Re:Flawed process -RFP for management of the cruise port and APD group involvement
EDITOR, The Tribune.
I would be grateful if you would permit me to publicly share my comments on recent media reports and public commentary by the Minister of Tourism that the Request for Proposal (RFP) for management of the downtown cruise port is in the process of being prepared and should be made public shortly.
What is interesting and most astonishing in the Ministers’ various public commentary on the subject, was his disclosure that the bids are being prepared based on information gleaned from proposal/ expressions of interest submitted by two interested groups, who have shared their unsolicited vision and plans on how they would transform the port into a world class facility.
Notwithstanding that the fact that the Minister did not disclose the two groups, if the RFP is being prepared based on information and ideas gleaned from proposal submitted by these two undisclosed groups, this would clearly offend the integrity of the bidding process. The process would be flawed from the beginning.
These two groups will clearly have an advantage or at least an apparent advantage notwithstanding the Minister’s assertion that this will not be the case as all participants will be given the same amount of time to submit proposals.
The fact that all participants will be given equal time to submit proposal is not the issue and does not put them all on equal footing under the circumstances.
The issue is one of actual and perceived advantages. If it is the case that you find these two undisclosed groups blueprint or plans for the port sufficiently attractive that it forms the basis of your RFP, clearly they would have gained some favour in the process before other participants would have had an opportunity to submit proposals.
If the Minister needs to be educated on what is required to construct a proper RFP he could engage experts in the filed who have no vested interest in the process.
The Nassau Port Development Group (APD)
In the same article, it was disclosed by the writer that one of these interested groups could possibly be the Arawak Port Development Company (APD), together with investment advisory firm, CFAL (formerly Colina Financial Advisors).
The APD group currently enjoys a government created monopoly, which comes with a protected 20 year exclusivity to be the only port operator within New Providence and also a tax payer protected rate of return.
This protected monopoly not only eliminated opportunities for local Bahamians who may have an interest in venturing into such an undertaking, but have effectively secured an advantage for APD over any local group which may have an interest in participating in the proposed RFP for management of Nassau cruise port.
The restriction imposed on Bahamians from entry into the management and operation of a freight port, anywhere near New Providence, made it virtually impossible for one to have obtained the necessary experience and exposure locally, unless one went abroad and/or is willing to seek a joint venture with a foreign group.
While joint venturing is commercially acceptable and widely practice, an individual should not be forced to do so with a foreign group, by circumstances brought about by a policy initiative (protected monopoly) implemented by his own government.
This monopoly has secured for the APD group a de facto advantage over any local group even if they secure a foreign joint venture in the proposed RFP for management of the Nassau cruise port.
I am also of the view that now would be the appropriate time for government to seek to have the APD group relinquish this unnecessary monopoly if they now want to venture outside the confines of the Arawak freight port and compete with others in the management of other ports. If they can compete with others, why can’t others compete with them?
This is only fair given the fact that the APD group, not only enjoys a government guaranteed monopoly, but is also the beneficiary of a guaranteed tax payer rate of return.
The fact that locals (the public) enjoy 20% shareholding, which as of late, has become a selling pitch for groups seeking to win government support in these ventures, is of no great significance when one takes into consideration the attendant costs (macro and micro) to the public, and the few selected individuals who are the major beneficiaries under this corporate creature known as the Arawak Port Development Company.
CLAUDE B HANNA
September 6, 2018.