By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Oil exploration opponents yesterday urged the Government and Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to “come clean” on all their commercial agreements including the latter’s unpaid licence fees.
Fred Smith QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, who is representing Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save the Bays in their Judicial Review challenge to the permits granted to BPC for its first exploratory well, told Tribune Business that activities billed as a potential financial saviour for this nation required greater transparency so that citizens were properly informed on all potential issues.
He spoke out as his environmental activist clients voiced “shock” and outrage that BPC had been permitted to drill its Perseverance One well in waters 90 miles west of Andros despite it and the Government failing to settle outstanding licence fees owed by the oil explorer to the Public Treasury.
Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) executive director, told this newspaper: “It is shocking that BPC was given the go-ahead to drill when it seems clear that there were licence fees outstanding.
“We would like to see government provide an accounting of what has been paid and what is still outstanding. We desperately need transparency. As a country, I would like for us to get beyond the adjectives and stick with the facts and numbers. What does ‘a comparatively minor amount’ of monies owed to the Public Treasury mean?”
Her comments referred to the response from BPC’s chief executive, Simon Potter, who on Friday warned against “making mountains out of molehills” over the outstanding licence fees still owing to the Government even though these were supposed to have been paid by end-April 2020.
Tribune Business exclusively revealed on Friday that the Government had refused to accept BPC’s payment of outstanding licence fees, with Carl Bethel QC, the attorney general, confirming that the two parties were engaged in a “reconciliation process” to resolve the “dispute” over how much the oil explorer owes to the Public Treasury.
Mr Potter, in an e-mailed reply to Tribune Business inquiries, downplayed the matter by asserting that the “reconciliation” was “a basic, auditable business practice” that involves “a comparatively minor amount” of monies.
“For anything to be suggested beyond this is little more than another instance of those who might be opposed to BPC’s lawful activities seeking to make mountains out of molehills by misrepresenting what are basic business matters and practices,” Mr Potter told this newspaper.