Chairman of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) Leodean Worrell today revealed that the state-owned water utility paid the sum of $15,200 plus VAT and not $120,000 to former Chief Justice Sir David Simmons for a legal opinion he submitted in conjunction with his daughter, attorney-at-law Lynne Marie Simmons to the state-owned entity last month.
This afternoon Worrell declared her intentions to make the invoices public, putting to rest claims circulating on social media as well as from anonymous sources at the BWA, that the sum of $120, 000 was paid for the service rendered to the state-owned water company.
“The amount that was paid was BDS$15,200 plus VAT. I say this with the permission of Sir David and his daughter and I will make the invoices available to all with a detailed breakdown of what was entailed,” said Worrell, who made it clear that the BWA was in no position to play fast and loose with its finances.
Worrell’s revelation supported the categorical denial by BWA general manager Keithroy Halliday, who in an interview with Barbados TODAY rubbished claims that such a large fee was paid to Sir David in conjunction with his daughter, Lynne-Marie Simmons.
“That is something that is far from the truth and given the financial challenges that we have right now, the Barbados Water Authority would not engage in that sort of thing willy-nilly,” Halliday stated in the article published on Thursday.
The former Chief Justice was retained to determine whether the five per cent pay hike for public servants announced in the June 11 mini-Budget and approved by Parliament on August 14, also applied to BWA workers.
After reviewing several key legal instruments, including the Civil Establishment Act and the Public Service (General) Order 2018, Sir David submitted that: “It is our opinion that the employees of the Authority are not entitled, as of right, to a salary increase of five per cent on the ground that employees in the Civil Establishment of Government have been accorded such an increase”.
He also pointed out that “to the extent that the Public Service (General) Order 2018 contains no reference to the Authority and makes no provision for an increase in the salaries of employees of the Authority, it is not axiomatic that such employees are entitled to an increase in salary of five per cent merely because officers in the central Government have been granted such an increase.
“The Order does not apply to employees of the Authority,” the legal opinion made clear.
Sir David, however, pointed out that in light of a previous position adopted by the Authority and apparently accepted by the Barbados Workers Union, “there may well be a legitimate expectation on the part of staff that the Authority will act in accordance with previous practice or policy.”
This was based on a November 3, 2014 letter former senior human resource officer Wendy Carrington-Holder sent to the then general manager of the BWA in which she stated at paragraph two that “there have been no pay increases other than the normal salary/wages increase agreed to by the Central Government and unions and adopted by the BWA for the periods 2005/2006 to 2009/2010.”
“Having regard to this letter, it may be that the employees will assert that they have a legitimate expectation that the Authority will act as it did in the periods referred to by Mrs Carrington-Holder,” the legal luminary said.
Sir David, who also reviewed several pieces of correspondence exchanged between the BWA and the BWU within the last three to four years, also suggested this assertion may well be bolstered by comments made last year by the union’s General Secretary Toni Moore to the effect that “when the Government negotiations were settled and agreement reached for ten per cent over three years . . . this adjustment was also applied to the BWA salaries because the assimilation was still ongoing”.
However, Sir David made it clear that in order for BWA employees to benefit from the five per cent increase, a written request to that effect would have to be issued by Wilfred Abrahams, the Minister responsible for the BWA.
“If the Authority is minded to ask for an increase for its employees, the Minister responsible for the Authority should be requested to agree that all employees of the Authority should be granted an increase in salary or wages with effect from April 1, 2018,” he said in the eight-page document, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY.
Meanwhile, the BWA general manager has maintained that the legal opinion was necessary, owing to the complex nature of the issue. He also revealed that the BWU had advance knowledge that the legal opinion was being sought.
“What I would say is that the board looked at the situation and they recognized there was a lot of varied information and they needed to get some sort of opinion. Initially, it was shared with some staff, as well as the union, that the board was seeking to get this opinion in order to settle on what the baseline opinion should be,” the general manager said.
Halliday added that It was still too early to determine if the BWA was going to adopt Sir David’s assessment.
“The opinion is only part of the process and there are some significant discussions that are still going on and will continue with the union. It is based on those deliberations that the way forward would be determined.
“So, yes, an opinion was sought but it wasn’t done in isolation or foreknowledge and it certainly did not carry such a huge fee,” the BWA general manager stressed.