The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) has launched its online plumbing and infrastructure approval system.
On Tuesday, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales and a team from the ministry visited Tobago, where he addressed the formal launch of the online services for new connections at the T&TEC Tobago Sports Club in Scarborough.
Gonzales said his phone is usually inundated with calls from members of the public saying they had applied for new services, but got no response, and six months ago, he tasked the new chairman of the New Services Committee, Alston Fournillier, with finding out what was happening and fixing the issue.
“Shortly after, all kinds of applications were found locked away in drawers and all kind of places within the new services division, totalling over 5,000 from 2012- -2022. A 5,000 backlog of applications – it is costing this economy over $5 billion in investments, just locked away in a simple unit comprising 28 employees.
"It shows then when you cannot get simple things right, it impacts people’s life in a very significant way.”
He said the backlog has since been significantly reduced to 987 active files. While acknowledging that Tobago is no longer led by the PNM, he offered a guarantee.
“Our commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago as Central Government remains unshaken. And our resolve to continue to improve the lives of the people of Tobago remains focused and determined. We would continue to work hard and collaboratively to continue to do the work to improve the lives of the people of Tobago in the utilities sector. I give you that commitment.
"When it comes to electricity, when it comes to water and solid waste management, it must not matter whether the PNM is in the Tobago House of Assembly or otherwise. We are here in the service of the people of TT and whoever represents the majority of the people at the assembly, we at Central Government will continue to do our work.”
President of the TT Plumbers Association (TTPA) Herman Herbert commended the initiative, saying over the years the plumbing fraternity had experienced a number of challenges with regard to approvals. He said sometimes it would take as long as six months, sometimes even longer.
He outlined other issues.
“Each application would require repeated visits to the WASA office. Files also sometimes would go missing, which would require customers as well as the licensed practitioners to make numerous resubmissions.
"Town and Country approvals are only valid for one year. However, WASA's approvals process sometimes takes so long – more than a year – so most times you have to reapply for approvals.”
He described the new system as a step in the right direction.
“The system now gives plumbers the opportunity to engage their customers in a different way, where we can now have approvals done faster and more efficiently, leading to better customer service and satisfaction. Plumbers can now rest assured that their customers would no longer have the need to resort to mitigation in order to get their businesses sorted out.
"This online process is straightforward, it is user-friendly, it lends itself to efficient operations. It is a major improvement to what we would have been experiencing before.”
Senior manager of the new services at the authority Allison Fortune-Elcock said the role and functions of this department was to ensure compliance for all plumbing, water and wastewater systems.
“We intend to do this in order to safeguard public health and the environment. That’s why we want the compliance, and we do this by ensuring that new building projects and new developments can receive a safe and reliable supply of potable water and also suitable means for the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater arising from a building project or development.”
Letters were distributed to successful applicants to the Ministry of Public Utilities’ Water Tank and Residential Electrification Assistance Programme (REAP) Programmes.
MPs for Tobago West Shamfa Cudjoe and Tobago East Ayanna Webster-Roy were also present.
Afterthe launch, Gonzales visited and commissioned the Cut Hill, French Fort and Shirvan booster stations.