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WSC file before AG

Bannister says someone has to account for abuse
Desmond Bannister.

The forensic investigation into the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) is being reviewed by the Office of the Attorney General, according to Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, who said some people are going to have to account for the serious findings in that report.

“There is going to be some litigation,” Bannister told The Nassau Guardian.

“There are some things in there that are going to cause Water and Sewerage counsel and the attorney general’s office to be instructed to litigate… If you look at the report, you will see some very serious things. Some people are going to have to account for it.”

As an example, the minister pointed to the discovery that checks were issued for $1 million and $800,000 to a company, circumventing the internal controls of the corporation.

“Those kinds of things are just one of many that could lead to litigation,” Bannister said.

“The attorney general has been asked to look into it.

“These are serious matters.

“So, I have asked the AG to look at some issues, and counsel for the Water and Sewerage Corporation is going to look at some other issues.”

WSC engaged Ernst and Young (EY) to complete a forensic audit of the corporation last September.

Auditors completed their report on February 9. The audit was tabled in Parliament on March 7.

Among the irregularities discovered by EY was a $9.6 million contract awarded to Nassau Island Development (NID) in May 2013 for a wastewater treatment plant off Gladstone Road for Baha Mar.

The audit noted that the project had a completion date of March 2014, but as of the publishing of the report, the contractor “abandoned the project” and “there has not been any progress on the project since September 2016”.

The project ballooned from $9.6 million to $18.3 million.

The audit also pointed to two irregular payments made to NID by the government which circumvented the internal controls – a $1 million payment made to the contractor in April 2016 and an $800,000 payment to NID in June 2014.

Bannister has told Parliament that Opposition Leader Philip Brave was not responsible for ordering the payments.

There were numerous other damning findings in the report.

Davis has characterized the audit as another witch-hunt.

Cost

According to Bannister, the cost of the WSC audit is being negotiated because the corporation instructed the auditors to go beyond the scope of the originally defined audit.

Bannister said as auditors made more discoveries, the corporation wanted to increase the scope.

He said the government has no problem being transparent with its forensic audits as he explained why the cost of the WSC report has not been revealed to the public to date.

“Water and Sewerage is still negotiating their cost,” Bannister said.

“When they did that report, they had some initial agreement and they asked the auditors to do some extra work so, they are in the process of negotiating that cost.

“I am sure, as soon as they negotiate what the prices are, they will be happy to release it.

“There is no secret to these things.”

At WSC, auditors reviewed over 108 pieces of evidence on laptops and tablets, conducted forensic imaging of WSC’s server, collected some 48,600 gigabytes of data and reviewed 50,000 documents in preparation of the report.

The minister also said the cost of the audit into Bahamas Power and Light will be made public

 

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