By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Opposition’s leader said the hiring of a new Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) chief executive officer is “a move in the right direction” - although he wants answers over why a cooling-off period was not followed from the new appointee’s previous role.
Michael Pintard told Tribune Business: “It is important for Prime Minister Davis to ensure that the entire complement of senior staff members are in place at BPL and that it would be a ‘mistake’ to leave the critical positions not covered, given the challenges that BPL has.
“Now that someone has been identified to occupy the top position, that is a move in the right direction.”
Shevonn Cambridge has replaced the outgoing CEO of the corporation, Whitney Heastie, having started his new role on Friday. There has been controversy over his appointment due to his previous role at the Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority (URCA), the agency that regulates the very same electricity company he now heads.
Under the URCA Act 2009, no non-executive member, executive member or member of staff may, during his or her term of employment, engage in any employment, consulting or similar service relating to a regulated sector within the duties of his or her engagement by URCA and for 12 months after his or her term of employment, any such person it refers to may only engage in such employment, consulting or similar service with the prior written approval of the non-executive board or of that of the chief executive officer of URCA.
Mr Cambridge was CEO of URCA at the time of him leaving the body, having replaced Stephen Bereaux in February, 2020.
Mr Pintard said: “The Prime Minister simply needs to explain a couple of things to allay any concerns that members of the public may have. For example, we expect in a good corporate governance system for us to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
“You have the principal person from the regulatory body now occupying principal position in the agency that he just recently regulated, there is a requirement on I suspect both organiwations’ behalf to issue correspondence indicating that they do not have an issue with this in either direction.”
The government has not indicated that it had followed the URCA Act with regard to Mr Cambridge getting approval from the chairman of URCA, but it is assumed that getting approval from himself would not have been prudent.
Mr Pintard added: “My recollection is that there has to be a cooling off period for not less than 12 months before anyone is able to move, for example, from URCA to BPL. If they move within that period of time, there would have to be clearly a documented position stated from the relevant agencies.
“So we’d like to know the Prime Minister should seek to clarify why the cooling off period was not observed and then secondly, to see if such letters were exchanged, and what are the dates of those letters.”
Mr Pintard also pointed to the overall confusion this changeover meant for BPL at this particular time. Pointing to the fuel hedging strategy that the former Free National Movement government left in place at the power company, Mr Pintard said: “The media and the Opposition has asked about the over and under account and asked whether or not the government did in fact eat the cost that would have been passed on to the public of the increase in the cost of fuel because this government refused to execute the September and December trades therefore costing the Bahamian people some $50m because the hedge was not observed and the trades were not conducted.”
He said that as a result of not observing the hedge agreement, BPL had to “forecast an increase in the rate.”