Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales has rubbished Opposition claims regarding the restructuring of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
At a conference on Monday, Gonzales sought to set the record straight on a “tissue of lies” from Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal at the United National Congress (UNC) Sunday press briefing.
Gonzales denied a “devious” allegation that there was any secret deal made with a Canadian firm to conduct the restructuring exercise at the State-owned utility company.
The Minister questioned why there were objections now, when a report from the Cabinet subcommittee on WASA was laid in Parliament, and another subcommittee was working on a transformation plan.
He said government has been at work for well over two years to transform WASA and ensure that the Authority is poised to provide reliable potable water and wastewater services.
The Minister addressed claims from the Public Services Association (PSA) that WASA was “starved” of resources. He said in spite of $25 billion being pumped into WASA over a 12-year period, all the company had to show for it was declining levels of service.
Gonzales stressed that the transformation of WASA was not a 2022 initiative, noting that there were two major attempts at same under previous administrations that did not come to fruition.
He revealed that Ganga Singh as WASA CEO in 2012 attempted to get funding from the Inter-American Development Bank to carry out transformation of the utility company.
Gonzales challenged Dr Moonilal to confirm what Singh to the IDB about staffing levels.
The Minister noted that as a condition of the IDB loan, a proposed timeline for the reduction of staff was provided from executive go down – a restructuring exercise that was to be completed by 2015.
He said under the UNC administration at the time, a $396 million IDB loan was received for WASA restructuring by 2015. Instead, staffing was increased to 5,000.
The Minister said the loan was never used for the proposed restructuring and the repayment of it has fallen to the current administration.
He lamented that these funds could have been used to improve the water supply to the country as levels of service across a large number of communities leaves much to be desired.
The Minister also denied that his Ministry was engaged in training 50 managers to take over WASA. He questioned whether Dr Moonilal was referring to 50 OJTS deployed throughout WASA who would later move on to employment within WASA or elsewhere.
Gonzales said there was no 50,000 leak backlog on the distribution system as Dr Moonilal had claimed. He noted that the actual figure is 3,000 – down from 5,000 when he assumed office in 2020.
The Minister credited interventions using internal resources and subventions. Through the use of external contractors by September the Minister expects leaks to be “completely wiped out”.
The Minister said he is open to hearing any policy alternative that the Opposition puts forward for treating with the issues at WASA.
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