Among its long list of offences, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales said rampant corruption has led to the "dysfunctional" management at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Gonzales made the statement as he laid the report of a Cabinet sub-committee, assigned to investigate WASA last August, in Parliament on Friday.
“Based on the careful deliberation of all the submissions, written and oral, an intense review of its current state of affairs…and thoughtful deliberation on the most feasible way forward; the sub-committee has come to the inescapable conclusion that WASA is dysfunctional in terms of its corporate performance, organisational design…(and) financial management.”
Gonzales chaired the committee which comprised the Ministers of National Security (Stuart Young), Planning and Development (Camille Robinson-Regis), Housing and Urban Development (Penelope Beckles-Robinson) Energy and Energy Industries (Franklin Khan) and Social Development (Donna Cox).
“The dysfunctionality inherent in the organisation is manifested in, inter alia, rampant corruption, a multiplicity of illegal connections, refusal to take disciplinary action against personnel identified in audit findings, conflicts of interest with companies providing goods and services tied to unions representing workers, a general lack of accountability, incompetence, (and) lack of strategically focused capital investments.”
Gonzales also revisited a 1999 policy decision as an example of WASA's poor management. He said the authority entered a desalination contract to supply water to Point Lisas industries. “The country was told then that WASA would benefit from this arrangement by the pricing arrangements and that the water will not be used on the domestic grid since it was always priced substantially higher than the cost of production at WASA.”
He said the decision crippled the authority with over 20 million gallons of desalinated water which is now going to the domestic grid and tariffs remained at 1995 levels.
He said the then UNC government made the situation worse by extending the arrangement to 2036 at a monthly cost of approximately $50 million to be paid in US currency (US$7 million).
“Today, outstanding payables amount to $1.59 billion of which some $700 million is owed to contractors and suppliers.”
Gonzales expressed his support of newly appointed executive director Dr Lennox Sealy. He said Sealy has extensive experience in transformation and organisational change locally and regionally and has worked in both the private and public sectors.
“The fundamental imperative confronting the government in the transformation of the WASA is to provide a consistent and reliable water supply and wastewater services to the population, and this can no longer be delayed.”
Gonzales also said the ministry plans to submit to Cabinet a blueprint for an integrated water management programme for long term sustainability.
“This transformation is not only restricted to the WASA but, in light of the negative impact of global warming and changing climatic conditions, it must and will involve transformation of the water sector in TT.”