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Davis: Govt must approach WSC investigations carefully

With another police investigation looming over yet another government corporation, Leader of the Opposition Philip Brave Davis said the Minnis administration ought to be careful about how it conducts and oversees these matters, highlighting that professional Bahamians and their long-standing reputations are at stake.

Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) Chairman Adrian Gibson revealed nearly two weeks ago that authorities had launched an investigation into allegations of theft and other “sensitive matters” at the corporation.

The amount allegedly stolen is well into the thousands of dollars, according to officials.

The nature of the other allegations remains unknown.

It also remains unclear who those allegations implicate and to what extent.

Five employees, including Deputy General Manager Robert Deal had been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, which was expected to be completed last week.

Three employees have since returned, but Deal and another employee remain on leave as of last week.

“I don’t know the details other than what I’ve read in the newspapers,” said Davis, the former minister of works, whose ministerial portfolio included WSC.

“But here again we have to be careful about how we approach matters.

“We are dealing with, in most instances, professionals and we are dealing with Bahamians, whose reputations are put on the line.

“Once you start talking about police it suggests criminality.

“It suggests something untoward has been happening.

“You are sending people home and there are some reputation issues attached to it.”

Davis noted that Gibson revealed police intervention was requested by the board ahead of the corporation’s compliance and complaints division completing its internal investigation on the matter.

“Here again, they are shooting without aiming,” the PLP leader said.

“And it suggests again, their lack of appreciation for how governance ought to operate.”

According to Gibson, the police were called in to investigate the allegations on December 14.

At the time, the internal control and compliance division had yet to submit its completed report.

The chairman said the report was expected within another week, but made clear that the board will give that team “as much room as possible” to conduct and complete the internal investigation.

Gibson has said he expects the internal report and simultaneous police investigation to be made public.

The investigation comes as the board and government await the conclusion of a forensic audit by accounting firm Ernst & Young, ordered in September.

But Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said the audit and the internal investigation are unrelated.

The audit was ordered by the board shortly after its appointment.

WSC General Manager Glen Laville and Chief Financial Officer Sandra Edgecombe were placed on administrative leave for several days as the audit got underway before being brought back.

Davis said at the time he believed they were placed on administrative leave as some form of “payback” after someone leaked a list of names of people who were protected from having their accounts disconnected for nonpayment.

That “special list” has reportedly since been discontinued.

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