Anti-corruption body, the Integrity Commission, is taking a tough stance on Bureau of Standards (BSJ) manager, Greg Douglas, citing a potential a conflict of interest.
The commission is recommending sanctions on him having found that he maintained an undisclosed interest in four private companies which operated and/or sought to operate within the local cannabis industry while employed at the BSJ, in breach of the entity’s Conditions of Service.
During its probe on the matter, the commission, through Director of Investigations Kevon Stephenson, revealed that Douglas’ undisclosed private interests and concurrent employment at the BSJ in the capacity as ‘manager, technology projects’ amounted to a potential conflict of interest.
The commission’s probe was triggered by allegations it received under cover of letter dated June 2, 2022 that Douglas is the principal of a private entity, Wedione Limited, operating in the local cannabis industry and that he is also an executive member of the BSJ’s Cannabis Technical Committee, which is responsible for collating, evaluating and implementing cannabis related standards for testing, packaging, etc.
It was also agreed that Douglas did not make a declaration of his interest and affiliation in Wedione Limited to the BSJ, as required under Clause 16 of his employment contract.
Following its probe, the commission recommended, “Douglas be permanently removed from the BSJ’s Technical Committee for Medicinal Cannabis. Having regard to the breaches identified, the DI (Director of Investigations) recommends that disciplinary proceedings be instituted against Mr Douglas. The DI further recommends that in the event that he is allowed to continue in his employment at the BSJ, strict measures should be implemented to guard against Mr Douglas gaining an unfair advantage within the industry by virtue of his employment.”
Continuing, the commission noted that “this occurrence would almost certainly be damaging to BSJ’s reputation thereby reducing public confidence in the entity. It is further recommended that the BSJ’s decision regarding Douglas’ removal from the referenced Technical Committee and the circumstances of same, should be made public.”
The probe found that Douglas is the sole director and shareholder of three private companies incorporated on December 7, 2018, known as Wedione Limited, Weditoo Limited and Weditree Limited, which are operating and/or sought to operate within the local cannabis industry.
Douglas is also one of five directors and shareholders of a private company incorporated on October 31, 2018, known as Mountaineer Growth Corp Limited, which is operating and/or sought to operate within the local cannabis industry.
The DI concluded that prior to March 14, 2022, Douglas failed to declare his interest in four private companies which operated and/or sought to operate within the local cannabis industry to the BSJ. However, his assertion that he made a verbal disclosure to a former executive director of the entity is noted with the commission arguing, “a verbal declaration of interest, without more, does not satisfy the disclosure requirement, as a conflict of interest disclosure must be documented in writing and should constitute a full disclosure of all particulars relevant to a determination of the specific nature and extent of the actual and/or potential conflict in each circumstance.”
The DI also conclude, “Douglas’ failure to declare his private interests to the BSJ at the time of their conception in December 2018, and subsequent resistance to declare same, which subsisted up to March 2022, demonstrated a willful and deliberate effort to conceal his private interests from his employers.”
Further, the DI concluded, “Douglas’ omission is worthy of rebuke, a strong signal must therefore be sent to him that this conduct can and will not be tolerated from any officer within the employ of public service. Concomitantly, Douglas’ conduct may have compromised the operations of the BSJ and exposed the entity to the risk of reputational damage.”
The commission’s conclusion is founded on the premise that Douglas’ undisclosed affiliation to private companies which operated and/or sought to operate within the local cannabis industry amounted to private activity, which was similar to his official function, by virtue of his employment at the BSJ. It is noted that Douglas’ employment at the Bureau and membership of the Cannabis Technical Committee afforded him an official position from which information and/or any material obtained may be used for private gain.