CZMU head on the job again four years after suspension
Four years after Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) Dr Leo Brewster was sent on leave and advised by Government to retain an attorney-at-law, he is back on the job at Warrens Towers 11, Warrens, St Michael without any indication that charges were ever brought against him in the law courts.
It is also unclear if Brewster’s case was ever brought before the Services Commission, a disciplinary body for public servants who are in breach of the civil service code of conduct.
In 2012, a senior Government official had told Barbados TODAY that Brewster was officially relieved of his duties on August 1 that year and that six charges were to be brought against him stemming from an internal audit into the CZMU conducted in 2010 by the Office of the Auditor General.
The Government official indicated then that the CZMU’s Deputy Director Dr Lorna Inniss had assumed responsibility for the management of the unit.
Employees of the environmental agency today confirmed that Brewster had resumed duties as head of the department about three months ago, following Inniss’ departure to take up a post overseas.
When Barbados TODAY sought a comment from the director he refused to discuss his return.
“I have nothing to say on the matter. Any comment would have to come from Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment and Drainage, Edison Alleyne,” Brewster said.
However Barbados TODAY was unable to get an audience with Alleyne, who said he was on his way to an engagement and would not be back at work this evening. He added that he had nothing to say on Brewster’s return.
Even the Opposition was reluctant to discuss the issue with Shadow Minister of the Environment and Drainage Senator Wilfred Abrahams saying he did not wish to step into a “minefield”.
“I do not think that I should make a comment without consulting my political leader Mia Mottley and other party members. This is a minefield and I have to tread carefully,” Abrahams said.
Minister of the Environment and Drainage Dr Dennis Lowe could not be reached for a comment on the matter.
Almost six years ago, Brewster was summoned before the Auditor General and asked to explain, among other things, the awarding of contracts for work within his department without adherence to the Financial Management and Audit Act or the Financial Rules, 1971.
It was alleged that Brewster and one of his senior officers, hydrographer Lester Toppin, formed a company called Innovations R US in September 2004, and two months later Brewster started awarding work from CZMU to that company.
The audit revealed that between 2005 and 2007 CZMU paid over $300,000 to Innovations R US for a variety of services ranging from clearing sites and regrading sand to professional fees as high as $53,000.
The Auditor General also reported then that the CZMU had awarded a contract to Innovations R US at Graeme Hall Swamp, where equipment was purchased by the private company for CZMU and used by the former to carry out the work. An invoice was later made out in the name of CZMU but attached to an invoice stating “fees” from Innovations R US.
It was reported that the Auditor General’s Office could not locate the equipment up to the time of the audit.
The Auditor General also said the private company’s invoices showed it collected VAT from the CZMU but did not pay it into the VAT Department. As a result, it was noted that Innovations R US was indebted to Government and this should have precluded CZMU from doing business with it.
Amounts in excess of $60,000 per annum were also paid by CZMU to people who were not VAT registrants. The Auditor General cited where CZMU paid a company over $178,000 without any work quotations. The CZMU also made full payment to Innovations R US for a project in March 2007 that remained incomplete up to the time of the audit. In his report laid in Parliament the Auditor General charged that under Brewster’s management CZMU made out cheque payments to post office boxes for people who had no physical addresses.
The investigation raised a red flag with respect to conflict of interest when travel claims were made to CZMU for a site visit to a project at Ginger Bay, St Philip, although the claimant was also a director of Innovations R US, which had been awarded the contract. Brewster gave a written response to the Auditor General, indicating that the CZMU had ended its dealings with Innovations R US, and that he and his colleague had terminated their association with the company.
Brewster also promised that the CZMU would “ensure suitable quotations are sought in the future” with respect to work allocations.
In February 2010, then Commissioner of Police Darwin Dottin confirmed that the matter had been passed on to the police.
Brewster and workmate Toppin removed themselves as directors of the company, Innovations R US, in December 2007, but it continued to exist under new directorship.