be asked:

1.     What is so high on the personal agenda of the three friends and ‘others’ that they risk exposing themselves and ultimate discovery?’

2.     What role was Mr. Bastian brought back to perform and under what terms?

3.     Was there any due diligence done on Mr. Bastian, prior to re-hiring him and was a favorable reference received from Consolidated Water?

4.     Under what circumstances was Mr. Glen Laville made general manager of WSC, giving his documented history and the tarnished reputation he is burdened with in the international arena?

5.     What functional role does the Financial Controller’s perform at the corporation and does it include fiscal review of all projects?

6.     Are Board Members or the Prime Minister aware of any of the above?

Under the watch of former Minister Bradley Roberts, great strides were taken to restore proper corporate governance to WSC.  Checks and balances were put in place to allow full and proper Board overview of all major projects and financial and administrative matters. It took a relentless ‘single purposed’ board, with the full support of the former administration under Minister Roberts, to start and control the process.

This was particularly significant as engineers at the corporation, functioned as ‘lords and masters’ and were singularly responsible for the huge subsidy that all governments have been forced to pay to WSC.

The insiders and their cronies predictably met this change in the governance of the W&SC and ‘Board Control’ culture with fierce resistance. They were hell bent on protecting the status quo that treated them tremendously well.

It took 3½ years for the WSC insiders, led by Jr. Min. Neymour, to resurface and become embolden enough to attempt to restore the status quo. Something is clearly brewing and we call on the Hon Prime Minister to direct his attention to WSC before untold damage is done.

The Bahamian Pubic deserves the truth – Mum Cannot be the word!!