Jaigopaul Ram, Director of Finance of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), yesterday, admitted that collecting outstanding revenue would eliminate the need for tariff increases.
GWI is currently before the regulator, Public Utility Commission (PUC), seeking rate increases.
Ram was grilled by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), chaired by Irfaan Ali, when he was questioned about the company’s finances.
He explained that GWI collects rates from some 49% of base. Ali noted that with approximately $1.8M subsidy from central government to cover electricity charges, some 10% of GWI financial operations are not being financed.
“If you were to collect all the rates from all your revenue at the existing rate which means that there is no need for tariff increase. So your first objective would be that all your customers in the database are paying,” Ali stated.
Ram agreed with Ali’s assertion that once the delinquent customers pay into GWI there will be no need to increase tariffs.
PAC Member and Coalition MP, Jermaine Figuera, questioned Ram’s reasoning since GWI has never collected all outstanding rates from customers.
On February 12, last, GWI’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Richard Van West Charles, led a team of officials, into an hour-long case for the increases at Cara Lodge, on Quamina Street, South Cummingsburg.
At the end, consumer representatives Ramon Gaskin, Pat Dial and others insisted, in some tense moments with raised voices, that they first wanted to examine the financials of GWI before making pronouncements.
In essence, GWI is arguing that it has 14 domestic bands and no clear-cut parameters for applying with customers – there are 180,000 of them complaining of discrimination.
GWI is proposing that a fixed charge of $500 be applied to all customers except pensioners. The fixed charges for pensioners will be waived, GWI said.
According to the CEO, the water company has some serious challenges to bringing potable water to customers.
With 180,800 customers, GWI is charged with overseeing 137 well stations and 24 treatment plants, with three more to be constructed.
There are more than 900 staffers with 60-plus contractors and 220,000 Km of transmission and distribution mains.
However, despite investments, GWI is facing major problems with its energy efficiency, with stability and reliability being major problems.
For domestic customers with meters, GWI is proposing the monthly fix charges of $500 and with standard rates of $112 per m3. For pensioners, GWI wants to waive those fixed charges, but the pensioners have to pay $74 per m3.
For residential unmetered, there is a $500 fixed monthly with a $1,500 monthly charge.
GWI wants unmetered pensioners to pay no monthly fixed charges, but for $740 m3 for fixed charges.
Significantly, GWI is proposing to get tough with tampering with a $50,000 fine for domestic customers and $100,000 for commercial ones.
GWI said that it will need a minimum of three months from time of approval, as it has to make software changes, including automatic billing for VAT and creation of new tariffs for billing.
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