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“BEC Privatisation Unlawful”

The government is reportedly proceeding with an unlawful process as it seeks to privatise The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).

Leader of Opposition Business in the Upper Chamber Senator Carl Bethel yesterday charged that the Christie administration is proposing to “sell” BEC, yet it has no legal authority to do so.

“How did we get here,” he asked. “What side of the bed did the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) fall out of one morning and stagger off to Cabinet and privatise a national asset without the first word of consultation with the Bahamian people,” Senator Bethel said while contributing to debate on the mid-year budget on Wednesday.

“On what basis are we engaged with a government who has already issued requests for proposal (RFP) to sell a national asset without the slightest consultation with the Bahamian people? We don’t know what’s been proposed. We don’t know what the terms are. But I know what the law of The Bahamas is. I know that they can’t be talking about no part of BEC’s undertaking. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation Act specifically says that no land owned by BEC can be sold without the approval of both houses of Parliament, signified by a resolution. That (hasn’t) come here yet, so what you proposing to sell and you don’t have the legal authority to sell one square inch of land owned by BEC and you can’t sell the company without selling the land.”

Applications were reportedly accepted from as many as 65 entities both locally and abroad.

Reforming the energy sector could lead to the establishment of two new electricity entities.

According to Prime Minister Perry Christie, the idea is to realign BEC and to create efficiencies, which will allow for significant reductions in the cost of energy, increased energy security, environmental responsibility, reliability and increased competitiveness as a country.

At the time, Mr. Christie explained that the first entity would be a new transmission and distribution company (NewCo), which will be wholly owned by BEC.

“This company will be responsible for the operation, maintenance, repair, and expansion of NewCo’s electricity transmission and distribution systems and for billing, collection, customer services and other relevant services across The Bahamas,” he noted at the time.

“The second company will be a new generation services company. This company will be responsible for the operation, maintenance, repair, financing of BEC’s current electricity generation facilities and certain other assets located across The Bahamas, as well the development of new power generation plant. It will enter into a power purchase agreement with NewCo.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Philip Davis has since revealed that the government may not select any of the bidders and that in such an event, it would have to reform BEC itself.

But Senator Bethel yesterday urged PLP senators to encourage the government to engage in a process that is not only according to the law but the established principles of good governance “set by the Free National Movement (FNM).”

“Let us have your sector policy,” he said. “Let us be consulted on it. Let us have requests for proposal. We don’t know what’s being proposed to be done. Let us have the details so the Bahamian people can determine whether or not it is a legitimate policy.”

As far as Senator Bethel sees things, the proposed sale of BEC is nothing short of “a bell weather and a warning to Bahamians.”

“You cannot trust them. You don’t know what’s going on. Our national asset is being sold and Bahamians know nothing about it.”

Hoping to set the record straight on the issue, Attorney General and Leader of Government Business in the Upper Chamber Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson accused her colleague of exaggeration and lies.

“The fact that he knows about it shows there was public consultation,” she said.

“KPMG was engaged to keep the exercise from being political. Everyone can go on the web and see it. You can read the papers everyday and no decisions – in any event – have been made anyway on it yet. A request for proposal has gone out, proposals have come and have been evaluated and no decision has been made.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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