By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation chairman Leslie Miller said one of the country’s hotels owes BEC as much as $10 million in unpaid light bills.
With the corporation on track to lose an estimated $22 million this year, Mr Miller also revealed a staggering 90 per cent of residential BEC customers are in arrears, totalling about $26 million.
In an effort to combat this, he said, BEC has launched an “aggressive” summer campaign where customers will be offered a discount if they pay off their arrears; and customers who stay up to date with their bills also will be rewarded with a discount.
“Of our roughly 65,000 to 70,000 residential customers, 90 per cent have arrears more than 90 days past due... The value of those arrears is in the neighbourhood of $26 million,” Mr Miller said.
For the month of June, those customers behind on their bills are encouraged to pay off their arrears and in exchange, will be given a 10 per cent discount that will be applied to the portion of their bill that is more than 60 days past due.
“We realise that we do have customers who are capable and do pay off their bill every month,” Mr Miller continued. “This campaign is also meant to reward those people.
“Any resident customer who pays their bill in its entirety and on time for the months of June, July, and August will be given a 2 per cent discount.”
The discount will be applied after the final payment is made, Mr Miller explained.
“Now bear in mind that some of the hotels – the major hotels in this country too – some of them are grossly negligent in paying their bills. One hotel in particular owes BEC almost $10 million,” he continued.
“In some of our family islands, they owe millions of dollars; and we’re coming down on them, because what we found with the hotel industry – and that sector’s a peculiar one – most of their billing is paid by the guests because there’s a guest charge – a fuel surcharge that they passed on to their customers.”
So there is “no reason” why hotels’ bills shouldn’t be up to date, Mr Miller said, naming Atlantis as a “model” customer who consistently pays its bills on time.
“What is amazing, Kernez – Atlantis, pays BEC on time every month. In fact, most months they would call and say, ‘Could you please come and pick up your cheque’ and that amount exceeds $1 million a month; $6 million a month Atlantis pays BEC. If it wasn’t for Atlantis, we’d really, really be in trouble.
“Now if we could get these other hotels who would wish to be an Atlantis to come up and pay their arrears, we’ll be in good shape – but that’s a story for another day. But they owe us a significant amount of money, many of them, and we intend to try to recoup our money.”
Mr Miller added: “The problem is, the minute we even mention that, ‘You have to pay your bill or we’re going to turn you off’, their cry to us is ‘Fine, we’ll send 100 Bahamians home’. Of course you know what we do then, we keep them on because we don’t want no Bahamians to be out of a job.”
Mr Miller wouldn’t name any of the hotels that owe money, only adding: “They know who they are.”