DAVIS: RESPONSE TO THE BAHAMAS POWER AND LIGHT (BPL) PRESS CONFERENCE ON CURRENT LOAD SHEDDING CRISIS

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PLP LEADER AND SPOKESMAN ON BPL AND NATIONAL ENERGY POLICY

MP for Cat Island Rum Cay and San Salvador Philip Brave Davis

BY HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS QC, MP

After all of the touring and explanations by BPL this afternoon, the power is still off and there is no end in sight to the power cuts.

This afternoon throughout the island of new Providence, the power is off in large swaths of neighborhoods. As a result, people cannot manage their business affairs  because there is no predictability or certainty about the power supply.

This is harmful to the economy.

Further, there is darkness at night, heat during the day and night, the misery index has risen exponentially and in the face of all this, all the Minister can do is blame the plp while the Prime Minister is busy shaking cowbells. 

It is clear that they don’t care about us.

The press conference today in the wake of the current BPL crisis must be more than an update and status report on where BPL is with the installation on new power generators sourced from Wartsila. 

The broader issues of political cronyism, ineptitude, mismanagement, corruption and the lack of transparency and accountability in the general stewardship of public assets in the public’s interest strike at the core, the root and source of this current national energy crisis. 

Further, the Prime Minister and his Minister for BPL must not and will not be allowed to conveniently sweep all of these breaches of public trust under the proverbial carpet.

Make no mistake about it, this current BPL crisis is unwittingly a Hubert Minnis construct and orchestrated crisis simply because he failed to place the interests of the Bahamian people above his narrow, hidden, personal and political interests and agendas.

At my monthly press conference on Tuesday, 6th August, the issue of the BPL crisis was raised and I said then as I say now that after lowering the cost of electricity by forty percent between 2012 and 2017, the PLP left a plan in place to cause for energy sector reform, the lowering of energy costs by thirty percent over thirty months, a power self generation program, the elimination of BPL’s legacy debt and the use of renewable energy pursuant to our National Energy Policy.

The Prime Minister has a right to assemble a board and management team he feels are best qualified to carry out the policies of his government, but what has the Prime Minister’s decisions and leadership on BPL  gotten the Bahamian people and this country?

These are some of the results:

A divided board of directors who either resigned or were fired because the political directorate took sides and a subsequent multimillion dollar lawsuit from the former Executive Chairman, Darnell Osbourne, complete with charges of corruption.

A new hand picked executive management team whose decisions led to multiple fires at the Clifton Pier, Blue Hills and Bimini power stations that severely compromised the power generation capacity and reliability of BPL, pushing this beleaguered public corporation to the brink of collapse with daily load shedding that proved disruptive and debilitating to the personal lives of Bahamians and harmful and threatening to the country’s national economy. 

There was reportedly another fire at the Clifton Pier Power Plant on Friday, 9 August 2019 so the fires continue unabated.

The criticism, condemning and repudiation of BPL continue to intensify as the government remains tone deaf to this public outcry.

The promised investigations into the multiple fires that led to the unplanned $95 million Wartsila deal have not been made public, much like the promised investigation into the circumstances that led to the collapse and eventual dissolution of the initial BPL board.

The $95 million Wartsila deal remains mired in controversy, covered in a dark cloud of secrecy and bears the stench of scandal and corruption. Why wasn’t Shell North America allowed to provide immediate bridge financing as part of the $200 million energy supply deal. I note that the government said the Shell NA was necessary because BPL and the government did not have the money to finance the much needed new power generation plants. 

What and who was the source of this $95 million loan and why did its formal request not come to Parliament by way of resolution, resulting in a public and transparent Parliamentary debate? The government’s apparent secret smoked-filled room and backdoor  dealmaking is not being transparent, accountable or fiscally responsible. 

Alarmingly, given the significance of a functional and reliable BPL to the country’s economy and survival, there was no mention of the issues facing this Corporation during the recent 2019/2020 budget debate – not by Prime Minister Minnis or by Minister Bannister. This is inexplicable.

The multi-tiered public outcry around the water cooler, at home, in the Streets and in the media are therefore justified and the varied public conclusions understandable.

I also note that the former BPL manager, PowerSecure, possessed investment grade securities necessary to facilitate BPL’s capital development. The Minnis government unceremoniously canceled their management agreement and ran them out of the country while approving and adopting their business plan, complete with the rates reduction program and enabling legislation.

The Prime Minister’s mishandling of BPL is breathtaking. His stone silence and deflections in the face of the public fallout are resulting in a precipitous deterioration in public confidence in his administration.

There is indeed a trust deficit.

The Prime Minister has proven to be complicit and duplicitous on any number of governance issues ranging from the post office crisis, on the fraudulent Oban deal, contract administration and conflicts of interest involving a cabinet minister, and the public behavior of public officers Bennet Minnis and Omar Archer.

In each case the Prime Minister either deflected, blamed the PLP, or avoided addressing these issues.

So far reaching and harmful are the levels and depths of mismanagement at BPL that Prime Minister Minnis must act because after all it is the people’s time.