Antigua Opposition calls for probe into $47M US Chinese built power plant
Controversy continues to surround Chinese contractors operating around the region -this time it’s in Antigua where one of the island’s Members of Parliament, Gaston Browne, has called for a probe into a Chinese built US$47M power plant.
Browne has sent a letter to Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer calling for an investigation into the Wadadli Power plant.
According to reports, the opposition has said that the plant has been the focus of intense debate with suggestions that it was constructed with used equipment.
This claim has been refuted by the Antigua and Barbuda Public Utilities Authority.
According to reports, after threats to stage mass protests over the facility, the Antiguan Government announced that it had set up a ministerial sub-committee to consider a request by the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) for a probe into the controversial Chinese built US$47M Wadadli Power Plant.
The opposition in Antigua had raised a series of questions about whether value for money has been obtained for this project.
The controversial Antigua power plant is another in a series of projects by Chinese companies in the Caribbean that have encountered stormy waters.
And the recent move by the Antigua opposition could trigger a domino effect throughout the region, where it is expected that several Chinese-funded projects could be questioned.
Already several major projects here in Guyana and in Jamaica have attracted suspicion of corrupt practices over the violation of procurement procedures.
In Guyana, many questions have been raised about the competence of the Chinese company that built the US$200M Skeldon Sugar Factory which has been a source of much concern since its completion.
The mega project which was conceptualized to be a boost for the local sugar industry, has been a virtual white elephant with mechanical problems after mechanical problems plaguing the plant.
And with the period of liability expired, the Guyana government will now have to bear the additional cost of effecting repairs to ensure that the factory works to specification.
The Baldwin Spencer administration in Antigua has come under unrelenting pressure to mount a probe of the plant which was not functioning in recent weeks because of the lack of money for maintenance.
A release from the Antigua PM’s office said “Cabinet, during the weekly meeting on Tuesday, July 3, appointed a Ministerial Sub-Committee to consider a letter sent by the Parliamentary Representative for St. John’s City Gaston Browne, which asked Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to conduct an investigation into the Wadadli Power Plant.
“The Ministerial Sub-Committee is comprised of Minister of Education, Gender, Sports and Youth Affairs Dr. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, Minister of National Security and Labour Dr. Errol Cort and Minister of Finance, the Economy and Public Administration Harold Lovell.
“The role of the Ministerial Sub-Committee is to study Mr. Browne’s letter and to make recommendations to Cabinet.
“The Ministerial Sub-Committee has 14 days to fulfill its mandate.” Browne, Chairman of the ALP, this week threatened to lead street protests in Antigua over the plant.
The Antigua Observer reported Brown on July 4th as saying “The ALP is not prepared to sit down and allow the Prime Minister to sweep this issue under the carpet. We will definitely demonstrate to force an investigation, and the investigation that we will push for will be a Commission of Inquiry”.
The plant, opened last September, has been mired in controversy ever since.
In an interview with the Antigua Observer on June 25, Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) Electricity Manager, Lyndon Francis, said that while financial and technical challenges forced a temporary shut-down of up to five of the six engines, the company has the capacity to effectively manage the facility in the long term.
The engines were down during the period April 7 to May 26 this year, causing the company to rely more on private provider Antigua Power Company.