By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
IF the “reckless” Oban Energies deal continues to be shrouded with “incompetence and dishonesty” then the $5.5bn agreement will not continue under a Progressive Liberal Party-led government should the organisation win the next general election, party Leader Philip “Brave” Davis, pictured, said yesterday.
He also warned the PLP is not prepared to do business with Peter Krieger, Oban’s non-executive chairman, who is now caught in another round of controversy after it was reported he did not sign his own name on the heads of agreement for the deal, which was inked two weeks ago, but signed the name of Satpal Dhunna, the company’s president.
Asked pointedly if the PLP would do business with Mr Krieger, Mr Davis responded: “No”.
He added: “We have called upon them to clean up this act. If it’s cleaned up by the time we are in office and we see it’s enduring to the benefit of the Bahamian people, it would not be right for us to stop it.
“But if it continues in the manner in which it is, it is more likely that it will not continue,” Mr Davis told reporters yesterday.
He spoke during a monthly PLP press conference at the party’s headquarters on Farrington Road.
“When we are in office, we will have to see where they are with this project. We have to see whether or not it has been cleaned up. That will be whenever the election is called.
“If it remains as it is today and we are in the same position that we are in today, the answer is it is more likely that we will not continue with this project than to continue with the project.”
Mr Davis also said a PLP government would not have agreed to the concessions outlined in the Heads of Agreement when it comes to jobs and the agreed upon change to the Bahamas’ tax incentives to accommodate Oban. According to the document, the Minnis administration will speedily introduce legislation to amend the Industries Encouragement Act so that Oban can enjoy an extended period for tax concession, Tribune Business reported previously.
In the meantime, Mr Davis said the Official Opposition might opt to call for a select committee in Parliament to review the agreement and the events surrounding it.
He said the issue has been compounded by the government’s lack of transparency and frankness leading him to raise several questions as far as the deal is concerned. Among these was the level of involvement of the BEST Commission and the thoroughness of consultation with the Office of the Attorney General.
“We are advised that the BEST Commission, the government’s official policy advisor on the environment and its protection, preservation and sustainability, was kept out of the loop on this project. Why is that?
“BEST is reportedly unaware of the location of the proposed project therefore was unable to offer any policy advice to the government on this matter,” Mr Davis claimed.
“I am sure the prime minister has an explanation for his decision to exclude the BEST Commission in this environmentally sensitive project,” he added.
He repeated his call for the government to table the agreement signed by Mr Krieger, suggesting the prime minister had not been forthcoming because he did not disclose that the agreement signed two weeks ago was ceremonial.
“The prime minister did not disclose to the House that there was a ceremonial signing and therefore possibly two different documents. The impression was that there was one document and that was the one he produced to the House.
“So questions have to be asked whether there are two documents or one? Is the document signed by Mr Krieger with Mr Dhunna’s name the document that was tabled by the prime minister in the House?
“Is the document tabled in the House then a true and valid agreement?
“Whatever the answer to these searching questions, this represents a fundamental dishonesty and government by sleight of hand.
“The country is entitled to implicitly rely on the word of the prime minister. The prime minister has an ethical responsibility to tell the truth. He has a legal responsibility not to mislead the House.
“In any other system of parliamentary democracy, this would be (a) ground to move a vote of no confidence and censure the prime minister and the government from materially misleading the country and the House.”
Mr Krieger’s participation at the event marking the Heads of Agreement’s signing reportedly caught some members of the Minnis administration by surprise, The Tribune was told.
His involvement was owed to a family connection he has to at least one of the project’s beneficial owners, two sources in the Minnis administration have said. He has since been permanently removed from his public role in the project, this newspaper was told.