Bahamian Outrage On Landfill ‘Deal’

By NATARIO MCKENZIE - Tribune Business Reporter,

THE head of a Bahamian waste disposal company yesterday said it was “regrettable” that the Government had decided to award a recycling/remediation contract for the New Providence landfill to a foreign company, noting that a local consortium had offered a package involving an initial public offering (IPO) and creation of 60-100 jobs at full roll-out.

Virginia McKinney, president of Waste Not, which was part of the four-member Waste Resources Development Group, speaking for her firm alone, said she was disappointed in the government’s decision and the lack of dialogue.

Mrs McKinney noted that the consortium, which featured BISX-listed Bahamas Waste, Waste Not, Impac and United Sanitation, had invested a significant amount of time and over $500,000 in employing UK consultants to draft a detailed proposal, presenting a “viable long-term solution” for the private management of the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway landfill.

Mrs McKinney said: “It is over half a million in terms of money that was paid out and work put in. It was enormous.

“We were extremely thorough, extremely careful. We really cared. Everything we did, we tried to think of how we could do it, so it had the least impact on us as a people in terms of requiring fees and things like that, and what gave us the best benefit back.”

She added: “A lot of people talk about recycling, which I’m a great advocate for. I do the Cans for Kids. We saw that the waste had a higher value for us here as energy, and so that’s why we followed that course and it [the consortium] was going to be a publicly traded company.

“The Government was going to have a part, and probably NIB would have a part. We would have had a public offering. We, the coalition of companies, would have had a part. It would have spoken to the problem and was a Bahamian solution caring for us.”

Mrs Mckinney said one of the reasons the group may have been snubbed was because of the misconception it wanted to own the landfill.

“Why would we want to own the landfill? We would have paid the lease or whatever, but as to owning it, it belongs to us the people. We were just going to operate the landfill and operate it efficiently. It was a lot of money, and I know from my own viewpoint, I can’t tell you how much time went into it,” she said.

The Government is reportedly finalising the terms of a five-year contract with an entity called Renew Bahamas, which will construct a recycling facility at the landfill under a build/own/operate agreement, plus conduct landfill remediation and study waste streams.

Yet there appears to have been no public tender/bid process for this contract, despite the Government receiving at least five-six waste-to-energy proposals that would also have included these elements.

Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment, indicated that Renew Bahamas approached the Government, which was attracted to its expertise. Yet the entities, or principals, behind Renew Bahamas have yet to be revealed.

The Minister had previously indicated that the Cabinet was assessing a matter relating to the landfill, and this is likely what he was referring to. It is the secrecy, and lack of information from the Government, that appears to have upset many.

Observers yesterday also said the five-year contract being offered to Renew Bahamas seemed too short a timeframe in which to recover its investment, particularly in the recycling facility.

And it will also be interesting to see how that facility works alongside initiatives such as Bahamas Waste’s cardboard recycling, or whether it will compete with that and the ventures other Bahamian companies are involved in.

“They’re saying around 100 jobs for what they are doing,” Mrs McKinney said of the Renew Bahamas proposal. “It would have been about 60-100 by the time we were fully rolled-out with what we were going to do.

“It’s a foreign company. We were a completely Bahamian company, and we’re obviously disappointed after a lot of effort, utilising large international advisors and engineering firms, that we did not get the consideration but that’s life.

“We were disappointed and I’m sure there are reasons. In this instance, it’s our industry. We probably should have known sooner who and what was happening, and we don’t,” Mrs Mckinney added.

“Another issue, which I know was also cited, was that we would have mined the landfill. I have heard that this is what this company is going to maybe do. That is not a cheap process, and has to be done well and carefully. It is quite dangerous because you do have a lot of subterranean fires at the landfill.

“We would have done that incrementally and recovered the land over time. We were asking for like a 25-year contract. The word on the street is that this company is going to have a much shorter contract, maybe a five-year contract, and they’re going to get it done in that time.

“I hope that’s true but, again, at what cost to us? It’s upsetting that we still have to creep around each other and that the private sector is not a full partner with the public sector, so that we’re all putting our brains together to solve these problems.”