DNA: BPL shrouded in controversy under FNM Administration
By Buscheme Armbrister - DNA
Mar 11, 2019 - 12:00:15 PM
- Unanswered questions on Shell RFP
- Probe into BPL Board termination outstanding
- Wartsila deal not transparent
- No guarantee that $95M will be recouped
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has long advocated for reform within our energy sector to reduce the cost of doing business and its negative impact on the disposable income of Bahamians. The pain and suffering placed on the backs of the masses by the current administration as a result of the 60% increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) rate has further worsened the financial situation of most Bahamians.
It is against this backdrop that the DNA supports any effort aimed at improving the reliability of power supply and reducing the cost for our people. However, the government must ensure that its initiatives are not covered in secrecy and controversy as shown in the recent award of a $95 million contract to Wartsila.
This FNM administration does not seem to learn from its mistakes or simply does not believe that it should be accountable to the populace. Having failed to answer pertinent questions surrounding the Request for Proposals (RFP) process that led to the selection of Shell, BPL has again been found wanting in the selection process and plans for the installation of a 132-megawatt engine power plant by Wartsila. This follows the tainted process involving the selection of the Town Centre Mall as the new location of the main post office and the initial botched handling of the Nassau Cruise Port management RFP.
The Chief Executive of BPL was recently quoted as stating that the company will likely take an equity ownership interest in Shell’s new power plant in return for the investment of $95 million of taxpayers’ funds. This is bearing in mind that no commercial terms have been agreed and an agreement has not been signed following the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This latest move suggests that BPL under the FNM operates in an ad hoc and incoherent manner. How could BPL invest $95 million of our funds to generate 132 of the 220 megawatts required of Shell without a commitment or undertaking by Shell that we will be reimbursed or given an equity stake in the new power plant? It is unacceptable that BPL is speculating on the method of recovery of our investment and we call on them to state unequivocally that the $95 million will in fact be recouped from Shell.
Many Bahamians still recall the Alstom SA/BEC bribery scandal that occurred under a previous FNM administration. Our nation’s reputation was not enhanced by this debacle and it is important that our government continues to dispel any notion of impropriety or corruption. This is why we are concerned that a negative trend has emerged in relation to BPL under the FNM.
The unceremonious termination of the previous BPL Board amid allegations of political interference and unethical behavior remains unaddressed. This is despite the Prime Minister’s promise of a probe into the matter.
There are pertinent questions that the DNA wants answered concerning this matter. Are Bahamians being trained to operate BPL's engines, if not, why not? What is Shell’s official position’s on this matter.
The DNA calls on BPL to address these matters forthwith. We implore this administration to desist from paying lip service to transparency and accountability in governance. Their actions have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted, and their word is not their bond. The Bahamian people deserve better and the DNA remains the only vehicle for the institutionalization of good governance in The Bahamas.
Buscheme Armbrister, Deputy Leader
Democratic National Alliance
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