By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER FNM minister Phenton Neymour yesterday called for the removal of Bahamas Electricity Corporation chairman Leslie Miller amid calls for greater transparency into the restructuring process at the company.
Mr Neymour, former Minister of State for the Environment with responsibility for BEC, charged that there should be full disclosure on energy reform before the government engaged bidders for privatisation.
He said the Christie-led administration’s mismanagement has jeopardised both the economy and standard of living, adding that poor relations between workers and the corporation’s board impacted staff morale and productivity.
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said: “We don’t feel that (workers) would do anything to jeopardise themselves but at the same time, they must be comfortable in their environment so as to increase performance.”
Mr Neymour added: “We cannot condone government officials cursing out employees. No government or quasi-government employee in a modern Bahamas should be publicly humiliated and slandered in this manner. The government should seek to ensure there is not an adversarial relationship between its board and employees.”
While the FNM supported privatisation, Mr Neymour said his party took great exception to the way the exercise was being conducted. “We need to know who are the shortlisted bidders, how were they shortlisted and what standards are being used. What are the contentious items that would have caused a delay over the last seven months? We are also opposed to the methodology and the sequence of activities of the privatisation selection process, in relation to the PLP’s energy reform needs at this particular time.”
Mr Neymour called for an overhaul of the existing electricity legislation, which he said was more than 60 years old and obsolete given the current pace of development and available technologies.
He suggested that energy reform be first with revising the legislation with a focus on efficient energy production and renewable energy.
Bahamians should be allowed to disconnect from BEC and produce their own electricity, he said.
Mr Neymour said: “We also believe that BEC should cease being the provider of energy and the regulator. We believe that is a direct conflict and we should cease doing that. BEC rates and issues concerning damage to equipment should be overseen by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority.
“We feel that the sale of BEC’s power generation should not be offered to one foreign entity as it is not in the best interest of the Bahamian people. Why can’t we use already established formula that the FNM put in place at the Water and Sewerage Corporation? We now have private entities producing water because we have broken down the country into geographic zones.
He added: “We can do the same thing, break up the pie and allow for Bahamian participation and Bahamian ownership.”
Mr Neymour said the last audited statements under the former administration showed the corporation to be “breaking even”, adding it was now on the brink of a blackout due to its inability to pay for fuel.
Yesterday, Mr Miller confirmed that BEC’s accounts receivable was around $187m, with $30m owed by the government. He said that the current fuel bill was $120m.
Mr Neymour said: “In less than a year, Baha Mar is scheduled to come on stream. If BEC can’t keep the country’s lights on, what are BEC’s plans to supply them with power?”
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