South Carolina governor Henry McMaster is accepting bid solicitations to help manage his administration’s starring role in determining the future of Santee Cooper – the Palmetto State’s debt-addled, atrociously managed, scandal-scarred government-run power provider.
We wrote extensively on this process earlier today, so you can click here to get the very latest …
Thumbnail sketch? McMaster is responsible for submitting two Santee Cooper-related proposals to the S.C. General Assembly – one involving the sale of the utility and another involving its management by an outside party.
Those proposals are due no later than March 15, 2020.
Santee Cooper will submit a third proposal outlining an ostensible reform agenda.
This month, McMaster’s cabinet agency – the S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA) – is “seeking bid solicitations for consultants and experts to assist with the Santee Cooper project.”
Specifically, SCDOA is seeking two providers. The first provider would handle responsibilities “including but not limited to resource planning and procurement, management prudence, finance, revenue requirements, rate design, operational efficiency, utility infrastructure, and market power.”
The second provider would handle responsibilities “including but not limited to corporate acquisition, finance, governance, tax-exempt finance, competitive bidding and contracting, employee policies (including pensions and other benefits), and business management.”
The deadline for both solicitations is 11:00 a.m. EDT on June 17, 2019 (a.k.a. next Monday). SCDOA officials will begin holding interviews on June 19 with contracts expected to be awarded no later than July 1.
Our view? As we have said all along, we do not like this process … at all.
First and most importantly, we object to the near total lack of transparency associated with these bids. Remember: The Palmetto State has already undergone one secretive bidding process related to the contemplated sale of Santee Cooper.
Why would we waste time on another?
Also, given that state lawmakers have been negotiating behind closed doors for the better part of two years in an effort to undo a disaster of their own making … such a negotiating structure is completely unacceptable.
Any entity seeking to purchase or manage a state-owned asset – proposals which would be evaluated by a state agency and ultimately voted upon by state lawmakers – must consent to full public disclosure of their offer(s).
This is the only way to ensure taxpayers (and Santee Cooper ratepayers) get the best deal possible.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have gone to great pains to hide the bidding process from the public. That is, as we have frequently noted, an “engraved invitation to corruption.”
Second, we continue to have serious reservations as to McMaster’s ability to be impartial in this process. The governor’s office has been conducting secret offline negotiations related to the sale of Santee Cooper for months. Not only that, it is widely believed that the state’s electric cooperatives – glorified middlemen who wield all sorts of self-serving influence over the future of Santee Cooper – have McMaster in their hip pocket.
Bottom line? We believe the lack of transparency associated with this process along with McMaster’s glaring conflicts of interest will produce a set of outcomes that cannot be trusted.
And selling Santee Cooper (or allowing it to be managed for a few years before it is ultimately sold) is far too important a process not to be trusted.
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