By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister said yesterday construction of Bahamas Power and Light’s new $95m power plant at Clifton Pier must utilise the professionals who know how to do it.
While he stressed this did not mean Bahamians do not have the ability to learn, the minister said time and a demand from Bahamians for a “certain high standard” and level of excellence, dictated differently.
His comments follow threats of “war” from Bahamas Electrical Workers Union president Paul Maynard who was angered by admissions from officials that there is no one at BPL with the required skills to instal seven new high efficiency engines that will power the new plant.
Mr Maynard has insisted there is no way he will allow Bahamians to be left behind as Finnish technology group Wärtsilä contracts non-Bahamians to do the work.
“I don’t know that is so, but I am going to tell you this: we have to be able to put that in place and utilise the people who know how to do it,” Mr Bannister told reporters outside the House of Assembly.
“Now that doesn’t mean that our people don’t have the ability to learn, but these generators are going to be here next month and the Bahamian people have demanded of us a certain level of excellence, a certain high standard in generation, so that learning curve is not going to happen overnight and so all of us have to be patient being able to put the mechanisms in place to make a difference for workers of BPL and for the Bahamian people.
“The Bahamian people come first before anybody else. This county, you, your children, your comfort, your ability to have electricity comes before anybody else.”
However, Mr Bannister gave no clear answers when it came to questions over the funding of the plant.
He was asked yesterday to explain why BPL was paying for the plant despite there being a memorandum of understanding with Shell North America for new LNG facility, signed last year.
“Shell is partnering with Wärtsilä. Anything that Shell does is complementary to Wärtsilä. They are complementary. They are working together. It’s all being done in stages and you are going to see it come together in a wonderful way to make a difference for you and make your life more comfortable. So it requires a partnership that is being worked on in stages, that’s all.”
Asked again why BPL was footing the bill, he said: “There is a whole plan that BPL has that I’m sure the CEO and chairman would be happy to share all of the particulars with you, all of it.”
The Wärtsilä contract has raised lingering concerns, Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said in a statement yesterday.
He said on the face of it, the agreement did not add up.
“The question that must be asked is if Shell North America signed a contract with BPL to provide power generation capacity of 200 megawatts for $300 million dollars at no cost to BPL, then why is BPL expending $95 million to get short-term generation capacity? If that is justified by the need to meet short-term demand, the next issue is why couldn’t Shell be asked to advance their project?” Mr Davis asked.
“The other question would then be will Shell reimburse BPL for the $95 million dollars in expenditure? This all bears some parliamentary scrutiny.
“This is particularly the case when all of this takes place against the backdrop of the allegations made by the last chairman of the corporation, Darnell Osborne, and the other members who were removed in protest.
“The PLP intends to get to the bottom of this.”
He continued: “There are two requests for Select Committees: one in the Lower House and the other in the Senate that the opposition members intend to move at the earliest appropriate time.”
Mr Bannister was also asked about the outcome of an investigation into the September fires at BPL. “Soon as we are able to, we are going to let you know when,” he said, adding the FNM government was one of transparency.
He said there were some matters he could not speak of publicly.
“I’m not mincing my words because it is important for me to do it properly and it’s important for when any results are released, it’s important for everything to be in place,” Mr Bannister told reporters.