Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Justice Prem Persaud, is concerned that inaccurate reports in some sections of the media could have an adverse effect on the ongoing resolution process between the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and City Hall.
The two entities are working to derive an amicable debt settlement. They have jurisdiction over the payment of water rates and property rates and taxes respectively, and have been engaged in a prolonged feud over either side’s non-payment.
Reports are that the two entities are indebted to each other in the vicinity of millions, with the GWI claiming water rates payment in excess of $80M, and the City arguing that it is owed rates and taxes from 2004 to 2008 and from a decade prior.
GWI has failed to pay a whopping $140M for municipal services rendered to the Vlissengen and Church Roads Shelter Belt facility, City Hall said.
However, with the intervention of Justice Persaud, the two parties have decided to work together to find a reasonable solution to the problem.
Prior to the PUC Chairman’s intervention, the situation had become so intense that GWI had decided to cut the water supply of some municipal entities, a deed which had led City Hall to move to the court to file for an injunction.
The injunction was secured and caused GWI to restore all water connection, refrain from taking any further action against City Hall, and to continue discussions with a view to solving the problem.
But, according to Justice Persaud, a recent report published in the Guyana Times suggested that the two parties are not cooperating with each other, a notion which is grossly inaccurate, he added. He said that the report indicates that water supply to some municipal locations had again been disconnected, which constitutes a breach in the court injunction.
Justice Persaud disclosed to this newspaper that, not only are the parties working well together, but it is expected that they would shortly be able to resolve the matter.
The Chairman’s prediction was made based on a meeting he had last Friday with representatives of the two entities, which included Chief Executive Officer of GWI, Mr Karan Singh, City Mayor Mr Hamilton Green, and Deputy Mayor Mr Robert Williams.
That meeting, Justice Persaud said, was similar to previous hearings he had had with the representatives. They proved to be amicable, and indicated that significant headways are being made.
According to Mr Singh yesterday, at no point in time did the GWI institute a decision to disconnect the service of the municipality following the court injunction. Singh said that GWI respects the authority of the court and therefore would never set out to intentionally breach the injunction while at the same time disrupting favourable discussions with City Hall.
He added, though, that the water company is still mandated to disconnect water in the city for wastage, but noted that no situation had arisen for the municipality to be disconnected.
Singh said that reports of such an action are inaccurate and are not a true reflection of the GWI/City Hall relations.
Deputy Mayor Williams also related yesterday that he was surprised to learn through the media that GWI had disconnected some municipal water supplies, since he was not aware that such an action was intended or was even carried out.
According to Williams, as far as he is aware, the ongoing resolution process between the entities is progressing well, even as efforts are being made to determine the ownership of properties in order to derive the cost which should be affixed.
And, so far, costs have been significantly reduced on both entities’ part, he divulged.
However, the only property which continues to be a bugbear, he said, is that of the Shelter Belt, which, once resolved, will pave the way for finality in the matter.
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