Senator Lizarraga Expresses Concerns Over Agreement with Fortis/BECOL

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Updated: October 28, 2015

Yesterday the People’s United Party held a press conference at which they said that Prime Minister Dean Barrow had signed his own accommodation agreement in relation to the BEL settlement with BECOL and Fortis. The PUP stated that the Confirmation and Assurance Deed was not provided to them; however, Prime Minister Dean Barrow told the media yesterday that every single document was disclosed and attached to the Electricity Settlement Bill. Those papers after being presented in the House of Representatives would normally rollover to the Senate for their debate. But today, former Senator who represented the Business Sector, Mark Lizarraga, told Love News that he did not receive the Confirmation and Assurance deed.

MARK LIZARRAGA

“I’m not surprised that we did not receive it because we continue to call, we’ve always called for all documents in all agreements, in all matters that go before us to present to us. We have constantly been calling for the provision of all documents related so that we can be fully appraised of any transactions that government makes on our behalf. So I’m not surprised that we didn’t get it. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get it. There is a particular section that concerns me greatly  and if the deed that I have in my hand is in fact that deed there is a certain clause that states “that the government has agreed that in the event that any court finds the instruments held by BECOL to be unlawful that the government will make them good.” This in effect gives an unconditional guarantee to BECOL that if it is operating unlawfully that the government in effect would do all that is necessary to make the arrangements lawful without any financial loss to BECOL and one would wonder why that sort of clause would be necessary. What would be the concerns there? A matter that raises particular concern to me in reading the shareholder’s agreement today is that it states that the company BEL distribute by way of dividends in respect of each financial year such amount of the post tax profits of the company for that finical year as are available to ensure that the company can deliver to its shareholders “a reasonable rate of return on investment when operating in a manner compatible with international standards of an efficiently operated power system of similar characteristics.” So this in fact is accommodating for guaranteed profits to BEL and Fortis as a party and we do not have any documents that speaks to what is the international standard and a reasonable rate of return on the investments so that is missing as well.”

Lizarraga says that he is concern that the Confirmation and Assurance Deed indemnifies BECOL and ties the hands of the Public Utilities Commission.

MARK LIZARRAGA

“This certainly now states clearly  that profit is going to be considered and a reasonable rate of return whatever that is is going to be a must because in the event that the government does not comply with all these conditions of this agreement that Fortis has a put option to sell back its shares to the government so this is one of the conditions that would have to be met. Fortis would have to be satisfied that a reasonable rate of return on that investment compatible with international standards are achieved and I don’t know what that is.  These deeds and agreements took place certainly the ones that were signed on the 28th of August which was the deed of settlement and compromi took place before it went to parliament. We continue to believe that for good governance and transparency these documents should come to parliament before they are signed and before they are agreed upon, that is disappointing and we continue to call for a reversal of these policies that circumvent absolutely the role that parliament has to play in our democracy. The implications of this document goes even further because what it does is government is again signing an agreement that seeks to circumvent the judiciary. The judiciary plays an important role in our democracy and this agreement clearly states that in the event that any courts would find any of these instruments in reference to BECOL are unlawful that the government would make them good. So again the government is committing itself to possibly passing legislation to make good anything that may be found bad or wrong or illegal in these documents. That to me is the executive circumventing the role of the legislature and certainly circumventing the role that the judiciary should play in our democracy.”