By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
OFFICIALS remained tight-lipped over the government’s decision on the restructuring of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation yesterday.
A public announcement on the chosen bids could be revealed today, according to Simon Townend, KPMG (Bahamas) partner and head of its corporate finance arm in the Caribbean.
Mr Townend said he could not confirm whether the government has decided to split the electricity corporation’s generation, transmission and distribution services.
At the time of the interview, Mr Townend said bidders had not yet been contacted on the decision.
According to sources, a final decision was reached on the matter Wednesday and union leaders are expected to meet with KPMG on Monday.
Last August, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the government’s plans to effectively split BEC in two, by allowing one company to run the transmission, distribution and customer billing, while another company would offer power generation.
The government was initially supposed to select BEC’s preferred bidders by November 1 last year.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis confirmed to The Tribune earlier this month that a deadline had been set for August 30.
Remaining bidders include four focusing on the generation side and just one on transmission and distribution, Carolina-based Power Secure, according to Tribune Business. Generation bidders include the Caribbean Power Partners consortium, featuring Fluor Corporation and ProEnergy Services, and Cayman-based Inter-Energy. The remaining bidders are thought to include Genting and other Asian energy players.
The process leading up to the government’s decision over BEC’s part-privatisation, and wider energy reform, has been highly criticised by the opposition, and the business community.
In June, Robert Myers, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (CCEC) chairman, told Tribune Business that he and other executives had urged Mr Davis “to get on with it as fast as possible”.
Energy reform is a key part of the Chamber’s Coalition for Responsible Taxation fiscal reform package, and a successful outcome to the BEC restructuring process would be “a game changer” for the Bahamian economy and wider society, according to Mr Myers.
Last month, former Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour called on the government to immediately “stop and annul” the process amid allegations that one of the bidders was “given an unfair advantage.”
Mr Neymour questioned why the government would invite Power Secure to determine the cause of a recent island-wide blackout knowing that the company is a bidder on the management contract for the BEC’s transmission and distribution segments.
He described the hiring as a “knee-jerk” reaction by the government to a major problem that is now brewing at BEC.