Former BEC chairman says Shell Deal dangerous for the country

Former cabinet minister and former chairman of BEC Leslie Miller.

Winning BPL bid a “forgone conclusion”, Miller claims 

Former Chairman of Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), now operating as Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) Leslie Miller said yesterday, that the deal for a liquified natural gas (LNG) plant by Shell North America (NA) may have been orchestrated in advance of the requests for proposal process (RFP), as was suggested by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation (BCCEC) in a recent communication to senior BPL executives.

Eyewitness News obtained a letter to BPL’s board by BCCEC dated June 28, in which the chamber outlined eight points of contention in relation to the RFP process, which the chamber more or less suggested was flawed.

“It appears to me that this situation with the bidding process was a forgone conclusion, before those two letters, which were sent out that were pre-dated. That’s the first thing that I got suspicious of,” Miller said while appearing as a contributor on IL TV show Beyond the Headlines with host Clint Watson.

“It is interesting that certain people were allowed to go and visit the site at Clifton and certain parties were not allowed.

“It was interesting that you would give, the international conglomerates of this magnitude a project that’s going to cost in excess of $200 to $300 million, 60 days or 30 days to submit a proposal… I find that curious.”

Miller was also quick to point out a conflict that exists with the whistleblowing chamber, as its chairman Mike Maura, Jr., is said to be connected to a company that also participated in the bidding process.

“Now, at the same time, bare in mind that the chamber of commerce also have their horse in the race too … the fellas at the dock … the guys who control Arawak Cay also is in line with some people states side who also wanted to get this contract.”

The host asked if he believed this was the reason for the chamber blowing the whistle on this project, Miller responded: “Theres no doubt about it.”

“I am quite familiar with some of the situation that was going on with companies out of the United States and elsewhere who wanted to have this liquified natural gas,” he said.

“First of all it was supposed to be on Arawak Cay, and I found that very, very strange in my mind, when as minister of trade and indsutry from 2002-2006, when Dr. Bethel and I was fighting like hell to bring us liquified natural gas through AES corporation that was going to give the Bahamian people $1.2 billion over 20 years to the tune of $200 million a year.

“And also, they were going to re-outfit … some 65 per cent of BEC equipment at Clifton free of charge and then providing us with LNG at the same price that they were going to provide the LNG to Florida Power and Light.

“This massive distributor in the United States that was going to have a price structure the same as ours in The Bahamas just for us signing the contract. $15 million for signing the contract to build 100 house on north Bimini, and to give every year, a quarter of a million dollars to the government’s training programme.”

Miller insisted there was not better deal and pointed to the politics of 2002-2006, in which he said the Free National Movement (FNM) vehemently opposed the idea. In fact, environmental activists were extremely vocal about their opposition to the proposed project at the time.

“What I find interesting, all of these people who are now involved in this process were agaisnt what we attempted to do,” Miller said, expelling that it would come with no cost to the government at the time and would result in $1.2 billion for the Bahamian economy.

“That (prospect) was crushed because of the opposition that we faced from these exact same people (who said) that LNG was not good for The Bahamas,” Miller reasoned.

“Now today they are paying for it (the plant by Shell NA).

“I want you to understands that this supposed contract that we signed with Shell NA, this is not a contract that involves the government of The Bahamas. What will happen is BPL is only going to buy power from Shell.

“So you have a country like The Bahamas, where water and light is the two most significant items that we use in our daily life.  You’re now having a foreign entity to sell you power to be responsible for the electricity on the island of New Providence?

“That is very dangerous.”

Attempts to reach Works Minister Desmond Bannister for comment on the issue was unsuccessful.

Additionally, BPL Executive Chairman Darnell Osborne has declined comment.

Since the utilities regulator was copied on the BCCEC letter to BPL, Eyewitness News also made attempts to contact Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority (URCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Stephen Bereaux for comment. However, Bereaux said via text that he was in a meeting.