NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The Bahamian government says it has “no intention of allowing Bahamas Power & Light” to impose an extra five US dollars on late-paying consumers in a bid to reduce a US$100 million debt.
Speaking at the weekly media briefing, the prime minister’s press secretary, Keishla Adderley, told reporters that the Bahamas government was making it clear that it would not allow BPL to impose the levy.
“There was a report circulating about the possibility of a fee increase on, or late fee implementation, concerning BPL bills. And the administration wants to make it very clear that BPL has no intention, or the administration has no intention, of allowing BPL to impose a five dollar late fee on consumers.”
Adderley, said that the late fee was among five proposals to reduce BPL’s US$100 million receivables arrears, owed by consumers and businesses, but the administration “is not minded to add any burdens to consumers.
“Now the late fee proposal was among five proposals that were put forward as possibilities to try and reduce that $100 million. I think it is accounts receivable for the corporation. Now, considering the economic conditions, the administration is not minded to add any burden to consumers.”
In a statement, BPL also indicated that it had no plans to impose a late fee on consumers.
“At a recent Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA] presentation, BPL’s chief executive, Shevonn Cambridge, shared with the body numerous strategies to help the company address its considerable arrears and, at the same time, improve the quality of service to its customers.
“A late fee was discussed as a viable option to prompt timely payments as it is inscribed in BPL’s consumer protection plan and received regulatory approval more than four years ago. However, it was never implemented,” BPL said.
The electricity company said that it would continue to work with consumers to ensure timely payments.
“For clarity, the late fee was a discussion point and is not an immediate consideration for BPL. The company continues to work with its customers to ensure timely payments to meet its financial obligations. At the same time, BPL is firmly committed to implementing the best available strategies to ensure effective management as well as improve service to its customers.”
But during his BICA presentation, Cambridge said “while we continue to encourage on time and consistent payments from our customers, we struggle in this area as more than 80 per cent of our customers pay their bills late and BPL depends on consistent and timely payments to better manage cash flow and adequately fund projects.”
Cambridge said BPL has already received regulatory approval to charge a late fee on overdue bills as a deterrent, and to offset the penalties imposed on BPL when it pays its creditors late due to cash flow issues.
Meanwhile, Adderley, said the government is concerned with improving BPL’s infrastructure and introducing new forms of energy to ensure service is more reliable and affordable.
“What the administration is doing, as far as BPL is concerned, is improving the infrastructure, making sure that electricity service is more reliable, introducing other forms of energy that will ultimately drive down the cost of electricity for consumers. That is the trajectory. That is not changed, and a $5 late fee is not something that is on the table as far as BPL is concerned.”