Former head of Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) procurement committee, Nick Dean, last night fired back at claims made by Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister that BPL stands to lose $10 million because he and former BPL Executive Chairperson Darnell Osborne are to blame for failing to purchase critical equipment for the company.
In a lengthy statement, Dean said he was “horrified to learn that not only did Minister Bannister continue his public onslaught, but he intensified and expanded it by dragging me into the situation”.
“I am troubled by Minister Bannister’s lack of civility in this discourse,” Dean said.
“In recent days I have remained silent and have been impressed by the considerable restraint exercised by Mrs. Osborne in light of the relentless public attacks she has endured at the hands of Minister Bannister.
“As someone who has seen the truth of these matters from the inside, I found the minister’s comments sad and unfortunate.”
Dean said he felt compelled to defend his “professional reputation and integrity” against recent attacks by Bannister.
He called the minister’s attacks “wrong, unacceptable and unbecoming”.
Dean said that he is a “regular person, husband, father, son, citizen and voter”, that he did not seek out his appointment to the former board and that he did not “sign up for this type of public abuse”.
In an August 22 article in The Tribune, Bannister is quoted as saying “BPL was facing a $10 million loss” because Dean and Osborne failed to acquire certain generational equipment.
But Dean explained that a “turbocharger had failed on one of the engines at the Clifton Pier power plant” on May 30.
He said the board was not made aware of this failure until July 25, when BPL CEO Whitney Heastie provided a memo requesting funding.
“If there was such a heightened sense of urgency regarding replacement of this item, why the two-month delay between the failure’s occurrence and when the request to replace the parts was made?” Dean asked.
Dean claimed that the request for funding was supported by a single proposal from a company.
He noted that BPL’s procurement policy mandated that funding requests of over $100,000 be competitively bid or be accompanied by an executive summary signed by the sponsoring director, chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief executive officer.
“I did not reject the funding request on this basis,” Dean said.
“I simply asked the CEO for competing bids or a statement, in compliance with the procurement policy, confirming that this was not possible. I never received either.”
He claimed that $4 million in funding was requested.
Dean said he could not in good conscience request $4 million to be spent on behalf of the Bahamian people with deficient supporting documentation.
“It should be noted that at no point did I reject the funding request or refuse to authorize acquisition of equipment, as asserted by the minister,” he said.
Dean said the Bahamian people can decide for themselves how they would like their money handled.
“In an era where the Bahamian people are demanding heightened transparency and accountability, it is painfully ironic that when those principles are actually applied they are seen as being obstructionist and a hindrance,” he said.
“To his credit, the minister did an excellent job in assembling the original BPL board.
“It included two accountants and a civil/structural engineer.
“We are very detail-oriented people who pay close attention to numbers.
“When those numbers do not add up, we ask questions.
“Much to our dismay, this level of scrutiny and attention to detail apparently seems unwelcome in quasi-private corporations.
“Transparency and accountability should not just be catch phrases that are thrown around to sway public opinion.
“They should be part of everyday practice, especially where the public coffers are concerned.
“I am left to wonder whether despite the fact that we are highly-qualified professionals, we were expected to simply show up once a month, eat the good board meeting food, and serve as rubber stamps while the company and its staff suffered around us.
“If that is indeed the case then, once again, the minister did an excellent job by removing us from the board. BPL has been plagued with generation issues for years. That the minister would suggest that all of a sudden Mrs. Osborne and I are to blame for power outages and BPL generation woes is bizarre and simply unfathomable.”
Dean added, “I am not a politician, I did not sign up for this type of public abuse. I did not seek out this appointment, nor did I relish in it.
“I only heeded the minister’s personal request to me to give public service to my country and make my contribution to the Bahamian people.
“I am a regular person, a husband, a father, a son, a citizen and a voter.
“I am not even a member of the BPL board any longer. The minister should bear in mind that I do not work for him. In fact, as an elected public official, he works for me.
“We have reached a new low in public discourse when elected officials see it fit to turn, unprovoked, on their own citizens in the manner in which the minister has chosen to proceed.
“I trust that he will regain control of his actions and realize that what he is now doing is wrong, unacceptable and unbecoming of someone in his position. I implore the good minister to leave us alone and return to the ministerial business to which prime minister has appointed him to handle.”
This is the latest in a near two-week-long saga between former board members of BPL and Bannister.
A new board was recently announced after the old board was dissolved. Dr. Donovan Moxey heads that board.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English