Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Romney Thomas says the biggest challenges facing the authority are ageing infrastructure and insufficient revenue to meet operational needs.
He made the statement in opening remarks on Wednesday at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament which was examining WASA’s audited financial statements from 2008-2013. Romney said WASA is heavily dependent on government subsidies and admitted that if it did not get that subsidy next year it would be “dead in the water” and unable to pay salaries or contractors.
“We would be very seriously challenged if we were not very heavily supported by government,” he said.
In response to a question from committee chairman, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Romney said WASA’s biggest risk factor is insufficient revenues, adding that adequate revenue was important to ensure that the authority could carry out its mandate to deliver a safe and timely water supply to the population.
He reminded the committee that WASA was also responsible for the treatment of sewerage in a timely and safe manner from a public health standpoint.
Pressed by Tewarie about WASA’s finances, Romney said that WASA is heavily dependent on government subventions to meet operational expenses. Asked what plans WASA had to deal with the risk of inadequate revenue, Romney said the best way to deal with that problem was to raise rates and this matter is before the Regulated Industries Commission, which regulates the country’s public utilities.
He said another way of dealing with the situation was to reduce its spending. He said WASA also recognised that it had to reduce expenditure and one way it was doing this was by cutting down on the contracting of services from outside providers.
He said if WASA did not receive the government subvention next year it would be unable to pay salaries or contractors.
In response to a question from committee member Melissa Ramkissoon, he said the government subvention to WASA this year is $9 billion while the authority makes about $800 million from rates and spends about $2.7 billion a year. He said WASA has outstanding debts of $1.1 billion to contractors and various old debts as well as loans.