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Munroe raises concerns as electricity team named

Published:Monday | June 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Executive director of the National Integrity Action (NIA), Professor Trevor Munroe, has raised several concerns about issues he believes could impact the performance of the newly named Electricity Sector Enterprise Team (ESET), established to oversee the development of the 381-megawatt energy project.

The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday named the full team, which includes private-sector leaders Joseph M. Matalon and William Mahfood and chairman, Dr Vincent Lawrence. The other members of the team are former director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), Dr Winston Hay, Professor Alvin Wint and trade unionist Helene Davis-Whyte.

Speaking with The Gleaner/ Power 106 News Centre yesterday, Munroe said while the update on the establishment of the team was welcomed, there were many concerns that could impact the effectiveness of ESET.

He said, for instance, it was not clear who is responsible for the overall management of the project to replace the existing base load capacity.

"Is it the ESET, the Cabinet, the Office of the Prime Minister or the minister (Phillip Paulwell), and in that context as well to secure the necessary financing for the project?" he asked.

Munroe said the full terms of reference also need to be outlined to provide clarity on the role and responsibility of ESET.

He said based on the release issued by the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday, ESET appears to have responsibilities other than managing the procurement for the new electricity-generating capacity.

reporting roles

The release stated that ESET would report to and advise the prime minister and Cabinet on the procurement for new electricity-generating capacity, and the urgent replacement of base-load generation with a more efficient plant that uses lower-cost fuel.

The release noted that the OUR would maintain its role in the overall regulation of the electricity sector as outlined in the OUR Act and that Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell would also maintain his statutory role.

The Jamaica Public Service Company is also to play a consultative role in the procurement process.

However, Munroe said the role of Office of the Contractor General should have also been articulated by the OPM.

"What about the Office of the Contractor General, which is statutorily empowered to ensure there is no impropriety or irregularity in the award in Jamaica?" he argued.

Munroe noted that the Government was also not clear about who would be responsible for updating the public on the status of the project.

He also questioned whether ESET would be required to sign a confidentiality agreement similar to the one signed by the Energy Monitoring Committee. He suggested that such an agreement could incapacitate the ESET in its reporting.

Munroe also raised concern about whether there was still an arrangement with the preferred bidder in the former process, Energy World International.

"When will the revocation be complete, and are we assured that there will be no litigation arising there?" He added: "For that is going to hold up further the process of the Jamaican people getting the necessary electricity down to the price that we will be able to survive with."