** Exclusively on SXM Talks, articles by Ralph Cantave **
PHILIPSBURG – Prior to Merrill ‘Jimmy’ Temmer becoming Temporary Manager, Mauricio Dembrook formerly served in the position. Dembrook was let go by the present board due to filing a court injunction against Sharine Daniel, who wanted to place a lien on NV GEBE’s accounts. The reasoning behind the move was a rectification Daniel demanded in the apology note the court requested NV GEBE to place in the media. The supervisory board, chaired by Anastacio Baker, disapproved of that decision. Additionally, the supervisory board disapproved of Dembrook’s decision to not immediately reinstate Daniel to her position, which the court did not actually demand. From the onset of their tenure, the board insisted on the reinstatement of Daniel to her position. This was a point of contention that developed after multiple spats between Daniel and the previous board, chaired by Bienvenido Richardson. Nevertheless, upon Temmer’s appointment, Daniel became his right hand: attending every meeting, copied in every email and consulted for every decision. This is behavior that contradicts her position as internal auditor; good governance principles mean that you cannot evaluate (audit) decisions that you yourself have made.
Repeated controversies, non compliance with company procedure and other infractions are well recorded regarding Daniel. However in an attempt to reshape the profile of Daniel, Temmer approved the removal of Daniel’s warning letters following their signatures on their contracts to become CEO and COO of the company. After months of handling the Blackbyte hack, which Temmer failed to circumvent as IT manager, Temmer has taken sick leave, which was extended until further notice. In his absence, Daniel is presently directing the operational end of the company; the issue here, as mentioned in Part 1, is that the internal auditor reports directly to the CEO or Temporary Manager. All senior managers in the company were bypassed for the acting manager role. In the past, for example, the late Julius Lambert, one of the former directors of NV GEBE, at times appointed the power plant and distribution manager as acting head of the company during his absence. The board’s decision to permit this threatens the professional and ethical barriers upheld in the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. This begs the question, who audits the auditor, and how objective will any future audits be?
A reign of fear and terror
In the Corporate Governance Council’s (CGC) report to the government, the council advised that Daniel follow a training due to her interpersonal challenges. The advice pinpointed those challenges in her leadership and communication style. The CGC also enquired if “there were any structural training and development plans devised for Ms Daniels to assist her in improving her communication and leadership skills during the interim period.” Several employees have reported being threatened, shouted at, spited or undermined by Daniel throughout her time as internal auditor and Temporary Manager.
Many persons are fearful of being demoted or replaced due to Daniel’s close association to the Human Resource manager, Clifford Sasso. Recently, the public was made aware of the suspension of one of the executive secretaries, who was sent home under suspicion of leaking documents, despite the fact that the single mother of two was just one of several persons who handled the documents in question. However, it became known that the secretary had a dispute with Daniel a few days before being accused of leaking documents. She also had multiple interactions disapproving of Daniel’s harsh statements and shouts in the workplace. Following that, Temmer joined a meeting with Sasso to suspend the secretary and then took his leave several days after. This accusation is also coupled with an allegation of missing harddrives that the secretary allegedly took, yet the security camera of the executive office was not functioning, according to sources. The question then becomes, how long has the security camera not been functioning and what proof does the company have to justify sending the employee home?
The secretary, who has a second job at the University of St. Martin (USM), was being harassed to leave that job after years of working there until the connection became apparent that Daniel is a member of the university’s board.In NV GEBE, many employees have to deal with unpleasant encounters by Daniel, who is known for her threatening and demeaning outbursts. Daniel developed a habit of demanding colleagues to work slow or not assist managers due to her pending appointment as CEO. This would have resulted in a restructuring that would lead to change of role or promotion of title or compensation.
Daniel’s proximity to board members in the past and presently, has increased after receiving the powers of “free and unrestricted access to any and all NV GEBE’s records, physical properties and personnel pertinent to carrying out any engagement” according to NV GEBE’s audit charter. This was utilized to undermine and withhold implementation of projects or policies, such as the IT policies which would have resulted in the upgrading of the IT department and procedure in the company, long before the Black byte attack. The purchase of a new engine was halted as well, which would have assisted with the load shedding that the public is faced with every few months. Daniel appeared as the whistle blower of questionable decisions by previous managers which caught the attention of Ministers or board members, however as they changed, she remained.
Behind the Legal Scenes
Daniel contested and won the last two court cases against her due to the toxic work environment at the company, according to the court verdict. The verdict did not dispute the findings of the case which detailed her falsified employment profile prior to entering NV GEBE. Notable in Daniel’s disputes and controversies, is her lawyer Jojanneke Deelstra who was paid tens of thousands of dollars by NV GEBE according to sources. This was a fee requested in court, which was shut down in the court, yet payment was granted. This is another questionable decision permitted under the present supervisory board.
Shockingly this took place before when Daniel served as Temporary Manager before Dembrook. Daniel paid her lawyer when Deelstra worked at HBN Law. She paid invoices that were dated before her tenure at Temporary Manager. HBN Law eventually refunded the amounts paid. Deelstra is presently a partner at Huisman Deelstra Law.
In continuation of this pattern, a legal representation contract was recently signed by Temmer on April 21 to allow Deelstra, who is his and Daniel’s personal lawyer, to be a lawyer for the company. An alarming clause in the agreement was the notice that if a conflict of interest would arise, Deelstra would represent Temmer and Daniel and not NV GEBE. This leads to the question: how can the board determine if Deelstra is paid by NV GEBE to represent the interest of the company or personal affairs of Temmer and Daniel? And is it permitted that one can access confidential company information, which can then be used against the company in a possible future court proceeding? The responsibility of a CEO or Temporary Manager is to protect the interest of the company however this contract skewed the possibility by making the two individuals priority over the company.
Besides reporting to the CEO or Temporary Manager, the internal auditor also reports to the chairman of the board’s audit team. Presently, Dimar Labega holds that position. Labega is a FOREXtrader, which highlights the CGC’s warning that the board appointments lack an individual with a corporate finance or legal background. Based on responses provided to Parliament on October 9, 2021 Doran, stated an external company is being sought to assess the quality of the audits done within the company. In 2015, three out of eleven audits were received; In 2016, three out of seven; 2017, one out of seven; 2018 one out of six; 2019 two out of seven and in 2020 one out of six.
The multiple contraventions committed by Daniel that have compromised not just internal audit but GEBE as a whole, are yet to be handled by the audit team, the board and Council of Ministers.
Part 3 of this series will delve into the misconceptions stated in Parliament and the financial impact of the hack. NV GEBE is the island’s only utility company whose viability is a matter of national security.