The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is set to lose $22 million by the end of the year, according to the corporation’s Chairman Leslie Miller.
He was responding to comments made by former Environment State Minister Phenton Neymour who told the Bahama Journal earlier this week that Mr. Miller said BEC will lose $50 million.
“Then he said it will be $40 million and in the budget debate he was quoted as saying BEC will lose $22 million in the same year,” Mr. Neymour said on Monday.
Mr. Neymour said it is not surprising to him that Mr. Miller would continue to use the protection given by the House of Assembly, where he cannot be sued, to tell untruths in a manner that he considers cowardly and without honour.
“I did say that BEC was projected to lose $50 million; however, what Mr. Neymour did not disclose was that a $50 million loss was inevitable if the corporation continued to the same path it was on when we took over in 2012,” Mr. Miller told reporters yesterday at a press conference held at BEC headquarters.
“Due to cost saving measures and other initiatives that earlier projection has been reduced to around $22 million. Inevitably, any loss to an entity where it operates as a monopoly means that something is going wrong and this can be directly attributed to the mismanagement under Neymour. This Executive Board is now trying to right the wrongs and hopefully improve the corporation’s financial footing.”
Mr. Miller said it seems Neymour is intent for the corporation to continue on the projected path he left in place in May 2012.
“Realising that our customers are still having difficulty paying their electricity bills we had to do something that would assist them while also improving the corporation’s liquidity,” he said.
“This is why BEC implemented this latest reconnection campaign. Firstly, unlike previous ones issued by the former administration, this one does not give customers inordinate timelines to repay outstanding balances. We’ve set affordable repayment terms that allow customers to pay off their debt to BEC as quickly as possible. We are looking at customers on an individual basis and those who can afford to pay more will and those we can’t we will work with them too.”
Mr. Miller also explained that the benefit to the corporation is that it does result in an overall savings as we are not pumping more and more money into servicing our bad debt.
“Therefore, I stand behind this latest campaign as we are already seeing improvements to our bottom line while also assisting those customers who are benefiting from the 10 per cent discount offered on their arrears more than 60 days overdue,” the BEC chairman said.
“We are also giving a two per cent discount to those who pay their bills on time each month.”
Another thing, Mr. Neymour criticised Mr. Miller for was the amount of money disconnectors are being paid.
“The 25 contract workers in New Providence presently employed with the corporation are paid between $480-$680 each per week for a total of between $12 and 17-thousand per week, not per month as stated in the article,” Mr. Miller told reporters.
“The figures quoted by Neymour in his statement to the media are completely inaccurate and is meant only to run from the idiotic decision to pay out so much money to just 11 people. How much money??? Over the course of one year, only 11 disconnectors made $704,595.50. The point I have continued to make with regard to the contract disconnectors in New Providence is that when I was appointed Chairman of BEC there were just 11 contract disconnectors who- on average- were taking home more than $5,000 each per month for disconnecting and reconnecting electricity.”
The BEC chairman said one particular disconnector was taking home almost $8,000 per month for a job requiring minimal training and no specialized skill set or advanced education.
“Realising the absurdity in continuing with this trend, we decided to revamp the scheme of payment per disconnection and reconnection and offer the disconnectors a flat fee of between $480 and $680 per week based on the number of disconnections and reconnections achieved,” Mr. Miller explained.
“We also hired 14 additional disconnectors. At this rate, the disconnectors are now taking home between $2,000 and $2,900 per month each rather than the more than $5,000 each of the 11 people took home monthly under the old scheme. We’ve realised a tremendous savings as a result of this simple adjustment to the pay scheme for these contract disconnectors.”
He also said that instead of that $704,595.50 paid to just 11 disconnectors in one year, the corporations have paid 25 disconnectors.
“Remember that’s more than double the amount we met employed- just $283,412 between October 2012 and April 2013,” the BEC chairman said.
“If we’d kept their scheme in place, we would have spent in the neighborhood of $609 thousand dollars for this same period. Even with 14 more disconnectors employed, we’re saving more than $325,000.”