The second day of the public hearings into an application by state-owned Guyana Water Inc. (GWI) for increased rates got under way yesterday with the company announcing plans to sanitise its systems.
During the hearings at Cara Lodge, Quamina Street, GWI’s head, Dr. Richard Van West Charles, disclosed that the company has found itself in a bind…it is unable to go after consumers, including home owners and businesses, who are owing more than three years ago.
Under limitation laws, GWI cannot bill customers beyond three years in arrears.
The company is now moving to determine what exactly it is owed. The sanitisation process will take some time.
The issue of what is owed is highly pertinent to GWI’s application as there are arguments by consumers’ rights advocates that GWI don’t need any raise to the rates…rather, it should move to collect those outstanding monies.
Consumers’ activists Pat Dial, George Cave, Ramon Gaskin and former GWI’s official, John Seeram, were among those who believe that GWI should put its house in order first.
Gaskin, for the second day, is standing his grounds that up to date financials of GWI should feature as part of the considerations for any rates increase.
GWI’s financials for 2016 is now being audited. The Managing Director says he will be meeting with the board today on the possible release of the information as there are restrictions of released unaudited figures.
Dr Van West-Charles explained that although the company’s debt figure is high, collections alone cannot sufficiently finance the investments made to treat water for a growing economy.
“When we apply the Limitation Act and look at the debt beyond the last three years, there is no way if you collect that debt anyway, that you can cover the cost …because nothing stands still. We’re having customers every day; we’re having new housing schemes; both private and public, we are looking at already existing schemes that do not have access, those that require an improvement of quality such as New Hope,” he said.
He further highlighted that in the context of the strategic plan, maintenance of the system is necessary and the needs of the Hinterland regions as well as the improvement of water quality across the country must be taken into consideration.
Dr. Van West-Charles stressed that globally, every company caters for some level of delinquency from customers who do not pay their debt, citing other utility and hire purchase entities.
Additionally, the Managing Director said that while salaries are equal among staff, countrywide, so should the rates be.
During his presentation, it was also highlighted that since the last rate change 12 years ago, the cost for purifying water alone has increased by more than 100 percent, let alone the cost for equipment and manual labour, among other things.
In this regard, Dr. Van West-Charles stated that the utility has since moved to employ and train staff in the necessary areas of expertise such as learning new drilling techniques and water quality improvements.
GWI is proposing a change in rates and tariffs for residential and non-residential (metered and unmetered) customers and a new category for pensioners.
The PUC has requested an unaudited copy of GWI’s 2016 financial statements to be presented at the next public hearing scheduled for March 14, 2018 at the same venue from 10:00hrs. GWI has promised to meet with its Board of Directors to seek permission on providing same.
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