By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government has given private sector groups just eight days to submit bids to takeover the New Providence landfill’s management and remediation, a deadline that was yesterday described as “silly” and “ridiculous”.
A Ministry of Finance advertisement placed in yesterday’s newspapers, but dated April 12, said all bids have to be submitted by 4pm next Wednesday. The proposals will then be opened, in the presence of all bidders, the following day.
No one in the Bahamian waste management industry yesterday wanted to speak publicly about the Government’s bid deadline, which makes it almost impossible for bidders to conduct proper due diligence on the New Providence landfill’s current condition following the recent massive blaze.
Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment, did not respond to Tribune Business e-mails seeking comment last night, but several sources said the timelines immediately raised questions over whether the Government already has a group in mind to take over the landfill.
“They’ve sent it out late,” one source said, questioning whether the formal Request for Proposal (RFP) and tender process was merely ‘going through the motions. “It probably means they’ve already got someone in mind.”
However, another contact, also speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that the tight timeline reflected the Government’s eagerness to ensure it can say positive reforms are happening at the landfill, given the May 10 general election and Baha Mar opening.
“I think they need to meet these deadlines and get things done,” the source said. “I think that’s what’s going on.”
Tribune Business understands that interested parties and persons in the Bahamian waste management industry were informed that the landfill RFP was ready for collection just as they were all heading off for the Easter holiday weekend.
“They couldn’t have announced it at a more ridiculous time, because it’s such a long holiday,” one source said. “Everybody had just left the island.”
The landfill RFP is being run along similar lines to the tenders for the second mobile license and Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reform process, with interested bidders having to pay a non-refundable $10,000 deposit merely to obtain the relevant documents.
They also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure the tender document, and its contents, remain secret and not revealed to the Bahamian public.
“The Government is inviting proposals from the private sector relating to potential investment, remediation and management of operations of the Harrold Road [Tonique Williams Highway] landfill facility,” the advert states.
“The Government’s long-term waste management strategies include reforms which seek to introduce efficiencies in waste management at various facilities throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
One industry source yesterday said the bid deadlines gave too little time for interested parties to conduct proper due diligence on the New Providence landfill, especially since its remediation is one of the Government’s requirements.
“How does anybody assess the current state of the landfill, it having been off-limits to everybody?” the source asked. “We still need to assess what might be left.
“Bidders need to access the landfill to look at the actual fire situation now, especially since remediation is part of it.”
Mr Dorsett recently unveiled remediation, recycling and numerous other requirements that a winning landfill bidder will have to meet.
The tight timeline for submitting bids, with interested parties effectively given six working days, would appear to favour Bahamian groups, such as the wholly-Bahamian Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG) consortium.
The 10 Bahamian waste service provider members have partnered with Providence Advisors and its chief executive, Kenwood Kerr, and will likely be able to draw on their previous research and proposals in forming a credible bid.
There have also been suggestions that elements associated with the landfill’s former manager, Renew Bahamas, remain interested in submitting a bid and returning to the site.
Gerhard Beukes, the former Renew Bahamas principal, is understood to have attended a meeting called by concerned residents and businesses to discuss the landfill situation.
And Renew Bahamas’ former chief executive, Michael Cox, is still operating at the landfill, having picked up where the former manager left off by going into metals recycling.
Neither Mr Beukes nor Mr Cox could be contacted for comment, although the latter was said by sources to have seemingly formed a partnership with Larry Burrows of Manpower Ltd, the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) contractor responsible for removing wrecked vehicles from New Providence.
Renew Bahamas walked away from its New Providence landfill management contract in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, citing security and safety concerns amid the absence of electricity supply, and a spate of thefts and shootings.
It had previously been seeking to renegotiate its management contract and associated financial terms with the Christie administration, having revealed to Tribune Business it had been incurring continuous, heavy losses.
The Government subsequently charged that Renew Bahamas had used Hurricane Matthew as an excuse to pull-out, having realised that its business model - which depended almost exclusively on the sale and export of materials recycled from the landfill - was not viable or sustainable.
The imminent Baha Mar opening and general election has intensified pressure on the Government to resolve the landfill’s woes, which were brought to the fore again last month when Jubilee Gardens residents were forced out of their homes after a massive fire at the landfill blanketed the community in thick smoke.