Will Four Years of Corruption Ground Bahamasair?

Bahamasair new ATR aircrafts.

By Randolph Jackson
For Bahamas Press

The biggest issue facing the Honorable Philip Davis is how to safely navigate the country through the transition we currently face known as COVID.  Compounding this problem are the additional manufactured difficulties left in place by the former government.  Whether done so ignorantly or intentionally, the former administration (Minnis) has placed the country in an exceedingly difficult spot.

Chief among the many crises is the rampant mismanagement and corruption that seemed to run through the numerous government corporations these past four years.  While there were many examples of the former government “playing it loose and fast with the people’s money,” what is obvious across the board is the concerted effort of those complicit in these activities to attempt to cling to power.  Not every corrupt party actually steals money or makes a bad decision, however, they are just as dangerous because of their unwillingness to stand up or step up and do the right thing or just follow documented policy.  There are more than enough examples of executives being complicit in the corruption that has taken place these past few years. Water & Sewerage, BPL, even ZNS comes to mind.  However, the untold story of the many transgressions of the national flag carrier is the greatest story yet be told.  

Once ruled by the iron will of the mighty Henry Woods, the airline was managed fairly, not always without confusion, but the staff honored and respected the leadership and his ability to always stand up, regardless of who was the government.  My how things have changed!  Since the untimely death of Henry Woods, the airline has entered into what can only be called an exceptionally long and challenging transition period.  

Enter the heir apparent, with all the promise and potential of a man who served the company faithfully for more than 30 years. 

Unfortunately, this is where the comparison ends.  The tenure of the current managing director of the national flag carrier has been one unmitigated disaster after another.  One can only stand in awe at the lengths people will go to hang on to power.  The Bahamasair Managing Director, like his counterpart at the Water & Sewerage Corporation, presided over or allowed the character assassination of staff that questioned him or sought to hold him accountable.  Personally overseeing their individual terminations in some cases and rewriting history upon the release of each one, spinning some story regarding breach of trust or some other fanciful violation.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Yet, what has not been shared are the numerous violations of the company’s policies and the blind signoff in support of the no-bid approvals for a certain contractor to execute the renovations of the Doctor’s Hospital complex on Blake Road.  Or the rent being paid to Doctor’s Hospital for a facility when, for the same money spent renovating a building they do not own, Bahamasair could have refurbished its Coral Harbour Road facility to that of a corporate palace and well beyond any requirements of current building codes while acquiring new furniture, fittings and equipment for the resident staff.  How easy is it to deny the staff at Bahamasair lawful negotiated entitlements unilaterally, which is illegal by the way?  Yet, this same leader continues to find ways to retain the services of an IT Director who fraudulently acquired computer equipment through the airline, which anywhere else would be considered theft.  But rather than termination, the gentleman was offered the opportunity to repay the organization via salary deduction, when an arrest and formal charges would have been more appropriate.  

The coverup and innuendo, specifically regarding the acquisition of the company’s booking program known as a Global Distribution System (GDS), scream compromised process, up to and including potential bribery.  Promised results and firm commitments have been replaced by missed deadlines, lack of connectivity and lost revenue due to down time.  To this day, apologists continue to defend a lost cause, chief among them the Managing Director.  Needless to say, the system still cannot provide US CBP access to passenger lists and still requires the payment of access fees to the former system for other airline bookings. Normally such failings and financial loss would result in immediate termination for the executive responsible.

The inherent disregard for process and the disrespect shown to labor partners underscores a major failing in the approach of so many of the chief executives at state owned enterprises.  This MD in particular’s unwillingness to honor years of process associated with the accrual of entitlements to current and former bargaining unit members and his arrogance and flippant behavior to attack and punish members of the staff based on his own whims and personal core beliefs have made a bad situation much worse.  Accusations of targeting and victimization, even favoritism, still abound.  These decisions were stopped dead in their tracks through no less than the Prime Minister’s explicit personal involvement.  However, just even considering the refusal to pay benefits, all in the name of running the business, trying to lead a new group of leaders to willingly and willfully turn a blind eye to industrial relationships built over decades is not only inexplicable, but dishonorable.  

He continues to retain unnecessary resources at the expense of the most vulnerable staff, like the parttime legal counsel/pilot/trade unionist.  What about the wannabe accountant who was engaged through the efforts of the disgraced former Senior Director, who has presided over the dismantling of controls and audit checkpoints?  Who, since her arrival to this day has yet to complete a yearend annual financial audit?    The last board was inept, uninformed, and sought to throw away decades of relationship building to rely on the Managing Director’s guidance, whose only goal at this point seems to be to survive and avoid public disgrace.  See Water & Sewerage Corporation.  

Bad leaders breed weakness and confusion, both of which seem to be spreading around the airline’s leadership table or what’s left of it.  Under the new day government the new board has no choice and must succeed! There must be a clear commitment to chart a new course and identify honest and uncompromised leaders to lead the way.  According to Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  In this instance, only a fool would give the keys back to a driver, who drove a bus load of people into a ditch.  If that is what ultimately happens one can only expect to see more of the same results. Especially what is relied upon is the advice of this compromised, untrustworthy, and deceptive leader whose only goal is to hang around.  

In this new day, the Prime Minister will do the right and only thing he can, and that is change the operational leadership at every government corporation and asset which will lead to a change in direction, which will hopefully, result in the salvation of these national assets.  Or will four years of corruption finally ground the national flag carrier?