By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
AFTER recent incidents of suspected electricity theft involving several businesses in Freeport, the Grand Bahama Port Authority said it conducted its own independent investigation and has determined the work performed by a person selling and installing so-called energy saving devices was not in compliance with his business licence.
“We can confirm that all of the work performed by the licencee was unpermitted and was executed outside the scope of the licence,” the company said in a statement.
The licencee is alleged to have sold and installed supposed energy saving devices at some businesses, several of which are the subject of a police investigation into a complaint filed on March 13 by the Grand Bahama Power Company over suspected electricity theft.
Power supply was disconnected at about eight businesses, including seven fast food restaurants (three Burger Kings, three KFCs, and one Pollo Tropical operated by the Cooper family), and Sav Mor Drugs, operated by ArK Investments Ltd, that are being investigated.
After conducting their own investigation, GBPC learned that all the devices installed were “fake,” and that the businesses purchased what they believed was an energy saving device.
“These businesses were a victim of fraud and were in fact either connected directly to GBPC’s power system via a metre bypass, or the metres were tampered with to under-read actual usage. These devices are not energy saving devices,” the GBPA said.
The power company has since restored power at some of the entities, which were operating on limited power with emergency generators, and had warned that they might have to shut down their businesses which employ hundreds of workers if power was not restored in a reasonable time.
The port authority, which is the sector regulator, said in a statement issued late on Wednesday: “The Grand Bahama Port Authority wishes to advise the public that as regulators, we were notified by the Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) that during a course of their recent metre audit, they discovered a number of suspected electricity diversions at several businesses within the port area. As a result, we immediately began our own independent investigation into this matter which is currently ongoing.
“As this matter is currently with the Royal Bahamas Police Force and investigations are still ongoing, we do not wish to comment any further to interfere with the police investigations.
“We do believe that due process will be carried out and we are hoping to have this matter amicably resolved as soon as possible for the benefit of the entire Grand Bahama community,” the statement read.
The GBPA indicated that it would continue to dialogue with GBPC, and has scheduled a meeting with the Cooper family and local advocacy group, Coalition of Concerned Citizens.
“We encourage the public that if you had any energy cost saving work done on your premises, to please contact our Building and Development Services Department to ensure that the work carried out was permitted and the installation was carried out in accordance with the building code,” the company said.
The Building and Development Services Department can be reached at 350-9166, (WhatsApp) 824-4444 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.