By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The DNA’s leader yesterday urged the Government to disclose the identities of all shareholders in New Providence’s private sector landfill manager, and provide details of the contractual agreement reached between the two sides.
Branville McCartney, in particular, called upon the Christie administration to reveal whether any government officials or prominent persons connected to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had “direct or indirect” equity interests in Renew Bahamas.
Speaking to this newspaper from Honduras, Mr McCartney also blasted last week’s ‘explanation’ given by Renward Wells, the former Ministry of Works parliamentary secretary, for why he signed the controversial ‘Letter of Intent’ with Stellar Energy for a $650 million waste-to-energy plant at the landfill.
Mr Wells said he signed the LOI to ensure Stellar would have access to the landfill to conduct studies critical to determining the viability of its proposal.
Yet Mr McCartney questioned why such a big “uproar” had surrounded the LOI, and why Mr Wells and the Government had previously been unable to explain why he signed it, given the Bamboo Town MP’s seemingly straightforward motivations and the fact it was non-binding.
The DNA leader again suggested that the LOI controversy had stemmed from an internal battle within the PLP, and Christie administration, among high-level figures over what was the best solution for New Providence’s landfill.
“We do have questions as to the ownership of Renew Bahamas,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business, focusing on the landfill’s manager. “We in the DNA have a very serious question as to the ownership of Renew Bahamas.
“Can this government confirm whether or not any government official or person connected to the governing party, directly or indirectly, has an interest in Renew Bahamas?”
Mr McCartney called no names, but said disclosure of all Renew Bahamas’ equity shareholders should be a simple matter for a government adhering to good governance principles - transparency and accountability.
Tribune Business revealed last March that Renew Bahamas was a 60 per cent majority foreign-owned company, with the now-former chairman of the British Colonial Hilton among its directors.
Documents seen by Tribune Business showed that Renew Bahamas was formed and incorporated just months after the Christie administration’s May 2012 general election victory.
It was formed on July 16, 2012, and registered on September 13, 2012, by Davis & Company, the law firm of Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, which became its initial registered office.
The attorney who registered Renew Bahamas as a domestic company was Philip McKenzie, current managing partner at Davis & Co, but there is nothing to suggest the Deputy Prime Minister had any involvement in this, nor that he has any financial interest in the company.
The paper trail seen by Tribune Business showed that Renew Bahamas switched its registered office from Davis & Co to the McKinney, Turner & Company law firm on February 6, 2013.
The Companies Registry files at the time listed two directors, Een Colebrooke, who appears to be a Bahamian, and Mr Beukes, who has just presided over the British Colonial Hilton’ sale to China State Construction.
Via his role with London-based Aubaine Capital, a boutique investment/finance house, Mr Beukes has connections with activities and investments in the renewable energy world.
Mr McCartney, meanwhile, called on the Government to also publicly reveal “the essence of the contract” between the Government and Renew Bahamas for the landfill’s management.
Central Grand Bahama MP, Neko Grant, tabled a written question on Wednesday asking the Government to produce the same written agreement, as political pressure over the landfill ‘heats up’ once again following the recent fires.
And Mr McCartney added: “We want to know if any monies were paid out by the Bahamian people as the contract with Renew Bahamas came to light.”
The Government and Renew Bahamas have entered into a recycled products manufacturing joint venture at the landfill, which is projected to earn $5 million per annum for the Treasury.
However, the Renew Bahamas deal has come under fire previously for a lack of transparency, with local waste providers arguing that they were never given a fair chance to bid for the business. Further questions, as yet unanswered, surround why the Government did not put the landfill management contract out to public tender, and see if there were better bids for such an important public asset.
As for Mr Wells’s LOI comments last week, Mr McCartney agreed with other observers that it was “no explanation at all”.
He said: “If that was an explanation, why did he get fired for that?” the DNA leader told Tribune Business.
“If that was his explanation, why would there be such an uproar, and why did he not indicate that from the beginning?”
Arguing that a “cover up” continued to shroud the Stellar LOI, Mr McCartney said the Christie administration “has demonstrated again how this government is expert in not being transparent and not being accountable to the Bahamian people”.
And he accused Mr Wells of “taking the Bahamian people for fools” with his account in the House of Assembly,
Tribune Business inquiries have suggested that Mr Wells ‘fell in love’ with the Stellar project, given that a waste-to-energy plant using similar technology was proposed in the National Energy Task Force’s report - a body that he headed.
Jean-Paul Michelsen, Stellar’s chief operating officer, previously told Tribune Business that the company had numerous meetings with Mr Wells, who grasped the technology from the get-go.
And Mr Michelsen also said he was unaware that Stellar had signed an LOI until he read about it in the media.
Mr McCartney, whose Halsbury Chambers law firm incorporated one of the Stellar entities, yesterday reiterated his belief that the project - and Mr Wells - had fallen victim to an internal government power struggle over the best solution for the landfill.
“There’s no reason why it should have taken months and months and months for the Prime Minister to call for his resignation and investigate it,” Mr McCartney said.
He called on the Government to publish the results of that investigation, given that it had confirmed it was complete.