Lawyer: Moss’ NIB directive violated act
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: May 16, 2013
A directive from then National Insurance Board (NIB) Chairman Gregory Moss ordering NIB to issue a $15,000 guarantee to help pay for emergency heart surgery for a Grand Bahama woman last July, violated the National Insurance Act and Regulations, according to a legal opinion obtained by Grant Thornton (Bahamas).
The opinion, from attorney Heather Maynard, is a part of a forensic report completed by Grant Thornton.
The chartered accountants examined allegations made against Moss by NIB Director Algernon Cargill.
The allegations are a part of an affidavit Cargill filed last November when he took legal action against Moss and NIB.
In an interview with auditors, Moss maintained that his instructions did not violate the act because he was authorized by the board to enter into any contract up to $50,000.
In February, Moss told auditors that he did not know the patient who needed the surgery, had met her once after the surgery, and that if he saw her again he would not recognize her.
Moss said he first met the woman after her surgery when she approached him and hugged him while he was with Environment Minister Ken Dorsett in Freeport.
“When he did not recognize her she said that she is the woman whose life [he] saved by helping to pay for the surgery at the Doctors Hospital and she showed him her scar,” said the report tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday by Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson.
“[Moss] said he remembers the woman’s daughter from having seen her at rallies in Freeport and having collected a thank you card from her on behalf of her mother.
“He said that he would not recognize the woman who received the surgery if he sees her again because that was the first and only time that he met her.”
Moss said the issuance of the guarantee happened on a Saturday.
According to the auditors’ report, Dr. Kevin Bowe, vice president of NIB’s medical department, told the auditors that Moss had said there was a provision in the act giving him the authority to approve the guarantee and that he would go back to the board members afterwards.
According to the report, Moss said he subsequently discussed this matter with Minister Gibson and advised the minister that he would not bother asking the Board of NIB to approve the sum as a donation, but would simply pay it himself.
He said that he and the minister agreed that a third party would issue a $15,000 check to Doctors Hospital in order to preserve his (Moss’) anonymity, and he then issued a personal check for $15,000 to reimburse the third party.
In the report, Moss also defended his decision to hire an assistant, Franklyn Laing, with an annual salary of $40,000.
According to the report, Minister Gibson approved the hire.
Moss said when he was appointed chairman he told the minister that it was prudent that he bring along someone who could assist him in “understanding the lay of the land”.
“He said that Mr. Laing’s role was to help him understand the personalities of the people inside NIB and that he did that job,” the report said.
“[Moss’] recollection was that the total effort was completed in the month of August.”
In his affidavit, Cargill said this was the first time an NIB chairman had a personal assistant and claimed that Moss’ recommended compensation to Laing was outside his scale of work.
Laing was hired in July 2012. His appointment with NIB ended in September.
Another allegation made by Cargill related to Moss’ travel to Mangrove Cay, Andros, on Saturday, August 18, 2012.
Cargill claimed the trip was not connected to NIB business.
Cargill said he learnt that Moss went to Andros for a political meeting, but was given an NIB per diem of $250.
Cargill said NIB executive Theresa Burrows advised him to be aware of any request for subsistence payments to Moss for this non-NIB related travel.
However, Moss told the auditors that the trip was NIB-related “because his purpose of coming to Mangrove (Cay) was to inspect the NIB facility under construction”.
“He also addressed a gathering that evening on NIB related matters and reported the trip to the Board at the next sitting of the Board,” the report said.
“Also, he said that the minister told him that NIB should have a presence in all of the islands.”
The auditors said it is “important to remember that the chairman of NIB is the chairman of NIB Bahamas and not of NIB Nassau.
“Mr. Gregory Moss had a board of director’s approved spending limit of $50,000 and the thought that he would need authorization from an employee at NIB to travel within The Bahamas, request per diem for that travel and obtain prior permission from NIB staff when hosting fellow Board of Directors at a hotel is not practical.”
Moss also explained to the auditors why he directed Cargill to purchase a vehicle from Friendly Ford for him to use while in New Providence.
He said that Cargill told him there was no designated company car for the chairman and that he would have to choose one.
Moss said he chose a car from the Ford dealership and an employee emailed the invoice to Cargill.
He said the vehicle was always parked at the airport in the parliamentary parking section when he was not in Nassau.
Cargill also raised concerns about Moss’ “unusual” charges on a corporate credit card and said it appeared that NIB was paying Moss $125 per diem for days when he came to Nassau for parliamentary sessions.
However, Moss told the investigators that any time he came to the capital at NIB’s expense “he engaged in NIB related business” or was at NIB for meetings or work.
Moss also said he never sought parliamentary reimbursement for NIB-related travel.
“He only used the NIB credit card for hotel charges and travel (airfare) expenses when he traveled to Nassau on short notice when it was too late to book those travels through the NIB office as, for example, when he had to meet with someone on NIB business or when he was called by the minister to meet with him on a NIB matter,” the report said.
The report also detailed Moss’ credit card activity.
Among other charges amounting to $2,621.39 it shows billings to the Hilton hotel in Nassau of $400.44 on August 4, 2012; $690.46 on August 17, 2012 and $138.22 on August 24, 2012.
The report relating to the allegations against Moss consists mainly of his denials of wrongdoing and his explanations of various matters that transpired while he was chairman.
Moss said his actions were not personal though, as they were sanctioned by the Board of NIB.
While much of the report outlines Moss’ responses to the allegations made by Cargill, the auditors made few conclusions or findings on these accusations.
While Cargill claimed that Moss’ actions toward him were designed to frustrate him in the execution of his duties, Moss denied “any of his actions were of malicious intent”.
The auditors interviewed Moss on February 7, 2013.