THE Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) yesterday shrugged off all efforts to delay the naming of a preferred bidder for the 360-megawatt energy project, and named Azurest-Cambridge Joint Venture Association with Waller Marine Inc as its first choice to construct the plant.
Azurest-Cambridge is now required to furnish the OUR with its bid security, representing one per cent of the total investment cost of the proposed project, within 15 days. If it fails to post this bond, the OUR will proceed to offer the opportunity to provide the facility to the next ranked entity, which is Energy World International Ltd (EWI), the Hong Kong-based firm which Contractor General Dirk Harrison had ruled should be excluded from the list of entities to be considered to take on the project because of its late entry.
The other bidders named in the top four were Energise Jamaica Ltd (incorporating Amourview Holdings Limited, Tankweld Limited and Seaboard Jamaica Corporation), and Optimal Energy.
"We also wish to underscore that this decision is conditional on the completion of aspects of due diligence on the company and its principals, which the Financial Investigation Division (FID) is assisting the OUR with carrying out," OUR Director of Regulation, Policy, Monitoring and Enforcement
Ansord Hewitt told a press conference at the agency's head office in New Kingston yesterday.
He added that Azurest-Cambridge is also required to provide the OUR with unequivocal evidence of its ability to execute the project, as part of the lead-up to signing a Power Purchased Agreement.
But the OUR's decision to hold the press conference and name the preferred bidder for the project, regarded as the most expensive local investment ever, flew in the face of appeals from both the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and powerful private sector bodies — the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, and the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) — to delay the announcement, pending clarification of issues raised by the contractor general in his report to Parliament on Tuesday.
At yesterday's briefing, which was boycotted by the private sector in protest against the decision to go ahead with the announcement, the OUR insisted that it would not be deterred by the contractor general's criticisms in completing the processing of the bidders.
"We don't agree with the CG's recommendations and we have indicated as much early in the game... The contractor general said in the report that we did not agree with his recommendations. That position has not changed," said
OUR Acting Director General Maurice Charvis.
"The OUR's position is that the contractor general has made certain erroneous conclusions as to the applicability of certain provisions of the procurement guideline. We have, in fact, requested from the contractor general the verbatim transcript of the proceedings before him, because there is pertinent evidence that it was not included in that report and the OUR intends to do a fulsome response to that report and make it available to the public," said OUR General Counsel
"Azurest has 15 days from today to fulfil its obligations. In that 15-day window period, it would be determined that any cloud over this process would be cleared up by then," she added.
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell welcomed the OUR's decision
to go ahead with the announce-ment yesterday.
"Finally, after years of delay, we have taken concrete steps towards reducing the cost of energy to Jamaican consumers and businesses, and I call on the OUR to do everything in its power to ensure that there are no further delays in the execution and start-up of this project," Paulwell said in a statement.
The contractor general, in his report to Parliament, painted a picture of ministerial missteps and regulatory lethargy in relation to the roles played by Paulwell and the OUR in the controversial project.
In the 74-page report, Harrison recommended that EWI be excluded from the process, as its proposal was not submitted "within the time frame as publicly established by the OUR", and because representatives of the Hong Kong firm met with Paulwell during the "ongoing process".