Government and APUA to pay damages yet to be determined

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua Power Company’s (APC) win at the Privy Council yesterday is likely to cost the country millions of dollars, but this is still to be determined.

APC emerged victorious following a six-year-battle with government and Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) over a failed multi-million dollar joint venture contract to provide the country with 50.9 megawatts of electricity.

After hearing legal arguments from all the parties yesterday, The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled that the government breached its contract with the Hadeed-owned family company.

The parties will meet before the Council today to arrive at a consensus for  legal remedy.

Attorney General Justin Simon QC told OBSERVER media, “Tomorrow (today), (they) will hear arguments as to whether there was a repudiation of the joint venture contract by APUA and an acceptance by APC of the repudiation, which will determine the issue of damages.”

He added the issue of the assessment of damages would then be referred to the local High Court for determination.

Meantime, the Committee will determine whether a claim for damages has been made out against the prime minister for obstructing, through the police, the installation of the three Wartsilla engines in the Power Plant at Crabbs, Simon QC noted.

APC’s attorney Dane Hamilton QC, in an interview from England, said the Council’s ruling demonstrates there is a contract between APC and APUA.

Government at all times maintained that Cabinet had only agreed on the first phase of the two-phased proposal and indicated in writing that each phase was subject to Cabinet approval.

APC appealed to the Privy Council against both the judgment of the High Court on February 23, 2009, and the Court of Appeal on October 19, 2011, that went in favour of the government.

APC and APUA had jointly proposed a two-phased approach to the contract; with phase one being the acquisition and commissioning of a 17- megawatt generator by January 2007, in time for Cricket World Cup.

The second phase encompassed the purchase of three additional generators each producing 11.3 megawatts of power.

The privately owned power company had paid down at least US $4 million, with the first US $1 million being non-refundable.

Meantime, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer declined to comment –at least, he said, until he has spoken to the attorney general.

Francis Hadeed, one of APC’s directors and owner, said when the matter is settled entirely he would speak.

Neither APC’s general manager Calid Hassad nor APUA’s general manager Esworth Martin could be reached for reaction to the development.

(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)