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Jan 3, 2018

P.U.C. Faces Questions on Audit; Chair Says They Were Answered

Tonight, there is information that tells a tale of obscene spending at the Public Utilities Commission.  News Five has obtained a copy of an audited report done by certified public accountant Cedric Flowers for the year ending March thirty-first, 2017. In a letter dated August eleventh, 2017, he addresses P.U.C. chairman John Avery on several issues arising from the audit and draft financial statements, which have also been forwarded to Prime Minister Dean Barrow. There are two particularly serious charges: first, that the Commissioners received large payments for their work with the Commission, adding up to a staggering four point five million dollars over the audit period. Second, the Commissioners withheld payment of income taxes, as required by law, in respect of bonuses and gratuities. This includes monies paid to Commissioners to attend meetings.

John Avery

There are other private payments and expenses. Since Avery’s appointment in April of 2008, he has received more than one and a half million dollars in salary, salary advance, travel expenses and an additional four hundred thousand plus for attending Commission meetings even though he is the salaried Chairman of the P.U.C. At one thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars per meeting, that works out to around three hundred and thirty meetings in the audit period. Kimano Barrow, the P.M.’s nephew, was paid a total of eight hundred and forty-three thousand dollars in gratuity, travel expenses and a private payment; Orlando Quan, five hundred and twenty-four thousand; and current Attorney General and former House Speaker Michael Peyrefitte, four hundred and thirty-eight thousand dollars in the same time period. In comparison, some of the technical experts like Victor Lewis received just eighty-two thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars in that period and claimed nothing else. There are seven standing members of the Commission including the chairman which serve for six years. Auditor Flowers also highlighted over seventy thousand dollars per year in expenditure for credit card purchases which lacked appropriate support including requests or authorizations. Several of the expenditures, Flowers wrote, did not appear to have any direct relationship to P.U.C. activities. The list includes Perry Ellis men’s clothing; Macy’s; Riverside Tavern, Barcelo Tours, Ka’ana Boutique and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. In his report, Flowers complains of not receiving the permanent minutes of Commission meetings and cites missing evidence of approval of over fifty thousand dollars in donations. According to the auditor, the P.U.C. spent over a million dollars in donations. The auditor advises that monies paid to Commissioners for attendance of meetings are required to be reported to the Commissioner of Income Tax, whether or not taxes are withheld. Flowers also cited issues with expenditure for the Raspberry Pi program. This evening, when reached by News Five, Avery indicated that the Commission is in possession of a final audit report. He told us that the document we cited is a letter of representation drafted by Flowers which asks for certain agreements that may limit his final opinion and report. According to Avery, Flowers was acting on information provided to him from unauthorized sources. After the P.U.C.’s review, the document will be submitted to the Ministry of Finance. Flowers was in a meeting all afternoon and did not return our calls. We will have more on Thursday, including the tale of a scandalous land transaction by the P.U.C. on the George Price Highway.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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