Former BEC chairman supports new reconnection plan
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: May 17, 2013
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s (BEC) “more restricted” electricity assistance program will only work if management is held accountable for collecting payments, former BEC Executive Chairman Michael Moss said yesterday.
“In my view, the program proposed by the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) can also work, but will only do so if capable, conscientious, competent individuals - more specifically, those managers with responsibility for credit and collections activities - are held accountable for effective management of the activity,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
Moss, who served as BEC chairman under the last Ingraham administration, said he believes the best way for the government to assist customers without electricity is to issue them a voucher similar to other social assistance programs, instead of providing a directive to the corporation.
As recently revealed by The Nassau Guardian the government intends to reconnect the electricity supplies of more than 7,000 residential customers by June 1.
BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller, who made the announcement on May 9, said all customers on the new plan must keep up with their future bills once connected, and could even receive a five to 10 percent reduction on the outstanding bill.
Customers who owe between $2,000 and $4,000 will be required to pay 20 to 25 percent of their bill.
The corporation’s records indicate that the majority of those disconnected customers have bills under $2,000, according to Miller.
Months ahead of the 2012 general election the Free National Movement (FNM) initiated an electricity assistance program to assist thousands of customers without electricity.
Miller has claimed almost 50 percent of customers on that program did not need to utilize it to the extent they did.
He said customers, many of whom were in the “upper income bracket”, ultimately had a negative impact on BEC’s bottom line.
But Moss insisted yesterday that the majority of customers whose electricity was restored had been disconnected for months, and in some cases years.
“Only a handful would have been disconnected and without electricity service for days and weeks,” the former chairman said.
“I seriously doubt there would have been persons in the upper income bracket and [who] ‘could afford to pay’ who would have remained without electricity service for such extended periods, as to be included in the 5,000.”
Customers on the earlier program were required to make a payment on their outstanding bill before reconnection, keep up to date with future bills, and continue paying down on the outstanding balance up to a three-year period.
The reconnection fee of $20 was waivered.
The PLP has suggested the earlier program was an election ploy.
Moss pointed out some irregularities on the last program. He said while he has no evidence, “based on what I now understand transpired, some individuals whose supplies were off were reconnected without paying anything.
“Others who failed to pay new bills in full were not immediately disconnected,” he said.
“Certain individuals whose supplies were still on at the time the mandate was issued, were allowed to run up significant balances prior to being disconnected and were then extended similarly, [on] generous payment terms.”
The new assistance program does not apply to commercial customers.