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Francis accused of conflict

The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)has charged that Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)Julian Francis is in a conflict of interest by chairing the company’s board and being chairman of the company that manages BTC’s pension fund.

Francis is chairman of Providence Advisors Limited the company managing the BTC pension fund. The PLP released a statement yesterday with a copy of a financial statement from Providence dated September 30, 2010, listing the value of the fund as$59.1 million.

“The PLP calls for Julian Francis’immediate resignation as executive chairman of the board of BTC,”said the opposition in the statement.

The PLP also criticized Francis for serving as chairman of Transfer Solution Providers Ltd.(TSP)while he serves as BTC executive chair.

The PLP also made a series of accusations Francis deemed offensive.

“I have asked my lawyers to have a look at this to see to it that they can’t be saying these very damaging things without being held accountable for it,”Francis said yesterday.

He did not speak extensively about the PLP statement, adding only that he is chairman of Providence but not a shareholder.

National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest has Cabinet responsibility for BTC. Turnquest said that he has been advised that Francis was not involved with the vetting of the contract to Providence for the management of the pension fund.

It was unclear when the contract with BTC and Providence was negotiated. Francis said he has been a director of Providence for four years.

The PLP called for full disclosure of the deal.

When asked about TSP, Turnquest said he is not aware of the relationship BTC may have had with the firm.

The government is battling with the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)over the sale of 51 percent of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC). The unions represent BTC workers.

BCPOU president Bernard Evans is listed as a director at BTC, serving on the board along with Francis.

The unions have called for BTC to be sold to Bahamians. In 2007, the PLP had planned to sell 49 percent of BTC to the foreign group Bluewater Ventures Limited. The Ingraham administration did not conclude that deal after it won the May 2007 general election.

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