October 28, 2020

ELECTRIC SHOCKER: Bush calls for major CUC audit

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CUC Headquarters

Premier McKeeva Bush will ask an overseas auditor to examine the books at Caribbean Utilities Company, seeking to determine why monthly electricity bills are so high.

He proposed bringing to Cayman “a company out of the US or out of Canada who know this business” to perform an audit on the utility company, drawing cries of approval from a 200-member audience at Mary Miller Hall on Tuesday evening.

In a wide-ranging 45-minute speech, Mr Bush said he was trying to revive an economy in which “people can’t get work and are suffering”. Blaming his political opponents, he told the audience the recession had “put a severe strain on you”, and that falling revenues and budget deficits had forced him to put a 25-cent per gallon surcharge on the approximately 30 million gallons of diesel fuel burned annually by CUC.

“No one can convince me that the 25 cents is responsible for the high bills”, sparking consumer complaints, he said.

He demonstrated the claim by saying  “I want to have an audit done on CUC to see what the true cost is and where it is coming from. Is it because of the 25 cents or did they hedge and lose money?”

“I will get a company out of the US or out of Canada, one that knows what they are doing and who know this business to deal with this audit.

Sacha Tibbetts, Manager Engineering Services

“The Opposition would have you believe the surcharge is responsible for high electricity bills, but they gave CUC $13 million after Ivan even though CUC had its own insurance and money.”

CUC sought recompense from government after 2004’s Hurricane Ivan damaged its transmission and distribution network. Citing prohibitive insurance costs for a network the company could not itself replace, the utility tacked a monthly surcharge onto consumer bills for two years, only dropping the amount after government renewed the company’s licence in 2008.

Mr Bush yesterday told iNews that “we are in the process of getting the audit under way”, but that he was uncertain “exactly who will do it,” apart from confirming the North American origins of the company.

“It will start as soon as possible, as soon as the government can prepare,” Mr Bush said. “We do not believe the 25 cents can cause you to pay a bill that is sometimes more than your mortgage.”

He conceded the move would have to gain Cabinet approval, however, and was unsure if he needed to consult CUC watchdog the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA).

“I’m taking this to Cabinet to get it approved,” Mr Bush added. “It will be a Cabinet initiative.”

Neither the ERA nor CUC would answer questions about the proposed audit, despite a series of calls and prepared questions.

 

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