By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BUSINESSMAN Dionisio D’Aguilar asserted that Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd will continue to fail in providing consumers with reliable service so long as its money is “pissed” away, while insisting the company should make a concerted effort to shift all customers to prepaid metering with a view to improving BPL’s cash generation.
He further suggested that the Christie administration “trumped” up what PowerSecure could do for the former Bahamas Electricity Corporation and neglected to realise none of what was promised could be achieved without money.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Mr D’Aguilar said he believes the company has suffered under consecutive governments.
These administrations, he said, have squandered the electricity provider’s money placing it in a position where it is unable to borrow money or afford the much-needed upgrades, which are required to improve the quality of service to Bahamians.
“What has happened is that they have run the company as a social welfare department with a lot of people not paying their bills including the government,” the Superwash Laundromat CEO said yesterday when he was contacted. “They thought somehow that miraculously this company (PowerSecure) would be able to put aside funds to upgrade and expand its generating capacity.
“But what has happened is that BPL is financially bankrupt. It doesn’t have a penny. It cannot borrow, it’s got a flawed business plan and many people do not pay their bills, including the government. If you’re not generating cash how can you possibly expect a company to upgrade or replace its equipment or expand its equipment when it should do it? So this is a classic example of the government of The Bahamas running a public corporation into the ground.”
He continued: “You cannot run a company without cash. How do you expect this company to repair, replace and increase its generating capacity without cash? So it needs cash. Cash will solve this problem.
“Also with the business model that we have now where people use power then get billed for it and then decide whether or not they are going to pay for it is a flawed business plan. You must shift all of your customers to a prepaid environment to improve your cash flow so that you can then begin to generate the sufficient cash in order to replace, repair, improve and increase your generating capacity.
“BPL is just flawed and until they correct the business model and it starts to generate cash and the cash isn’t being pissed away on hiring political cronies and striking deals with politically connected people it will never become better.”
On Tuesday night, irate residents throughout New Providence were left in darkness after a “damaged underground cable” caused an island-wide power outage, according to BPL.
Customers were also warned on Wednesday that they may experience “intermittent challenges with their power supply until operations have stabilised.”
BPL Corporate Communications Manager Arnette Ingraham said the company was working on locating the damaged cable and once repairs were complete “services should return to normal”.
On Tuesday night, BPL executives did not offer an explanation for the two-hour blackout, but said in a statement on Facebook that the company experienced a “system-wide shut down in New Providence” shortly after 10pm. Around midnight, BPL said power was being restored to communities.
But despite the overnight restoration, customers began experiencing outages early Wednesday morning and the island suffered another blackout shortly after 1pm, with repeated interruptions throughout the day.
Fingers were again pointed at old and obsolete equipment and an obstructive board as latest wave of blackouts brought renewed frustration for consumers.
Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President (BEWU) Paul Maynard said the company has had replacement cables for two years but the old cables have not been replaced because no one has been given the contract.
Senior Bahamian management sources have expressed sympathy for BPL and its manager PowerSecure, saying they were “taking all the heat for all that is going wrong now.” The source said the historic non-maintenance of lines and equipment which has been requested for months but not approved by the old BEC board had left them with their “hands tied”.
PowerSecure, an American company, took over management of BEC earlier this year. The company was later renamed BPL.