Cabinet report: Bid to fix water crisis in 30 months

In this July 16, 2020 file photo WASA CEO Alan Poon King views the water level at the Arena reservoir.
In this July 16, 2020 file photo WASA CEO Alan Poon King views the water level at the Arena reservoir.

The government has set out what seems to be an extraordinary challenge to fix the water supply distribution for all 1.4 million citizens in 30 months.
The aim to "fix the plane while it is flying" will involve a series of changes, significant capital investment and a significant reduction in the workforce and transferring full operations to a water management company by September 2023.

Apart from being overstaffed by over 50 per cent, charging among the lowest rates, poor infrastructure, mismanagement, and corruption, the committee found WASA to be inefficient in almost every area of performance.

In the interim, it was recommended that the company be divided into four divisions focusing on exploration and production, transmission, commercial and distribution, and wastewater.
In the 135-page report of the Cabinet-sub committee, laid in the House on Friday, details of the plan to wind up the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), and set up new entities to manage and distribute and find new sources of water were disclosed. The water resources agency is to be transferred under the Ministry of Public Utilities as a department.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales. -

"The crisis in which WASA now finds itself is the natural outcome of decades of poor governance and inept management. In fixing the problem, there is no silver-bullet solution that is easy, quick, inexpensive and risk-free.
“The committee has concluded that it would be near impossible for WASA, in its current configuration and with its current leadership, management capability, systems and culture, to be able to transform itself into a high performing public utility," the report said.

In making out the case for a new model for the management of water and wastewater resources, the committee found that the authority has deeply entrenched deficiencies in all the core aspects of its business.
"Some of these deficiencies are rooted in WASA’s current business model, which has sustained a vicious spiral of decline, whilst others stem from a deeply entrenched non-progressive culture that largely ignores customers’ needs."

In its conclusion, the committee recommended: "Trinidad and Tobago needs to adopt a new water management approach in the water and wastewater sector.
“Restructuring the way that water is delivered to the national community will lay the platform for the change the country desperately requires. The economic challenges faced currently and public expectations, in terms of customer service, do not allow the State the luxury of maintaining the status quo.

WASA workers repair a main on St Francois Valley Road, Belmont on July 28, 2020. File photo -

“The organisation’s culture, which is bureaucratic in nature, and public service in orientation, does not lend itself to a contemporary approach to the management of the water and wastewater sectors. Similarly, the organisation’s current structure, with seven divisions and an exceedingly top-heavy management, does not facilitate the organisational change that is now required, and more appropriately should be designed along a business value chain."

The report noted the establishment of a new organisation should be imperative.
"A new start will allow for a greater business-orientation, new engagement in public ownership through changed water use, and workforce arrangements that are more in line with the service demands of the entire country."

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"Cabinet report: Bid to fix water crisis in 30 months"

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