Published On: Wed, Jan 28th, 2015

Cut out corruption, US vice president tells Caribbean leaders

SummitWASHINGTON, USA - Speaking at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington on Monday, US Vice President Joe Biden told Caribbean leaders to get a handle on corruption and pick the projects that make the most sense.

Otherwise, he said, while the United States was ready to help with aid and other financing, it would not do so with its eyes closed.

“First and foremost, you have to deal with corruption,” he told the gathering of Caribbean leaders and energy experts. “You need to be choosing projects because they are the most competitive, not for other reasons.”

“I guarantee you we will do our part,” he said. “And we can afford it. But we’re not going to waste money. We’re going to insist on considerably more transparency, greater coordination and changes in regulations. We’re not here to replace one flawed financing scheme with another.”

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, spoke about how small nations in the Caribbean are heavily reliant on imported oil and petroleum products.

“This makes us extremely vulnerable to the vagaries of the international oil markets,” Christie said.

The recent dramatic drop in oil prices – while seen as a net positive to the US and other economies – was just another indication of how volatile the market is, he said.

While the US Department of Justice has actively pursued allegations of foreign corruption, notably in a recent case involving the state-owned Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Biden’s admonition rings hollow to some observers when the US government itself has endorsed the controversial involvement of a US public company called PowerSecure International, Inc. in bidding for a management contract in relation to BEC.

In May of last year, Louisiana law firm Kahn Swick & Foti announced that it had commenced an investigation into PowerSecure focusing on whether the company and/or its officers and directors had violated state or federal securities laws.

Such claims did not, however, prevent US Commerce Secretary, billionaire Penny Pritzker, from attempting to influence the Bahamian government to select two US-based groups, one of which was PowerSecure, to reform BEC and the energy sector, describing them as the “superior choice”.

In a direct lobbying effort directed at deputy prime minister, Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, Pritzker promoted the “cutting edge” proposal” submitted by PowerSecure.

Pritzker, in a June 27, 2014, letter to Davis, said that PowerSecure is a company “with years of experience in the realm of power generation and distribution, and bring to the table cutting-edge proposals to meet today’s energy needs.”

According to Pritzker, PowerSecure had “the full support of the United States government.”

However, according to local media on Tuesday, Christie claimed to have received backing for two American firms from top US Embassy officials in Nassau. This had reportedly dealt with the integrity of one US firm, in particular.

While not identifying the US firms he was referring to, Christie reportedly said on Monday: “I have received written support from the Embassy in Nassau, from the deputy secretary of state and the Secretary of State of the US government [John Kerry] with respect to a particular applicant, certifying their integrity.”

Requests for clarification and/or comment concerning such a “warranty” by the US government sent to the Departments of State, Justice and Commerce in Washington were not responded to substantively by press time.

Of particular interest are answers to the following questions in this respect:

1. Is the report true?

2. If so, how can the US government confirm with absolute certainty the integrity of any commercial business, especially one that was last year claimed by a Louisiana law firm to have possibly violated state or federal securities laws?

3. If the US government “warranty” in this respect is later found to be flawed, will the US government make good any financial loss suffered by any person as a result of reliance on such “warranty”?

4. Similarly, if the US government “warranty” is found to be flawed, would this “warranty” then operate as an effective estoppel of criminal and/or civil proceedings against any party initiated by the US government?

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