A damning July 9 audit report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bahamas, on behalf of the Grand Bahamas Port Authority, has strongly reprimanded the Grand Bahama Power Company (an Emera subsidiary) for not being responsible to its 19,000-odd customer base.
The audit report confirms the allegations of Operation Justice for Grand Bahama, the group that earlier in 2011 spearheaded a slew of actions against the Emera-owned GBPC.
Operation Justice has for months been claiming that since Emera purchased controlling ownership in the GBPC in 2010, power bills have been spiralling out of control. They also claimed that there were severe discrepancies in meter monitoring; that preferential treatment was being allotted to certain customers; and that calculations on bills were impossible to confirm and were often written in pencil, subsequently erased, and seemingly arrived at in an helter-skelter fashion.
During the course of its actions Operation Justice gathered over 5,000 signatures from disgruntled GBPC customers, and claimed that thousands on the island of Grand Bahama were now doing without power thanks to Emera's poor management of the utility. The allegations, perhaps because of their scope, were at times difficult to believe. The Port Authority's audits appears to vindicate Operation Justice, and points the finger of blame squarely in the chest of the GBPC.
The observations of the audit, and the recommendations stemming from them, are exhaustive and wide-sweeping, and suggest that nothing less than a complete overhaul of the GBPC will resolve the situation.
From inconsistencies in meter reading, to inconsistencies in training procedures, to improper sharing of passwords, to management not retaining vital reports, to a failure to submit reports of faulty meters, to a lack of IT policies, to inappropriately segregating IT duties, to a lack of a formal approval processes, to a lack of security controls of personal information, to lag times between meter installation and billing, to no formalized process to test meters for efficacy, to overdue servicing for meter testing equipment, to billing clerks handling customers based on their intimate knowledge of customers, to billing clerks taking different actions for the same type of exception, to management not retaining data on customer complaints or concerns; the findings are exhaustive.
And the list goes on and on, and on. It suggests that the GBPC, under Emera, has devolved into a cacophonic state of mismanagement.
In June, John McLennan, Chairman of the Board of Emera, noted: “We are making the investments in Grand Bahama to build a very reliable, very sustainable utility, and over time we'll be very proud of that too.”
As tension, disappointment and summer heat continue to grow in Grand Bahama, it may well be that Emera's time is running out.