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One of the challenges that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is facing this year is an increase of customers, said Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour yesterday.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Neymour explained that although BEC has benefited from nearly 3,000 additional customers being serviced this year, the demand has increased the need for additional diesel fuel, which has increased costs.
According to Neymour, BEC has 106,000 customers.
He said that, "as a result of [this] we have a three cent increase (per kilowatt hour) in the fuel charge. There is no longer a fuel surcharge."
Neymour said in the middle of October that he did not anticipate a reduction in fuel charges due to the high price of oil at the time, despite BEC projecting a reduction weeks earlier.
On Monday, BEC Chairman Michael Moss said that customers can expect their fuel charge to increase for the month of November due to increases in oil costs.
Moss said customers can expect to pay about $0.26 per kilowatt hour for electricity consumed in November, which is a $0.03 increase over last month's fuel charge of about $0.23.
BEC officials expected a decrease in electricity bills due to an expected drop in fuel prices as has historically been the case around this time, and because of an increase in production at the Clifton Pier plant, Moss explained Monday.
However, while there has been increased production at the plant, fuel prices have increased.
Neymour said yesterday that, "Many customers would recognize as they go to the service stations that they would have seen a decrease in gasoline, but the price of the lower fuel products like diesel and heavy fuel oil have increased based upon international costs."
He pointed out that over the summer BEC had consumed considerable amounts of heavy fuel oil and diesel oil, which cost the corporation more.
"If one were to compare the prices this year versus last year, the cost of the heavy fuel oil has increased 50 percent, which is significant," he said, adding that, "fuel bills today are 50 percent more than last year but they are in fact 10 percent less than they were in 2008."
When asked if this increase will result in disconnections for many customers, Neymour said that may not happen.
"Because it's cooler now, customers are using less air conditioning so their consumption is expected to decrease," he said.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is unlikely to need the number of external consultants, upon whom it spent $10 million during its 2008 financial year, it currently hires, with "drastic change" needed to prevent already low employee accountability from "deteriorating further".
A report by the German firm, Fichtner, part of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded project to overhaul the energy sector in the Bahamas, warned that the lack of rules and policies for BEC employees to follow, coupled with the minimal risk of punishment for indiscipline and other infractions, was undermining the state-owned power monopoly.
High-profile speakers are gearing up to deliver unique energy solutions this coming weekend, with the Energy Efficiency Forum and Exhibition in Nassau promising to bring together more than 20 presenters and an equal number of exhibitions.
Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC) is perhaps one of the more well-known U.S. companies attending the forum.
Over the last couple of months, Guardian Business has reported two landmark deals for OTEC - the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, and a partnership with Baha Mar to deliver the mega-project's air conditioning.
Jeremy Feakins, the CEO of OTEC, will be sending the company's head engineer, Dr Stephen Oney, to Nassau to discuss what it can offer hotels and business in The Bahamas.
"We will be discussing sea water district cooling, how it is both environmentally friend and saves money," he explained.
"Were invited to discuss the concept. It uses up to 90 percent less electricity than conventional sources. Given a lot of hotels are close to the beach, there may be opportunities for some of these establishments to use it."
In line with OTEC's expansion plans, Feakins told Guardian Business that Oney is arriving in Nassau with an eye for more opportunities.
He pointed out that OTEC's plans to release its first initial public offering (IPO) in the new year is intended to raise capital to support it's global expansion. The funding for its current projects, he said, has already been established.
Another presenter at the conference is James Malcolm, the marketing director for Lindroth Development Company.
As the face of Schooner Bay, the rising multi-million-dollar community in Abaco, his presentation will address innovative ways to use the natural environment to achieve profitable and successful development.
Yesterday, Guardian Business revealed a new report detailing Schooner Bay's $332.8 million savings through its "ecological dividend", as coined by the top developer on the project, Orjan Lindroth.
The thrust of Malcolm's talk will be how to build in The Bahamas "without destroying the environment".
"They asked me to speak about green building technologies," he said.
"You can speak about it all day without scratching the surface. But basically I'll be talking about how to use ecology as it relates to development. I will highlight the importance of bringing in green techniques right at the beginning, at the planning and design stage."
Drawing on the Schooner Bay project as an example, Malcolm will review the history of the development and where it's going.
He will also draw on several intriguing specifics, such as the project's innovative use of geo-thermal air conditioning for homes and businesses. The system, pumping cold salt water from 400 feet underground, goes through a closed loop through houses.
When the water becomes warm, it is sent back underground.
Another new feature at Schooner is the natural cistern created by the development.
As The Bahamas continues to experience a great deal of rain over the past few days, the cistern, Malcolm said, has accumulated 9,000 gallons of rainwater.
The project intends on using this resource for agriculture and landscaping.
Malcolm and Oney will be on hand on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 at the Wyndham Nassau Resort, providing an opportunity for attendees to learn and meet specialists in the energy efficiency and substantiability field.
Nov. 4 will be tailored to business, whereas the next day focuses on residents and businesses.
The event is sponsored by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, the Bahamas Hotel Association and the Bahamas Home & Builders Show.
The Ministry of the Environment, the U.S. Embassy, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Bahamian Contractors Association are all taking part and lending support.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday warned the "the three hotels out west" to pay their outstanding electricity bills by the end of the week or face disconnection.
Miller said they collectively owe the corporation more than $30 million.
He said BEC is struggling with a fuel bill that exceeds $100 million.
Miller initially made his comments while a guest on the More FM radio show "Real Talk Live" with Ortland Bodie.
He repeated them in an interview with The Nassau Guardian, but did not specifically name the hotels.
When asked if Baha Mar is among those with delinquent accounts, Miller said, "All of them. All of the hotels out west".
Miller said BEC can no longer allow the hotels to remain delinquent.
"It is imperative that we now try and collect as much as we can from the major hotels in this country," he said.
"They owe us an enormous amount of money that we need to collect.
"Right now, we are in a very, very tight situation with our major [fuel] supplier.
"We owe them in excess of $100 million right now and we've got to come up with about $55 million to enable us to get our next supply of fuel.
"I am asking those major hotels, they know who they are, to assist us in getting these funds to enable us to defray the cost for the fuel.
"If not, we are going to be in serious trouble. We do not want to revert to getting funding, but we are in a tight situation right now.
"We are asking all of our customers to assist us as best they can, but the hotels are the ones that have some big money outstanding.
"It is time now that they come and sit with us and give us the checks that are necessary to enable us not to turn them off.
"If not, I think this week, we are not going to have any choice except to send the message that the woman in Bain Town and in the Grove is no different from the hotels.
"In fact, she should be given more preference than the major entities."
In June, The Nassau Guardian revealed that Miller and one of his family-owned businesses collectively owed BEC nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
After that revelation, one of Miller's relatives made a $100,000 cash payment on the account.
Despite his own failure to pay his bill, Miller has repeatedly threatened delinquent commercial consumers.
Miller said the hotel owners and management will run to the prime minister and deputy prime minister to reverse his decision if it comes to that, but BEC has to take action.
He said the corporation was drafting letters, requesting that the hotels meet with BEC officials and come to terms.
He said those letters were expected to be sent out yesterday.
"If we do not get a response, we will make a decision to terminate their services until they come in a deal with us," Miller said.
"I realize they are going to run to the government, the prime minister and the deputy prime minister, but I see them really as being no different from ordinary Bahamians, who are catching eternal hell in this country."
He said he understands some hotels are experiencing financial challenges.
But he insisted that those hotels must pay something and arrange a payment plan.
When contacted for comment, Robert "Sandy" Sands, senior vice president, administration and external affairs at Baha Mar, said the hotel does not discuss its internal affairs.
Pressed on whether Baha Mar has outstanding arrears with the corporation, Sands declined to comment.
Calls placed to officials at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort and SuperClubs Breezes were not returned up to press time.
It is unclear whether these hotels are among those that have significant arrears.
When pressed for specifics on the matter, Miller said, "All the hotels in this country owe us money, except for Atlantis.
"Atlantis is our best payer. Atlantis pays us in excess of $5 million per month, and I thank God for Atlantis," he said.
"They are the type of corporate citizen that is wanted and needed in this country. So is Rupert Roberts (Super Value owner).
"But the [other] hotels have become delinquent to the point where it is hurting the financial capability of BEC.
"When it gets to that point, you either sit with us, work it out and give us a check, or we will terminate the service."
Miller said BEC has no intention of requesting any funds from the government when it can collect on the more than $185 million in accounts receivables.
Miller has previously threatened to disconnect major hotels and large commercial consumers over their arrears.
It is unclear whether his latest threat will lead to disconnections.
Miller's renewed threat came a day after he announced the corporation is in the process of purchasing six new generators.
He did not say how much the generators will cost.
BEC has been plagued with a series of failed generators, forcing it to load shed this summer.
THE unions representing workers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation criticised the "lack of transparency" in the reform of the corporation and explained in a letter sent to Prime Minister Perry Christie that they have more questions than answers after a recent meeting with the KPMG advisors on the matter.
Five companies remain in the running to become a part of the overhaul of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), KPMG has confirmed, having been asked to make their final submissions to support their bids by the end of this month.
Providing an official update on the BEC reform process, which is now behind the initially anticipated schedule, Simon Townend, partner, KPMG (Bahamas), said that these remaining companies were invited shortly before Christmas to "clarify and expand upon certain key elements of their bids".
"Discussions were held with all of the bidders to inform them of next steps before Christmas," he said.
The update signifies that the field has yet to be significantly whittled down at this stage, either by attrition out of lack of willingness to proceed, or through selection by KPMG, DNV Kema (technical advisors) and Hogan Lovells (legal advisors).
In October, KPMG announced that six bidders had advanced to the next stage of the BEC request for proposal, having been asked to submit pricing proposals.
While there has been no official disclosure of those who were involved in the bidding process, Guardian Business understands that among those who were involved at this stage were the Malaysia-based Genting Group, the state-owned China State Construction and Engineering Corporation, Cayman-based Inter Energy, and U.S.-based PowerSecure, Caribbean Power Partners and Pike.
Townend said that a "competitive set of pricing proposals" were received on November 15, 2013, and these were evaluated by the three companies.
"Based on the evaluation the next phase of the process has been approved," he said yesterday.
While Townend did not confirm who submitted proposals, Guardian Business understands that Pike may have elected not to continue with the process. This could not be confirmed, but could explain the reduction of the field to five, as indicated by Townend.
Pike had been partnering with a Bahamian company, Northern Bahamas Utilities, based in Grand Bahama. If Pike has exited the process, this leaves PowerSecure as potentially the only company still in the running for the transmission and distribution-side contract.
Townend added that once final submissions are received and evaluated, final recommendations will be made to the government, and it is expected negotiations will commence.
According to initial tender documents, the government had been planning to select the winning bidders for the contracts by year-end 2013. Earlier in December, Guardian Business reported that there has been significant anxiety among bidders over a perceived lack of information forthcoming about the status of the selection process after pricing proposals were submitted and initially anticipated deadlines elapsed.
The government is hoping to bring private sector involvement into BEC in order to produce efficiencies that are intended to reduce the cost of power.
BEC will be split into a semi-privatized generation company, JVCO, that will sell power to its other half - the transmission and distribution entity (NewCo) - under a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). JVCO is intended to be, at least initially, majority government-owned.
NewCo will remain entirely government owned but will be operated under a 10-year management contract.
The company that takes over the management of NewCo will be required to bring in capital that can enhance the performance on the transmission and distribution side, while also refinancing BEC's debt without the support of a government guarantee.
By ALISON LOWE
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is seeking to negotiate a reduction in the length of time and cost of a contract it is soon to award for the installation of an upgraded 10.5 mile transmission line, which will allow the new Wilson City Power Plant to fully service Abaco's power needs, after the lowest bid came in at $4.6 million.
Expectations of when that key power line will be fully operation have now been pushed back from an initial mid-May completion, as suggested by Minister for the Environment, Earl Deveaux, in January, to an "end of June, early July" date, Tribune Business has been informed.
While no contrac ...
About half of Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) customers who signed up for the former administration's electricity reconnection and payment plan program ahead of the 2012 general election did not need to utilize it to the extent they did, and have ultimately had a negative impact on the power provider's bottom line, according to BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller.
Miller said the program, which was intended to provide relief and generate revenue from delinquent and returning customers, had the opposite effect because many households who could afford their bills, spread their payments out over the full length of the program.
More than 5,000 households that were without electricity had their supply restored after registering for the up to three-year plan which was launched on February 9 last year. Reconnection fees were also waived to the tune of $80,000.
"Persons in the upper income bracket latched onto that provision that the government offered and decided that, 'If I have a bill of $3,000 I will pay my bill over a three-year period'," Miller told reporters on Thursday.
"Now it was really intended for the less fortunate among us and those who really couldn't afford [it] - those mothers, who are out there struggling with their children, who work in the hotel, and who really could afford the added cost of electricity - it was meant for them.
"However, because it was straight across the board, all Bahamians took advantage of it to the detriment of BEC."
Miller added: "It was wide open, so the fellow who lives in Winton, the fellow who lives out West Bay Street, those who live in these gated communities...benefitted from it more probably than the small man did because he decided, 'If I have a bill of $5,000, what the hell? I'll just let it run over 36-months.' And that had a serious impact on BEC's cash flow."
Miller said management is in the process of restructuring that program, shifting those who can afford to pay more on a more "restricted program".
"Certainly someone in a high economic bracket should not get 36 months to pay, say a $10,000 bill or a $24,000 bill for that bracket," he said.
"...Those less fortunate may still go on the three-year plan or that may be really reconfigured for a 24-month period.
"Those who can afford to pay will probably go on a 12- to 18-month [payment] period to enable them to pay their bills at BEC."
Miller said BEC's receivables are in excess of $40 million.
Businesses and government agencies are reporting major losses as a result of rampant copper theft.
Super Value, the country's largest supermarket chain, has lost approximately $1 million over the last five years, according to its owner Rupert Roberts.
"Copper theft is a serious problem in the country. Within the last five years, I have easily spent $1 million in equipment replacement and down time. These thieves at different times have disabled most of our stores, Wulff Road, Baillou Hill Road, Golden Gates, Mackey Street, Robinson Road. Copper theft even delayed the opening of our Quality Markets location in South Beach by at least a month or two," he explained.
During a press conference yesterday, Roberts stressed that copper thieves have been disrupting businesses, homes and government agencies like the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and ZNS by ripping out equipment made of or containing copper.
He said copper theft over time has become a cost to both merchants and consumers, similar to payroll or rent.
While Roberts maintains he has never sent any staff member home as a result of copper theft, it is becoming increasingly difficult to absorb these losses.
"When thieves steal store equipment, it has the potential of closing the store for months, putting 40 to 50 employees out of work. Also, if the disruption is not caught in time, you can lose up to $250,000 worth of perishables for lack of refrigeration. When that happens, there is also the need to replace thousands of dollars of Freon, which they release into the environment when they cut or break the tubing," Roberts explained.
"We have never sent a member of staff home as a result of copper theft. We try to find other duties and not send people home in any circumstances no matter what happens to us. That never enters our mind to send them home. But if a store is completely disabled for three months, we would have to consider sending them home."
Leslie Miller, BEC's chairman, also confirmed that despite the corporation being outfitted with cameras, guard dogs and security officers, it continues to register major losses from cooper thieves.
"People cut wires from our plants on a weekly basis. They will take rolls of wire about six inches in diameter and just take as they please. You can't stop a thief; you can only slow them down," he said.
Miller, who also owns several businesses, including Mario's Bowling and Family Entertainment Palace, added that he has been a victim of copper theft on more than one occasion.
"This situation with copper theft has gone on for far too long. Just a few months ago, some partners and I decided we were going to open up the old Robin Hood location with a new name - Save Mart. We were getting the financing in place. One morning we arrived on site to get some people involved on the project and we found that every piece of copper was stolen. Air condition units were stolen as well. That replacement cost was in excess of $200,000 but they probably got less than $5,000 for the goods," he told reporters.
Other businesses like Bahamas Food Services (BFS) also reportedly lost thousands of dollars, when $85,000 worth of copper was stolen from a 20-foot container.
Miller and Roberts are calling on the government to implement a permanent ban on the exportation of copper.
"If we don't stop them from exporting copper, businesses are going to be closed down because it is affecting the ordinary lives of Bahamians that work in these enterprises," Miller said.
EDITOR, The Tribune.
I SHALL be obliged if you would publish this letter in the event that my "representa" -- Mr Brent Symonette -- is at the UN and not able to reach the BEC Minister.
Please forward my invitation, to whichever Minister has responsibility for Bahamas Electricity Corporation and ask him/her to stoop, just for a few moments, to the lowly level of the Bahamian populace who elected him/her, and just try to reach someone at this august public entity. By telephone I mean.
A few moments ago I e-mailed you to advise that the north end of San Souci has been without electricity since the little blow we had on Tuesday evening and it is still out this afternoo ...
When I saw the photos of the thick oil slick that washed up on Adelaide beach last week, I was not surprised in the slightest. The fact of the matter is that one or more of the industrial facilities at Clifton Pier have been leaking oil and other forms of pollution into the land and sea for years.
These spills and leaks have continued unimpeded and have not been properly investigated by the authorities. In my humble opinion, this failure on the part of our officials is not neglect or laziness, but rather the result of a fear that they will trace some or all of these leaks back to their own Bahamas Electricity Corporation plant.
While it is never good to see one of our beautiful Bahamian beaches saturated with toxic black sludge, I am almost happy this happened, as it will hopefully bring focused attention to this decades-old scandal that has been effectively shielded from the public view.
Many Bahamians still fish in Clifton Bay and feed their catch to their families or sell it to local restaurants. Oil pollution is highly toxic and can cause a host of very serious health problems. But as long as the slick continued to drift out to sea, though, there was no smoking gun and no reason to face up to facts.
Now, with the evidence literally washed up on our doorstep, we have a reason to force our government to finally investigate this travesty properly, identify the culprit or culprits and force them to clean up their act.
- A.M. Johnson
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation (BEC) should make around $5 million in net income for its just-closed 2011 financial year, its chairman yesterday saying the improvement on the less than-$1 million yield in 2010 showed it was headed towards recovery.
"I expect there to be a slight improvement in profitability over what we saw last year. I expect a profit to the order of $5 million," Michael Moss said.
"I don't have numbers yet to see if it's going to be in line with that expectation, but certainly I expect it to be more than $1 million. The road to recovery has started."
Mr Moss added: ...
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is in crisis. It has a quarter of a billion dollars in debt the government has to back, it may lose $50 million this year and it is unable to provide enough power to keep the lights on in the high-demand summer season.loyment problems.
After Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said last week the government is in the advanced stages of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) break-up deal, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney said yesterday the government now needs to reveal more details on the planned restructuring and the companies involved."This government is very quiet on it, very quiet as to whether or not it is being sold and whom it is being sold to," McCartney said."I just hope it is not reminiscent of what was being done with BTC (the Bahamas Telecommunications Company) prior to 2007 with Bluewater. You have to be very careful. I think they owe the country an explanation."...If it is being sold, who is it being sold to? We have a right to know. That is not their own. That is the Bahamian people's corporation. What is the price that it is being sold for and who are involved in the sale?"The former Christie administration considered selling 49 percent of BTC to Bluewater Ventures Limited, a company that the Free National Movement said had no experience in telecommunications.Ultimately, the Ingraham administration sold 51 percent of BTC to Cable & Wireless Communications in 2011, but there have been calls from observers and politicians alike for both deals to be independently investigated.Davis, whose portfolio includes BEC, said last week there are five companies that remain in the running to become part of the overhaul.He said the government will decide in a matter of weeks whether it will engage one or two companies to take over the power generation and transmission and distribution of BEC.McCartney said at this stage details regarding the BEC break-up deal are crucial if the government wants to be transparent."I want to know if foolishness is going on regarding BEC, point blank," he said. "These are the same people when they were in opposition spoke about the Freedom of Information Act."The FOIA was debated and passed under the Ingraham administration but has not been enforced."And now all they want to do is run away from it," McCartney said."That is one of the first things this government should have implemented."But they are not going to do it. Why? Because at the end of the day they do not want you to know everything, and that is the bottom line."While there has been no official disclosure, The Nassau Guardian understands that the bidders as of October 2013, included Malaysia-based Genting Group; China State Construction and Engineering Corporation; Cayman-based Inter Energy, U.S.-based PowerSecure, and Caribbean Power Partners.
Free National Movement Chairman Carl Bethel yesterday called the nearly quarter of a million dollar debt the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has with the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas(BCB) 'shameful'."I was flabbergasted to see the report indicating that a default judgment had been entered against the Progressive Liberal Party for nearly a quarter of a million dollars owed to the Broadcasting Corporation," said Bethel in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
"It's one thing for members to stand in Parliament and call for the government to have financial probity, and to pay the bills of the government and to manage the economy and to manage the nation's finances appropriately, but on the other hand for them to sit there and know that they owe a quarter of a million dollars, or roughly, to the public broadcasting corporation is absolutely shameful."
The Nassau Guardian reported yesterday that the judgment in default came after the PLP failed to enter an appearance in the matter.
According to invoices the corporation provided the court, the debt was racked up by various party branches, and also the party's national convention committee.
As reported yesterday, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts acknowledged the court matter and said the claim by the corporation arises from the party's last national convention.
"It would appear that the corporation is attempting to also collect from our party debts which were incurred by individuals without the knowledge or approval of the party, some of which we understand may date back to 1992," Roberts also said.
Bethel wondered what example of fiscal discipline the PLP could be sending to the Bahamian people by failing to settle the debt.
The BCB claims in court documents thatthe PLP paid the corporation $20,000 on May 15, 2007 with a view to making installment payments against its outstanding balance in due course.
However, the party never made further payments, according to a court document filed in August.
"Of course, we know that everybody can't afford to pay what they owe one time,"Bethel said.
"And it would be unreasonable sometimes to expect that. That is why you see the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, and [other entities] such as the Bahamas Telecommunications Company making settlement packages available for hard-pressed Bahamians in hard economic times.
"I am sure that had the Progressive Liberal Party indicated that they wished to have some facility, they could have gone into the Broadcasting Corporation at anytime, arranged the facility and discharged their obligation."
Bethel said a corporation is not going to sue unless it is confronted with a total failure of a customer to respond to an obligation.
The Nassau Guardian confirmed that the PLP's debt with ZNS is the largest owed by any single customer to the Broadcasting Corporation.
The FNM chairman said any responsible'government in waiting'should set the right example by paying outstanding debts to public corporations.
Roberts said on Wednesday that the party will move swiftly to have the judgment in default of appearance set aside.
"The party will thereafter move to bring closure on this matter," he said.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller and Super Value owner Rupert Roberts yesterday called on the government to place a permanent ban on the export of copper.
Miller said copper thieves have caused businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
"We must stop immediately the export of all copper from Commonwealth of The Bahamas," he said at a press conference at Super Value headquarters in Golden Gates.
"If the government doesn't do it many businesses are going to close down and Bahamians are going to lose their jobs.
"I guess if the government doesn't do anything about it then they are going to find jobs to replace those people who would have lost their jobs through theft.
"I don't think the prime minister and his Cabinet would wish to have that done. Therefore, you do the right thing by putting a ban on the export of copper. It's very simple, you know. Just do it."
Miller said any scrap metal dealer who buys stolen metal should be locked up.
In July 2011, the Ingraham administration placed a temporary ban on the scrap metal trade and a permanent ban on copper export in response to the rise in copper theft.
The former government later lifted the copper ban and amended the Customs Management Act to allow for copper exports under stringent conditions.
But Miller said more must be done to crack down on brazen copper thieves who repeatedly rob the same establishments and government agencies.
He urged government ministers not to be swayed by the pleas of scrap metal dealers.
Miller said BEC has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of copper and equipment due to repeated theft.
His family-owned business Mario's Entertainment Palace has also been robbed of copper, he said.
Roberts said his stores have lost almost $1 million in equipment and other costs associated with copper theft.
He said he has done what he could to prevent layoffs or permanent store closures because of repeated attacks from thieves.
"Copper thieves seem to have the government and the police on their knees and they seem helpless to do anything about it," Roberts said.
"Merchants feel that the police and the government are not listening to their cries for help. For the past five years copper thieves have been disrupting businesses, homes, government agencies -- especially BEC, BTC, ZNS and others -- by ripping out equipment made of or containing copper.
"Thieves at different times have disabled most of our stores. When thieves steal equipment, it has the potential of closing the store for months, putting 40 to 50 people out of work.
"Also, if the disruption is not caught in time you can lose up to half a million of perishables for lack of refrigeration.
"Also, you have to replace thousands of dollars of freon which they release into the environment when they cut or break the copper tubing."
Roberts said thieves have completely disabled the Super Value location on Wulff Road five times. The latest theft occurred last Wednesday.
He called on the government to join other countries in the region and permanently ban copper export.
Over the past 15 years, oil and other substances have seeped into the ocean in part due to discharged material at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) Clifton Pier Power Station, according to BEC Assistant General Manager Shevonn Cambridge.
Oil collecting into old disused trenches on the property has resulted in oil spilling into the sea on previous occasions.
"While BEC has spearheaded the efforts [of] maintaining and recovering the product that is out there, it has never really conclusively decided or discovered that it was all sourced from BEC," Cambridge said on Thursday.
"Basically they did some analysis of the product a number of years ago and actually found there were products that were in this product going out to sea that BEC doesn't even store or use."
He said the problem is monitored on a daily basis to immediately act in the event of any oil seeping from the facility to prevent it going out to sea.
The corporation is in discussions with another service provider to install more "permanent measures" to capture and retain any oil product that seeps from BEC's compound.
He said there are three alternatives being considered but none are inexpensive to undertake.
Asked about the environmental impact, Cambridge said several environmental impact studies have been completed and another is ongoing as the issue has come up once again.
He was unable to say how much oil has spilled over that period of time or within the last year.
"We want to establish a new [database] so we can compare that to the progression or reduction from the last set of tests that were done in that area," Cambridge said.
He insisted BEC has implemented an action plan to address the problem over the years, but incremental weather and the compound's structure contribute to the ongoing problem.
Environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr, who has been outspoken on the issue for some time, told those in attendance at a College of The Bahamas lecture last month that several reefs in the Clifton Pier area have been nearly destroyed by repeated oil spills from BEC's Clifton Pier plant.
There is a kind of madness taking grip in this country on certain matters relative to governance, the functioning of our institutions and the things we as Bahamians are asked to accept.
Nowhere has this been more on display in recent weeks than in the developments that flowed after The Nassau Guardian disclosed that Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller and his family-owned business owed the corporation $250,000.
Miller, of course, is not the only person who owes the corporation. There are also many businesses that owe substantial sums, we are told.
We revisit this matter this week because it is no doubt Miller's hope and that of the government that it will go away.
But it remains a matter deserving of attention.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, continue to remain silent after confirmation from BEC that its policy was violated when cashiers accepted a cash payment of more than $10,000 on the bill.
BEC's policy is that no cash payments are to be accepted over that amount.
Sources within the corporation confirmed that $100,000 was paid in cash.
This has not been denied by Miller or any government official.
Asked to confirm whether the payment was made in cash, the deputy prime minister told us, "I don't know how it was paid. I just know $100,000 was paid."
When we raised this matter again with Miller last week Sunday, he was annoyed that we were still pushing the point.
In a stunning statement to The Tribune, Miller said, "money is money".
The newspaper said Miller informed that he was also unaware of BEC's policy not to accept more than $10,000 cash because many "businesses have done it before".
"Money is money," he reportedly told The Tribune. "I didn't know what the policy was. If they came to my business and gave me money, paid me in cash, I would thank them again and again.
"Institutions in this country have done this before. These are petty things (that are) causing the Bahamian people to be sidetracked from what is really happening at the corporation and all the good that is being done.
"The people that are attacking me and my family are nameless, but I have a name and they are coming for me. I do not need them to like me, my record speaks for itself."
What Miller does not understand is questions relating to that $100,000 are legitimate questions.
This does not represent an attack on him or his family.
The implications of this matter being swept under the rug may be great.
It is not accepted business practice to deal in large sums of money, hence the BEC policy.
The chairman's statement that he did not know what the policy is, is startling.
The prime minister and the deputy prime minister should not accept this as an explanation.
And we the people should not accept the deputy prime minister's statement that he does not know how the money was paid.
It is the chairman's obligation to know the corporation's policies, and it is the DPM's obligation to look into the matter of this payment.
If we say we are serious about protecting the reputation of our jurisdiction, then we must at all times adhere to the highest international standards as they relate to financial transactions.
The world is watching. What signal is the government sending to the international community?
To be clear, we make no suggestions on the source of the $100,000 paid to BEC.
But we do question our disregard for standards relating to the handling of large sums of money.
This is not a petty matter.
We expected Leslie Miller to react in the manner in which he acted.
Miller is a well-liked politician who has endeared himself to the common man.
But he has attracted controversy during his years in public life and has created one embarrassing situation after the next for Christie.
At the start of the first Christie administration, Miller, who was then a minister, fueled a firestorm over firings at the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC).
He was later caught up in multiple other controversies.
We are reminded of a statement an American diplomat attributed to Prime Minister Christie in 2005.
"Some ministers, were brought into the Cabinet because of their qualifications; others, like Minister Miller, were included in an effort, at times unsuccessful, to keep an eye on what they're doing," Christie allegedly said.
We wonder now whether Christie, by his silence, is seeking to avoid a fall-out with Miller over that $100,000 cash payment, and the fact that the chairman owed the corporation so much money while demanding other businesses stay current.
We raise this issue again this week to say again that our general lack of adherence to standards and the prime minister and deputy prime minister's silence are appalling.
DISRUPTIONS to power supply, which affected several areas of New Providence yesterday, was not the result of load shedding expected during summer months.
In a press statement, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) also advised that scheduled repairs to several generators at the Clifton Pier Power Station will be completed ahead of the summer in an effort to meet demand.
The corporation said that the short term interruptions between 10am and 1pm were an "unforeseen generation shortfall" after a larger generator was taken offline for maintenance.
The statement read: "There was sufficient capacity to sustain operations until the generator returned to service. Unfortunately, tw ...
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash said yesterday that Prime Minister Perry Christie should be the last person to talk about climate change or the environment.
Cash was responding to Christie's recent climate change address before the United Nations (UN) in New York.
"We give him credit for that symbolic gesture; it was a step forward; the words sounded great on the world stage," Cash said in a statement.
"However, here at home, the prime minister's actions or in this case, inactions, speak louder than words."
Cash pointed to environmental concerns raised during the dredging related to Resorts World Bimini's Superfast ferry.
"On top of this, the sustained fires at the public dump and the related school closures and health problems point to a government asleep at the switch or intentionally turning a blind eye to environmental destruction," he said.
"These blemishes on the Christie record were noticeably absent from the UN speech."
During his speech, Christie called on the leaders of developed countries to honor their commitment to provide $100 billion yearly to combat climate change, adding that The Bahamas expects its "fair share".
Christie also called for the acceleration of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) so that funds can be disbursed by next year. The GCF is a mechanism that is used to transfer money from the developed world to the underdeveloped world.
Cash said Christie's ineffectiveness in ensuring order and focus in regards to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) long-term mission and structure, diminishes his credibility on energy reform and environmental matters.
Cash added that the government's "lackadaisical response to the recent spate of major oil leaks sends a clear message of lack of seriousness".
A significant amount of oil washed onto Adelaide Beach on September 11.
Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin has said the ministry suspects the oil may have been discharged from a tanker that was out to sea. She said a team from the Department of Environmental Health quickly responded to the spill to ascertain its impact on the environment.
Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Bradley Roberts said yesterday the claim that the PLP mismanaged the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is nothing but propaganda.
Roberts said it is the Free National Movement (FNM) government that is mismanaging BEC.
On Monday, Chairman of BEC Michael Moss said in a statement that the PLP mismanaged the corporation during the years it was in office. He provided a summary of a 2006 financial report which showed BEC's finances were troubled.
Moss said that he was responding to repeated claims by Roberts that the corporation's finances were sound under the Christie administration.
Roberts said Earl Deveaux and Phenton Neymour (the ministers with responsibility for BEC) "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 customs duty and stamp tax on BEC oil imports which the corporation was unable to bear as a result of the sharp spike in oil."
He said this is the major reason BEC finds itself "with one foot on the banana peel and the other in the proverbial grave."
Roberts said, "After realizing the seriousness of their folly, the Free National Movement set out on a plan to lay the blame of the serious damage caused by their own failure to pass on the cost of the sharp increase in oil prices, with the shameless bogus claim that the reduction in rates in 2003 was the reason."
Roberts said that in 2003 both the FNM and PLP were on one accord regarding the rate reductions at BEC.
He said the FNM government engaged a number of consultants to justify blaming the 2003 rate reduction for BEC's financial woes.
"These reports and the associated cost were never tabled in the House of Assembly despite repeated requests by the Official Opposition," he said.
But Moss gave other reasons for BEC's troubles.
He said, "The ill-advised and ill-conceived rate reduction imposed on BEC under the watch of the PLP chairman set BEC squarely onto a progressively deteriorating financial spiral."
Moss said Monday that the rate increase introduced in 2010, that restored BEC's tariff to about the same position it was 18 years ago, has stopped the massive hemorrhaging at BEC.
But Roberts said, "The FNM's record of massive mismanagement of BEC has manifested itself with the constant blackouts during the past three summers resulting in damage to consumers' appliances and equipment.
"As a result of mismanagement, the FNM imposed higher electricity rates on the backs of struggling Bahamians."
As the government enters into "financial negotiations" with a shortlist of bidders in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) restructuring, the presidents of the corporation's unions have again decried the "lack of transparency" involved in the process.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Perry Christie, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard and Bahamas Electrical Utilities Managerial Union (BEUMU) President Clinton Minnis lamented the unions' lack of participation in the process.
"Again, we repeat that we are an integral part to this process and its eventual success now and in the future," the letter said.
The unions said they had a meeting with government advisors KPMG (Bahamas) and a financial advisor.
Though they did not say when the meeting took place, they said, "Sadly, we left this meeting with more concerns, uncertainty and less clarity of the process than before."
The letter, dated September 12, was copied to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Chairman Robert Myers and Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson.
Last August, Christie revealed the government's plans to engage private companies to offer power generation for BEC and gain a management contract to take over transmission, distribution and customer billing.
At the time, the government proposed a timeline for reform, which would see private companies launch their operations by May 2014.
Two weeks ago, KPMG (Bahamas), which is overseeing the process, announced the government will no longer split the corporation into two entities, but will create one new company, which will be owned by BEC.
KPMG also said the deadline to conclude the deal is November.
However, it remains unclear whether the government has selected a preferred bidder.
The BCCEC, the official opposition and the Democratic National Alliance have also criticized the government over what they have called a lack of transparency and repeated delays.
The union leaders requested that the prime minister respond to 10 separate points raised regarding the request for proposals (RFP) process.
Among these, were requests for all proposals submitted by the bidders and the relevant technical and pricing submissions to provided.
The union leaders also requested that the government provide the preliminary and final evaluation of those bids, matters relating to staffing plans and the need for work permits, and plans related to the legacy debt and its effect on the final cost of electricity.
"Once union leaders have received complete responses to the above and are comfortable that they can inform members that they are satisfied that the evaluation and selection process was fair and transparent, the selection of the preferred bidder/bidders can be concluded," the letter said.
"However, we are confident that the minister of works and urban development (Davis) will arrange information related to the RFP bid evaluation process to be shared with the union leaders to enable them to give a favorable report to union members.
"Finally, we wish to repeat that we fully support you, and the deputy prime minister in this process, as long as we feel satisfied that the eventual privatization of BEC and the attendant benefits that will accrue to all employees and the Bahamian people."
The government has yet to officially announce the companies involved, although it has confirmed that China State Construction and Engineering Corporation is among the bidders.
The reliability and cost of electricity generation in The Bahamas is vital to the local economy and, in our view, a matter of national importance. It is for that reason that we feel compelled, from time to time, to express a point of view on any policy changes which might adversely affect the economy, no matter how well-intended those changes may be.
The proposed energy reform process, specifically, the legacy debt that surrounds Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), has been a topic of much discussion lately. It is our considered opinion that there are at least two important points that are in need of further in-depth and objective analysis before proceeding any further. The first is the reported suggestion by the prime minister of deferring a decision on BEC until late December 2014 in order to give more time to address the legacy debt issue. The second and closely related issue is the recommendations by Simon Townsend, spokesman for the financial advisors, KPMG, for tackling the legacy debt. Townsend and KPMG are apparently in favor of having BEC issue a rate reduction bond which, in their view, should receive a positive reception in the capital markets, including any banking institutions that would be interested in investing in the bond.
In that regard, we are strongly of the opinion that it would be a grave mistake to take the approach of dealing with the legacy debt of BEC before dealing with the fundamental issue of power generation. In other words, it is a heroic and unrealistic assumption to believe that over $450 million of BEC's debt can be repackaged at better rates in today's market, given some of BEC's current challenges, such as:
o The electricity rates that are regarded as too high by households and businesses resulting in non-payment of electricity bills and an extraordinarily large accounts receivable at the corporation.
o BEC's technical and financial performance over the past several years has brought the company close to the point of bankruptcy and the type of strong revenue performance necessary to pay the legacy debt is not currently possible in BEC's present state.
o Potential lenders in the capital markets would most certainly take into account the less-than-stellar performances on the technical and financial sides and accordingly be wary of the risks associated with new debt offerings by BEC, especially when coupled with no new proven savings to the customers.
Matters to consider on the legacy debt issue
1. Under the new proposal, BEC/government would be attempting to raise the cost of power by 2.5 to four cents per KWH to pay for the legacy debt even before developing and implementing a plan to deal with power generation. It is unlikely that people who aren't paying their bills now would begin to pay at higher prices and also having to factor in the VAT when that becomes operational.
2. The legacy debt is likely to be set up in a non-standard revenue bond, which means it will be paid on a priority basis with no provisions for deferred payments. Those payments to the bond investors are pulled from the general revenue account even before BEC gets paid. When you factor in declining revenues due to fewer people paying and then to deduct this debt payment, it means that there is even less money available for subsidizing BEC. Any attempt by the government to increase the subsidy would adversely affect its fiscal position and place it at odds with the international financial agencies.
3. Despite the suggestion by KPMG, the financial advisors, that there is an appetite for BEC's proposed bond issue, it is more likely that the investors buying the debt in the capital markets are going to look at the issues outlined above and against the background of BEC's historically poor performances. Investors will either not buy the bonds or demand higher rates of interest. The capital markets are efficient; investors will demand a premium (via higher interest rates) for the risk of investing in a BEC bond.
In our experience, it is not unusual for some loan arrangers or financial advisors to be less than frank with a potential client in order to secure the services contract. Quite often, there are promises of very attractive terms and interest rates and then, at the last minute, the arranger informs the client that the market is not reacting the way they thought it would and the interest rate needs to go up and the term needs to be shortened. At that point the client, which would be BEC and the government, would have too much time, money and political capital invested to back out.
The recommended way forward to structure a legacy debt model
1. Firstly, there must be a demonstration that the corporation will make the necessary changes to effect efficient management and to ensure that its financial and operational performance going forward would be both successful and reliable.
2. Secondly, after improving operations, demonstrate concretely that costs will come down sufficiently to ensure a significant discount to the ratepayer, even after the cost of the legacy debt is added to the bill.
3. Thirdly, demonstrate that any technical improvements, including the acquisition of new equipment, will be configured in such a way that will ensure the long-term, continued success of BEC's operation and commitment to energy reform.
In summary, the proposal to deal with the legacy debt before fundamental restructuring at both the managerial and technical levels at BEC is a high-risk proposition that is likely to fail. Although some reference to the success of the Nassau Airport Development (NAD) model was alluded to, we offer a word of caution. The BEC proposal is much different from the NAD model in the way new revenue streams are applied. Under the NAD model the passenger facility charge is used primarily for debt repayment. Passengers must pay the bill in advance when they buy their tickets and the ticket price is competitive with regional airports. Rate charges at BEC are already beyond that charged by regional counterparts. A successful restructuring at BEC must include lower charges to consumers, improved efficiency and a clear path to profitability.
o CFAL is a leading independent investment and advisory firm based in The Bahamas with a long and proven record of stability and integrity across all economic climates. Its experienced team of advisors provides sound, informed and innovative financial planning solutions for institutions and individuals, including a full range of financial services that include investment management, pension management and administration, brokerage services and corporate advisory services.
The salaries of more than 100 middle mangers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) were cut on Monday for their participation in three days of sick-out between February and March. Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU) President Ervin Dean said yesterday that the union has already written a letter to BEC’s General Manager Kevin Basden requesting that the money be refunded immediately.
“BEC cut our pay for three days for which we called in sick for a day in February and two days in March,” he said.
“The problem we have with that is that BEC owes us about $3 million for our industrial agreement, which has [been] expired for more than th ...
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is expecting to slash its per annum loss from $30 million in 2009 to between $5-$10 million for the recently completed financial year to end-September 2010, its chairman has told Tribune Business, before returning to profitability in 2011.
Michael Moss told this newspaper that while the 100 per cent state-owned Corporation was "not out of the woods yet", it was expected to turn a small profit in its 2011 financial year, aided by the $24 million revenue increase generated by a combination of the tariff rate rise and the Government paying for street lighting.
The third key component of BEC's turnar ...
By KRYSTEL ROLLE
Guardian Staff Reporter
After allegedly working for more than three years without an industrial agreement or receiving any pay increments, the Bahamas Electricity Utility Managerial Union(BEUMU)is considering taking industrial action, its president Ervin Dean warned yesterday.
Members of the BEUMU met Thursday afternoon to determine what course of action to take, and Dean said the union had determined that the only way to get the attention of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation(BEC)executive management team is to take action.
Dean said initially the union decided that it would be patient considering the corporation's poor financial state and the difficult ...
A new $13.8 million shopping plaza just outside of Marsh Harbour has created around 75 construction jobs and promises to generate many more by its opening in November.
The Central Pines Shopping Centre & Business Complex, owned by the Teachers and Salaried Workers Co-operative Credit Union Limited, is now leasing out up to 20 spaces in the facility. The 50,000-square-foot plaza consists of five interconnected buildings, a stand-alone bank and an office complex.
Ashley Glinton, the president of Woslee Construction, said the Central Pines area is growing rapidly and should be a center of robust economic development in the coming years.
"Abaco is growing very fast and I think this will certainly help the community grow. We just finished the government complex right near by," he told Guardian Business. "We are up to around 75 workers and I can say they are nearly 100 percent from Abaco."
Glinton added that Woslee is placing the roof on the complex and it's on schedule for the November opening. It is the largest project for Woslee on the island.
Anthony Rolle, the building manager at Central Pines, told Guardian Business yesterday that the search is on for tenants.
The complex will include a supermarket, movie theater, pharmacy, dental office, doctor's office, shoe store, clothing stores, fast food restaurants, liquor store and outlets for paying bills from Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Water and Sewerage or Cable Bahamas.
"We have a list of names, and if they all come through then we will be fully rented. I will be looking at taking deposits to ensure their commitment going forward," according to Rolle.
The building manager agreed that the new plaza is well positioned to take advantage of community growth. In addition to the government complex, he said that a high school and primary schools are also "not too far away".
He said the township is only a two- or three-minute drive from Marsh Harbour proper.
While Rolle was reluctant to assign any specific employment figures to the development, space for at least twenty businesses, including a supermarket, could easily equate to well over 100 jobs.
"It really depends on the tenants and how many employees they would hire. We are seeking three major anchors - a food store, fast-food restaurant and hardware store," he explained.
Marsh Harbour has been the source of increasing investment in recent years. The new Leonard M. Thompson International Airport has been under construction for several years after the original contract was signed under the previous administration.
Since then, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has expressed concern on the length of the runway and the quality of construction. The new international airport is reputedly due to have a grand opening, however, sometime this summer.
The government recently stated that Marsh Harbour is the third busiest travel hub in the country.
Guardian Business understands a new hospital is also under construction and should open in 2014.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has indicated that he is minded to offer shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to the general public and added that the government has no interest in having managerial control of BTC.
"The way of the future really is that we have to, like the Bank of The Bahamas, involve more Bahamians in the ownership of these entities, and so from my point of view, without prejudging the government, the answer is yes to that question," said Christie when asked if he would ever offer shares in BTC to Bahamians.
Upon coming to office in 2012, Christie announced that his administration was shelving the Ingraham government's plan to offer nine percent of BTC shares to Bahamians.
While Christie indicated in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian that the government would likely eventually sell shares, he made it clear that the focus at this time is concluding the deal with Cable & Wireless Communications for majority control of BTC.
The Cabinet will today discuss the final details of the deal, according to the prime minister, who again expressed optimism in the outcome of the effort.
Christie said it was never his intention for the government to have managerial control of BTC.
"The reason why I have put the airport under management is because I accept the efficiencies that private managers bring, and so I want Bahamasair, I want BEC, I want the water corporation, I want to be able to infuse private management into some of these because we're losing money and I want to be able to broaden ownership and the risk and the responsibility," he said.
"So no. From my purposes, that was never an issue when we were talking about owning 51 percent and intending to sell in our first term. We always knew that it would be private management that would be the order of the day.
The prime minister said from his point of view, the deal to acquire a majority interest in BTC is "complete". But he said, "When we announce this, I want to do it knowing that the government has agreed."
Christie added, "From the point of view of the government of The Bahamas, the government of The Bahamas must actually see the dots and the crossed Ts -- in other words, the literal agreement or memorandum of understanding itself.
"From my point of view, from the point of view of the committee I have appointed, we have completed that. I think the country will have a very interesting set of propositions that will be put to them.
"And to those people who told me don't waste my time, they will have, I think, a surprising outcome to this whole affair."
Christie also told The Nassau Guardian that the deal to restructure the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is "nearing its final stages".
KPMG is one of the government's advisors for the breakup of BEC and was expected to make recommendations to the government about the preferred bidders that propose to take over the corporation's management and power generation.
The company also advised the Ingraham administration before it sold BTC to Cable & Wireless Communications.
Asked why his administration, which was highly critical of the BTC deal, decided to use KPMG as its advisor for the BEC deal, Christie said, "I thought in the process they would be the best of the people available to us to take this deal to the conclusion we would like to see.
"The Ministry of Finance was using them on other matters, like for example, the Ministry of Finance had used them to examine subsidies to hotels and the tourism industry, and so it was a natural fit for us we thought since they had been through the learning experience of BTC, for us to use them for BEC, and it has proven to be so."