ARGUING THAT the Hong Kong-based Energy World International (EWI) group was being improperly facilitated by Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell in the bidding process to provide 360 megawatts of power to the national grid, Contractor General Dirk Harrison said the playing field in the process was not level.
The Office of the Contractor General (OCG), in a report tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, said the minister's intervention and acceptance of the bid from EWI was unfair and compromised the integrity of the process.
"Based upon the documentary evidence which was reviewed, it is clear that the 'goal post' kept moving to facilitate EWI's proposal, and that the process in its current form could not stand up to review, given … that an extension was allowed after the expiration and the evaluation had already concluded," the OCG report said.
Harrison's report was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday, a day before the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is due to make an announcement about the bidding process.
But Paulwell last night declared that the OCG would not cut the Government's strides in getting cheaper energy for Jamaica.
"We cannot have the OCG derailing this matter again. It has to go forward," Paulwell said.
Paulwell told The Gleaner that he had no regrets about his actions, adding, "I am absolutely certain that it is the right course."
Jamaica is seeking to use the 360-megawatt power plant as part of a quest to reduce the cost of energy from the current US$0.42 cents per kilowatt hour.
"Until we get to between US$0.15 and US$0.18 cents, Jamaica has no future, and this 360-megawatt plant is critical to it," Paulwell told The Gleaner.
In its report, the OCG said the "inappropriate" and "irregular" meeting between Paulwell and the EWI representatives demonstrated that "the playing field was not level as preference was given to facilitating the receipt of one other proposal from EWI".
"Given the perceived notion of bias, the receipt of EWI's proposal should not have been entertained," the report said.
"More importantly, the meeting between the minister, GOJ officials and EWI representatives should not have occurred and is highly irregular, particularly during an ongoing process."
According to the report, based upon the OUR's own admission, it only conducted a preliminary review of EWI's proposal in one day, and the proposal was not subjected to the rigours of approximately two months of analysis and assessment of those received before the March 15 deadline.
"In the circumstance, it is evident that there were two separate 'yardsticks': one for all other bidders and another for EWI," the OCG emphasised.
The report said it was reasonable to conclude that the OUR ascribed the term "informal" to the process it had been undertaking in an effort to justify its facilitation of EWI's proposal and to include the company on a shortlist.
But a defiant Paulwell said: "It is absolutely critical that the Jamaican people are relieved from this burden of high energy cost. I would have been irresponsible if during this informal process, I did not take to Cabinet the proposal from EWI, and I am absolutely certain that any company that had its own gas supply will make the conditions far more competitive amongst the bidders," Paulwell said.
The OCG said Armorview/Tank-Weld was of the view, given the minister's pronouncement, that it was ranked number one in the process undertaken by the OUR.
The OUR maintained, however, that no preferred bidder/proposer was identified and that any information published to the contrary was inaccurate.