Hon D Shane Gibson MP
Golden Gates Constituency
House of Assembly
Bahamas Electricity Corporation Bills
October 21st 2010
Mr. Speaker, we are here to debate a resolution for the approval of duty free concessions for fuel for B.E.C. and the Spanish Wells Power Company.
Mr. Speaker, The Member for Golden Isles yesterday unashamedly blames the Former Minister of Works & Utilities Bradley Roberts and Executive Chairman Alfred Jarrett for bankruptcy of That Corporation some three and half years after the FNM returned to power. For the record Mr. Speaker Bradley Roberts ceased to be the Minister responsible for BEC upon the creation of Ministry of Energy and Environment which was headed by Dr. Marcus Bethel on February 22nd 2006. On the other hand Alfred Jarrett ceased to be Executive Chair of BEC when he became the Chairman of the Bank of the Bahamas in 2006. Both Roberts and Jarrett introduced in 2003 the first ever reduction in the basic rates by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation a full explanation and rationale was presented to this Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the Members for Golden Isles and South Beach who were then in the political wildness, It was the FNM, in September 2003 who boldly endorsed the rate reduction as being possible only by their stewardship during their term in office, now unashamedly blames the PLP. This is a classical case of double mindedness and we know what the Bible says about double minded people.
Yet Mr. Speaker, the Member for Golden Isles continues his outrageous shameless and baseless accusations. Mr. Speaker, I ask the MP for Golden Isles why has the Government not laid on the table of this Parliament the many reports and studies commissioned by the FNM Government on BEC since their return to office in May 2007. Why are they hiding these reports Mr. Speaker? They use to talk about openness and transparency.
The Bahamas was very much aware of the suffering Abaco and elsewhere in the Bahamas have been enduring for the past two years or more with the constant power outages. Those who have private generators were fortunate. Many say that the blame must be placed squarely in the lap of Members of Parliament Hubert Ingraham, Earl Deveaux, Phenton Neymour and Edison Key who have been dubbed the Black Out quartet; who have inflicted much pain and suffering on the people of Abaco and its visitors. Mr. Speaker, why was unnecessary pain inflicted upon Abaco and its people?
Mr. Speaker, My Party issued a press statement a few months ago informing the good people of Abaco that they were are also terrible victims of the Stop, Review, and Cancel Policy by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his FNM Government. Under the Christie Administration and after careful review by the experts, a site at Snake Cay was selected for Abaco’s New Power Plant.
The former Minister of Works in his farewell address to the House of Assembly on March 28th 2007 reminded Parliament and the people of Abaco that Four 12 MV Diesel Generators and a New Power Plant were ordered. The first two units were scheduled to be in operations by October 2008. He also disclosed that in anticipation of the summer peak in 2008, all of the generators in Abaco would be overhauled and one or two interim units installed. The project cost was some $66 million dollars, not including the transmission and distribution works.
Mr. Speaker, the order for the new plant and new generators were put on hold and the site selected by the experts was changed without prior consultation and without public disclosure. In an interview with the Bahama Journal on August 7th 2007, The MP for South Beach Phenton Neymour told the press the following:
“The government has recognized that that there is a need to expand the BEC facilities in North Abaco and I plan to visit North Abaco in short order with a team from BEC to review potential locations for an added facility in North & Central Abaco”.
Mr. Neymour also said various factors are involved in finding a location for the new facilities in Abaco, which include dockage, locating a place for a fuel line and also finding crown land to use.
Mr. Speaker, after spending more than a million dollars on environmental and other studies including the laying of a pipe line by BEC the studies were thrown in the garbage bin without any logical explanation. My sources told me that the MP for South Abaco took BEC personnel on a fly over of Abaco and pointed to a location in Wilson City and declared that it was to be the new site for the Abaco Power Plant. Mr. Speaker, that is the manner in which the new Abaco Power Plant was handled. The delay has caused untold damage to Abaco’s important Touristic sector and brought unnecessary misery to the people and residence of Abaco. Will the MP for Golden Isles blame Bradley Roberts and Alfred Jarrett for the mess in Abaco?
Mr. Speaker, the unvarnished truth is that the Christie administration approved the transfer of Crown Land at Snake Cay to BEC. At the behest of special interest in Abaco, a new site at Wilson City was selected instead which is located in a very environmentally sensitive area. The fuel will be transported over land significantly adding to operational cost. I will provide the embarrassing details of the annual cost to transport fuel over land versus the cost of the pipe line at the original site. A very strong protest against the FNM selected venue for the Plant and the fuel selection. The government in my opinion acted very badly in handling the protest and was not honest and transparent in the process. The FNM again in my opinion were very deceitful in this matter.
Mr. Speaker the Government has acknowledged that BEC is broke. So broke that many of its suppliers no longer provided credit. I am advised that BEC suppliers of ink cartridges had cut them off and they were obliged to purchase of ink cartridges on occasions out of petty cash. BEC has been brought to its knees thanks to this FNM Government.
The plain and simple truth is that Phenton Neymour and Earl Deveaux were both sound asleep at the wheel during the record oil price crisis (when Oil was at $147 per barrel) and allowed the Corporation to fully absorb Custom Duty & Stamp Tax on BEC Oil Imports which the Corp. was unable to bear as a result of the sharp spike in oil and is the major reason BEC finds itself with one foot on the banana peel and the other in the proverbial grave.
The Member for Golden Isles and the Public will recall that BEC’s former Chairman Frederick Gottlieb disclosed to the press in February 2009 that BEC was aiming to come “within $1 to $2 Million of breaking even” by the end of its financial year September 2009″. Jr. Minister Phenton Neymour has disclosed that the actual loss for the year ending September 2009 was placed at $20 Million. The Ministers had failed to provide an explanation as to why BEC’s actual performance was so drastically different when compared with the then able Chairman’s forecast?
Mr. Speaker, this drama of being out of touch does not end there; as the new Chairman Michael Moss disclosed that BEC losses for the year ended Sept 30th 2009 will be closer to $30 Million.
Mr. Speaker, this is but a few examples of massive management failure by Ministers of this FNM Government and yet the Member for Golden Isles gets up in this place and seeks to paint the PLP as being responsible for the BEC failure. I cry shame on that Member. The FNM now seeks to find a way out of the very grave state BEC finds itself in as a result of political interference by Ministers whose policies caused the Corporation to hit an all time low? This much was acknowledged by the GM when he said “We are unable to procure various parts and equipment and this has affected our ability to adhere to some of the maintenance schedules”. This very simple and straight forward statement is in direct and blatant contrast to the disclosure made by Jr. Minister Phenton Neymour during a recent contribution in the House of Assembly. During his contribution the Jr. Minister boldly assured New Providence and Paradise Island residences that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) had made the necessary preparations for the summer months and that power outages were not foreseeable.
Mr. Speaker, all Bahamians are affected by the poor performance of BEC in particular the young and seniors. October has been set aside as Youth Month. There has not been a beep from the Minister responsible for Youth.