WHITNEY HEASTIE, CEO of Bahamas Power and Light. Photos: Racardo Thomas/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
BAHAMAS Power & Light CEO Whitney Heastie revealed yesterday more than $100m in unpaid bills is owed to the company which is in “dire straits financially.”
Mr Heastie stressed that BPL has reverted to its 50 percent policy, meaning when people are disconnected, there is a six-month window to repay the remainder of what is owed.
At the height of the pandemic, the company revised this policy to a repayment plan of 25 percent with a 12-month payment window.
However, Mr Heastie said this policy had made little difference.
His comments came during a press conference yesterday in which Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears unveiled the new BPL board.
“BPL has had a longstanding payment plan,” Mr Heastie told reporters.
“The payment plan was if you were disconnected you had to pay 50 percent of the arrears and then the other 50 percent would have to be paid over six months.”
“During the pandemic we extended that, that you had to pay 25 percent of what was outstanding and the remaining 75 percent would be paid over the remaining 12 months. What we found was those who were disconnected, whether it be the payment plan for 50 percent down and six months or 25 percent down and 12 months to pay, it made little difference.
“The pattern of individuals who were disconnected initially remained the same. It was not long after that they were put back on the grid even with 12 months to pay, they found themselves disconnected again.
“Let me just make it clear, BPL is in dire straits financially and therefore we have reverted to our 50 percent policy. If you are disconnected, you have six months to pay. What we found too is people will pay their cell phone bill because they want data but they really didn’t care about paying the electricity. Sadly, enough that’s the truth. The outstanding receivables for BPL is over $100m.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, BPL was prohibited from disconnecting electricity supplies for three months. That policy ended in June 2020.
“Since June of last year, once the three-month ban ended, disconnections resumed,” Mr Heastie said. “Typically, it has been anything over $300 but there have been so many customers it has been anyone (in arrears of) over $500 for three months that we have targeted for disconnections.”