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Thursday 23 November 2017
Letters to the Editor

Port board misled itself— not the management

Port board misled itself— not the management

THE EDITOR: I recently received an excerpt from the Mouttet compilation of documents on the sea bridge affair. The excerpt summarises the views of Dexter Jaggernauth, chairman of the Finance and Audit Committee of the Port Authority board, on the evaluation of the Cabo Star.

It says the board requested a Dun and Bradstreet report on Bridgeman’s which Jaggernauth had to review. The excerpt continues:

“Normally, to do a Dunn (sic) and Bradstreet we (in the finance industry) would consider audit (sic) financial statements of five years preceding the date of submission to give a clear understanding of the financial state of the company using ratio and other analyses.

“However as Bridgeman’s was less than two years old, this amount of financial information would not have been available.

Instead emphasis would have been placed… on any financial claims on the company that would impair the financial operations of the company and this was discussed at a meeting of the board.”

In other words, all that concerned Jaggernauth and the Port board about Bridgeman’s, because it was less than five years old, was whether there were any financial claims or liens against the company.

Since they saw none, they could proceed with Bridgeman’s.

In my appearance before the JSC on September 20, the chairman told me the same story about the Port board’s sole reliance on the absence of liens in order to judge Bridgeman’s, and requested my comments on this procedure. I told him that such sole reliance was “absurd,” especially in light of the DandB report on Bridgeman’s. That report said, among other things, that in June 2017 “attempts to contact (the company’s) principals were unsuccessful,” and that the company’s operation was to “(provide) accomodation (sic) locating services.”

Understandably, there was no mention of ferry leasing as part of its operations: Mark Bassant of TV6 has discovered that Bridgeman’s first-ever lease of a ferry was to Trinidad and Tobago.

I told the JSC that if I were a member of a group to recommend or choose a ferry, there would have been no way, particularly given the DandB report, that I could have agreed to the choice of Bridgeman’s.

The Prime Minister has said that the management misled the board, which misled the minister, who misled the Cabinet. On the basis of Jaggernauth’s evidence, the PM has himself been misled. Even if (as has been hinted) the management was trying for ignoble reasons to get the board to select Bridgeman’s, we now know that it was the board that examined the matter, including the DandB report, and took a decision thereon, using a quite incredible factor as its sole criterion.

It was not the management that misled the board. It was the board, through its Finance and Audit Committee, that misled itself, and others. Why is it still in place?

REGINALD DUMAS via e-mail

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