An open letter sent by ‘concerned staff of the Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation’ has criticised the recent removal of the BHVI Foundation’s CEO Ms Amanda Davis.
The authors of the widely distributed anonymous letter, which Insight received, question why Davis was suddenly dismissed with no explanation. The BHVI Foundation is the public health division of the BHVI.
It states: “We are deeply distressed by the unexpected, unexplained and humiliating way in which Amanda Davis was roved from office on 31 January.”
The letter goes on to explain that Davis had worked at the BHVI for 23 years and held several prominent roles within the organisation, including chief operating officer and, most recently, CEO.
“She has built a formidable public health organisation – a pillar of the development sector and a leader in the fight against avoidable blindness – Amanda has earned deep respect from her colleagues and national, regional and international stakeholders in the sector,” the letter claims.
The authors also criticise the current CEO of the BHVI Foundation Ms Yvette Waddell and also say staff have lost faith in the board. The 2,000-word letter also criticises the role of the BHVI Foundation’s external legal counsel, Mr Tony Thomas.
Davis was appointed CEO of the BHVI Foundation and Waddell the CEO of the BHVI in July 2018, following Professor Kovin Naidoo’s departure from both roles. Following Davis’ termination, Waddell is CEO of both the BHVI and the BHVI Foundation.
In a statement issued to staff, BHVI Foundation’s board has refuted the ‘concerned staff’s’ claims, saying that it regrets employees felt it necessary to take this action, and that it has appointed Control Risks, an external consultancy, to undertake a forensic investigation into the BHVI Foundation’s records.
“Over the past several months an investigation has been carried out by Control Risks that has revealed serious instances of maladministration within BHVIF. In the circumstances, the Board concluded that it was untenable for Amanda Davis to rain as CEO,” the statent reads.
The Control Risks website states: “We are a specialist global risk consultancy that helps organisations succeed in a volatile world. Through insight, intelligence and technology, we help you seize opportunities while raining secure, compliant and resilient. When crises and complex issues arise, we help you recover.”
The board’s statement goes on to advise: “Control Risks’ investigation is continuing and, in the circumstances, it is inappropriate for the Board to make any further comment at this time.”
Ms Sandra Bailey, chairperson of the BHVI Foundation, said in a second statement that the BVHI Foundation is fully cooperating with the current investigation.
“Understandably, recent events, sudden and apparently inexplicable, have and continue to be distressing for staff, making this a very difficult time within the organisation,” Bailey said.
“Please know that the senior executive team, led by Yvette Waddell as CEO, has my full support and confidence.”
The BHVI has been broiled in controversy since September 2018 when it emerged that a staff member had been paid a $1 million bonus. At the time BHVI then–chairman Professor Brian Leyland denied the figure several times saying the bonus was “nowhere near a million dollars”.
When it was proven that Leyland’s denial was wrong – and Insight established that the $1 million dollar bonus had not been accounted for in the BHVI‘s financial reports – he resigned.
At the time of publication, Insight has not been able to ascertain the exact reason Davis was removed.