Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Nation article refused as evidence


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Intervenor Tricia Watson has failed in an effort to have a NATION newspaper article accepted as evidence in the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) electricity rate hearing.

On day 11 of the proceedings of the Accra Beach Hotel on Wednesday, the attorney sought to question a Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (BL&P) asset management witness panel on an October 2013 article.

In the story, Sarah MacDonald, the then head of Caribbean operations for BL&P owner, Canadian company Emera, was reported as saying that the company wanted another 40 year licence otherwise it would not commit to building planned new generation plant.

Watson questioned the BL&P panel of director of asset management Rohan Seale, director of operations Johann Greaves, and director of finance Ricaido Jennings, extensively on the decision not to retire the company’s 46 year-old steam plant by 2012 as previously planned, and the failure to not construct new generation plant as committed to in the 2009 rate hearing.

She then sought to enter into evidence, and question them on, the newspaper article.

However, BL&P lead counsel Ramon Alleyne objected.

“I do not know the value of this article and I do question its admissibility as evidence in this matter. There is no sworn testimony in relation to this. This is not properly before the Commission in a manner that it can be used as an evidentiary basis. So I do object to this being put to any witness for them to ask to answer questions,” he stated.

Chairman of the FTC panel Dr Donley Carrington then told Watson: “Documentary evidence is introduced by a person who swears it and the Commission…requires the evidence to be sworn and this evidence was not sworn. So we are asking you to not to refer to this particular article and to move on.”

But the intervenor responded: “We have heard on numerous occasions the company refer to newspaper articles as the basis for its decision making. And we have actually had newspaper articles provided by the company, presumably as evidence in this hearing.

“Those articles are not sworn, those articles that the company has referred to include articles related to the commencement of the Cahill project and the like.

“So the applicant can’t seek to rely on that and at the same time…suggest that they cannot be relied on in relation to cross examination. And therefore I’m asking the chairman to take into consideration that this document was served over a week ago, and the applicant had ample time to address his concerns in relation to the document,” she added.

She asked the FTC to “allow me to proceed with examining the witnesses on this document, or permit me to re-enter the document as evidence according to your prescription, providing an affidavit, and allow me to recall the witnesses.”

Alleyne said in response that “the applicant to the best of my knowledge has not relied on any newspaper articles to substantiate its filings in here”.

“Newspaper articles or any reference…last week were at a specific response to an interrogatory from…Miss Watson we did not offer them as our evidence of any matter,” he said.

The FTC panel listens to submissions at the electricity rate hearing. (Picture by Lennox Devonish)

FTC Commissioner Ruan Martinez told Watson said “the Commission has issued a procedural order previously that all evidence must be entered by way of affidavit”.

“The introduction of a newspaper article was not in compliance with the order and therefore you will not be entitled to rely on the same. We therefore ask you to move to a new line of questioning and to seek to wrap up your cross examination within the next 15 minutes,” she stated.

During the contentious session before lunch, Martinez again voiced concern about the behaviour of participants.

“We wish to remind all parties about the behaviour being exhibited and was has occurred again today with the total lack of respect and regard for the panel, the statements of the panel, and the decisions made by the panel. If the behaviour continues, the persons or persons will be removed from the hearing, either physically or virtually. Please be guided according but it will not be allowed to continue,” she warned.

Day 12 of the hearing will be held today, Thursday, which was supposed to be the final day. It is unclear if the proceedings will extend continue on Friday or into next week. (SC)



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