Concerns expressed about BPL bid process

The Nassau Guardian:  

Companies that were unsuccessful in the bid process to provide power to New Providence have expressed their disappointment, given that they were invited to bid on the supply of 80 megawatts of temporary power.

“There essentially were two options they had: They could have bid for temporary or they could bid for a permanent solution, and some did temporary and some did permanent solutions.” said Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday.

“This is the time for the country to move ahead and for people to stop putting out propaganda,” he added. Bannister told Guardian Business that, as far as the government is concerned, the Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) bid to provide power for New Providence is closed, and Shell NA has been awarded the contract.

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) Energy and Environment Committee chair, Deborah Deal, said the chamber is pleased that the country is moving forward with new generation and a cleaner fuel, but also questioned the bid process and whether it was fair to all who participated. Deal also suggested that the three-year time frame for Shell NA to get New Providence’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant up and running “will not assist the business community in the next three years”.

“So creative ways to keep businesses alive will be key while, again, we continue to wait,” she said.

It was thought that BPL was looking for a company to provide a solution for 80 megawatts of temporary power to replace rented engines BPL has been using for a number of years. During the bid process BPL CEO Whitney Heastie said BPL hoped the process would be quick enough for the company to have the bid winner install the new systems before this summer in order to avoid the regular rolling blackouts Bahamians are forced to endure.

Heastie said last November after the bids were unsealed: “We’re looking at the closing of this bid, the evaluation of these bids and then we can make a determination of whether or not the evaluation of these bids can take place in a time that we can bring this generation in time, to not have to extend the rental generation we currently have on the ground.

“If that’s not possible, then we would have to look at going back to the company that we’re renting the 80 megawatts from and renegotiate for a time period. I would also say that the company that’s on the ground today with the 80 megawatts has also participated in the 80-megawatt tender, so it might also find itself being the successful bidder.”

BPL executives told this paper last week that there was a call for permanent power during the request for proposal process last year. Many of the companies that bid said off the record that they had not heard of this.

At the bid opening in November it was revealed that several companies submitted both bids for temporary power and permanent power, but Heastie said they would be handled separately as the November bid was for the replacement of the 80 megawatts of temporary power. However, BPL Chairperson Darnell Osborne said the process had changed.

“As many of us in the country bid on government contracts on a regular basis, this taking an original offering of back-up generation and ending up with awarding a contract to fully revamp the energy generation as well as LNG which again, on its own has merit, but not when it muddies the water,” said Deal.

“It is our understanding that the request for proposals that went out was for 80 megawatts of back-up generation. It is also our understanding that a few of those that had bid decided also to bid on long-term plans and proposals.

“Although this may seem like a good thing, the process taken lacks the transparency that Minister Bannister talks about.”