Nassau, Bahamas — Last month’s revelation that Alstom SA, a French power and transportation company, had paid a bribe to secure a lucrative power contract with Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has prompted new questions over a greatly delayed process still underway to grant a management contract for BEC to one of several bidders.
The bidders, who at one time included PowerSecure International, a publicly traded US company; InterEnergy Holdings, a power company in the Caribbean and Latin America; China Construction, a Chinese state-owned company; Malaysian conglomerate Genting Group; and Caribbean Power Partners, have now been reduced to three – PowerSecure, InterEnergy and China Construction.
PowerSecure is reported to be the front runner in the award process after heavy lobbying by the US State Department on its behalf. In fact, according to some reports, a decision has already been made to award the management contract to PowerSecure.
On January 5, 2015, PowerSecure issued a press release referring to a new business award of $5 million for a new distribution project for an existing utility customer, without identifying the contract or the customer. PowerSecure was contracted by the BEC board last summer to address distribution line issues during a period of systemic blackouts, thus plausibly adding BEC to its list of existing clients.
However, some local observers of the process have pointed to a possible conflict of interest between BEC board member Eddie Darville and his brother, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville, one of the cabinet grouping choosing the successful bidder.
Sources close to the process claim that Eddie Darville allegedly has a personal interest in PowerSecure’s bid for the management of the government-owned corporation. The same sources also question the departure from standard procedure to employ consultants from PowerSecure to diagnose transmission and distribution problems in July which are the responsibility of BEC workers.
It is not known at this time whether or not the US Justice Department is taking any ongoing interest in the award of contracts by BEC pursuant to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The BEC board has not disclosed the fees charged by PowerSecure. When previously questioned by the media, BEC chairman Leslie Miller said at the time that PowerSecure flew down without a contract and hadn’t submitted a bill for services.
BEC has been plagued with controversy over the years. Constant power outages, threats of strikes and protests by the Bahamas Workers and Electrical Union and a belated payment of some $100,000 for past due electrical bills by companies connected to Miller are just some of the events that has engulfed the debt-ridden company, prompting some local residents to refer to BEC as “Buy Enough Candles”.