PLP says the entire BTC privatization process under the FNM is Bogus

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PLP Chairman, Bradley Roberts

PRESS STATEMENT: As has been confirmed to The Tribune by a source close to the privatization process, the MOU obtained from a confidential source and made public by the PLP is substantially correct.

We echo the voices of Bernard Evans, William Carroll, Leon Williams Nicki Kelly and numerous others who have expressed grave concerns about this scandalous, secret sweetheart deal.

It is shocking that the government, in private, in the dark, behind closed doors made a deal with Cable & Wireless (C&W), a company that the government admits did not participate in the bidding process. It has now been revealed that C&W were deep in the bowels of BTC privatization committee while the approved bidders were preparing their subsequently rejected bids. The PLP will not be surprised if the Bahamas Government has not exposed itself to law suits.

And it has been revealed that Higgs and Johnson, the law firm where the Attorney General John Delaney was Managing Partner are the lawyers for BTC privatization committee. It is absolutely shocking that KPMG, the external auditors of C&W is one of the financial and regulatory advisors to the BTC privatization committee. This obvious and admitted KPMG conflict comes on the back of the numerous blatant conflicts of interest that the PLP has already disclosed in relation to BTC executive chairman Julian Francis and now potentially in relation to AG John Delaney.

The PLP also notes that columnist Larry Smith, who was given access to the BTC privatization papers, confirmed the stated positions of William Carroll and Bernard Evans that they knew nothing about the C&W deal. Now that the MOU has been revealed, it is not surprising that the union leaders were not aware of the deal. The MOU reveals that there will be “voluntary workforce restructuring”, a code for layoffs. The pensions of members will be significantly affected. The pension fund, now a non-contributory pension fund, will become a contributory pension fund. All employees will be encouraged to give up their current benefit of a non-contributory pension fund to join the contributory pension fund. The government has agreed to put up $39 Million to guarantee the shortfall in the fund via a “Feeder Trust”.

As mentioned C&W did not participate in the bidding process; the government has acknowledges that a MOU with C&W was signed and that C&W was then given access to BTC to do its due diligence and to devise a business plan. The international accepted principle is that due diligence is undertaken by qualified bidders before they make a bid and a business plan is a part of the bid submission.

The FNM quite shamelessly is selling 51% of the shares of BTC for $210 Million in circumstances where BTC’s assets are worth more than $210 Million and where the cost of privatization to date, by BTC’s own admission is well in excess of $153 Million. This “sale” is in truth a “give away” and a national disgrace.

The Robert MUGABE of the Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham, has sold the public asset BTC from the Bahamian people to Cable and Wireless.

Finally, the PLP notes the comments by Paul Hutton-Ashkenny in Business Section of The Tribune of 20th January, 2011 that Bahamians will need to get used to paying for local calls. The FNM government has killed the middle class. The proposal to charge for local calls is another nail in the coffin.

The sale to BTC epitomizes the FNM special interests style of governance: it was done behind closed doors and lacks transparency; it is rife with conflicts of interest; someone is getting a 3% finder’s fee; the small man will be downsized/laid off; the small man’s pension fund and his pension plans are being adversely affected; ordinary Bahamians are being denied the opportunity to buy shares in a significant national asset and the small man will end up paying for the sale to C&W (there will be $15 Million left in the bank; the government will have to put $39 Million into a Feeder Trust and Bahamians will have to pay for local calls).
The entire privatization process is shamelessly bogus. Tommy Turnquest, whose Portfolio includes BTC is clearly not in charge of the privatization process and is being used as a puppet. Bahamians have not forgotten that he threatened the unions (as being a threat to national security) who were exercising their constitutional right of freedom of assembly. All of his statements thus far have been incorrect and bogus.

The PLP renews its call for the hapless and hopeless and shameless Tommy Turnquest to be fired. Tommy T. has been an abject failure as Minister of National Security. It is clear to all that Tommy T. is not in charge of the BTC Privatization exercise. He is a burden on the backs of Bahamians. Enough is enough.

  • to ken, the easiest way to find out who is behind bluewater is for the fnm to say who they paid the $1.9 million dollars to to get bluewater out the picture. i’m sure the gods in the fnm did not pay that kind of money to thin air or the plp… at least they better not.

  • ken

    bradley them cant talk why dont they say who bluewaters are an the deai they made with them.bahamaians did not had a chance to voice there opinon on it ,when we knew about it the agreement was already sign.grays was on jones an company and he still dont want to say who was included in bluewater,what do they have to hide.

  • Deesha,

    I enjoy reading your posts…rational, reasonable and apolitical. One thing that really bothers me is the constant focus on lower costs. That’s important of course, but no one is thinking strategically:

    WHAT WILL OUR TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE LOOK LIKE 5 -10 YEARS FROM NOW?

    If we get this wrong we’re in serious trouble. The entire world is rapidly moving to 1 Gbit connectivity and next gen wireless. If we are to keep our financial services, improve our medical services, diversify away from tourism and have at least a fighting chance for our children to open new businesses, we MUST have a world-class com infrastructure.

    This will require massive investments AND global expertise. Our track record for DSL, 3G, GPRS, EDGE, ATM, MMS, WIMAX et al is poor and these are old, simple technologies compared to what’s starting to happen now. We are sorely behind in services like telemedicine, distance learning, and the list goes on.

    So please everyone, let’s stop thinking about lower cell phone and broadband costs and start thinking strategically.

    Regards,

    Mike

  • listen guys, BTC can get to the same price levels as C&W, all it takes is their multi year commitment to an internationally recognized equipment provider

    • @Insider, that is partially true that some of the LD costs generally go down with longer term contracts. However, BTC only has 300K+ cell customers and that isn’t going to change very quickly. For buying power on handsets, BTC would need to order them by the thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands. BTC cannot do that on its own, since it would be insane and the replacement rate is not that high here. That is where being an AT&T, Verizon, Digicel or LIME makes a difference….bigger companies get better pricing due to volume.

  • Who cares? We all know Bahamians can run BTC just fine without government manipulation. We just can’t get our operating costs down without merging into a bigger telecom company and that is the only real issue here. Try as we might, with fiber installations and VOIP connectivity, we simply do not have the buying power to get the wholesale inter-connection and handset prices down without more volume. Our little BTC is not LIME, or Digicel or AT&T and we will grow into a company as big as these. Most of the major mergers have already taken place and we are in no position to buy anyone else out. This is just the way it is. Why don’t you guys focus on this issue, instead of stupid politricks!

  • i wonder if mr bradley roberts can confirm wether mr marlon johnson is also working for cable and wireless in addition to his functions with btc, and is cable and wireless a new company.

  • With all due respect to mr.Roberts what i want to hear is the PLP warn C&W that if the PLP becomes the government in 2012 that telecoms licences will be GRANTED TO BAHAMIAN BUSINESSES TO COMPETE AGAINST C&W IN ALL SECTORS OF TELECOMMUNICATION.Further that an INVESTIGATION will be launched into how C&W came to acquire BTC and if any MISDEEDS/ILLEGAL/WRONG actions were done the person/s WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW.Finally if our courts convict anyone for misdeeds committed in this privatisation process ALL THEIR AND THEIR COMPANIES ASSET WILL BE FORFEITED TO THE STATE.

    • Dear Kevin Mckenzie. The foundation is being laid for the case to take the course of action you proposed.There are several hot disclosures yet to be made. A very clear and definitive position of the PLP, will be disclosed in the Peoples Parliament in due course. I invite you to stay tune.