Aug 28, 2021 News
– Infested with corruption, bankruptcy, mismanagement – Minister Rodrigues
By Kiana Wilburg
While it is well known that the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) offers crucial support for the nation’s economic wellbeing, it appears that post 2020, it was not managed with any regard or reverence for its role.
Expressing this viewpoint among others was Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water, Susan Rodrigues. During her maiden appearance on Kaieteur Radio’s Programme, Governance, Corruption and Justice, the Minister noted that GWI was found in a state of crisis; it was fraught with mismanagement and corruption.
The Minister said, “When we took office, GWI was in crisis, it was bankrupt, it had not received a subvention for five years and so it owed the Guyana Power and Light over $7B…The bank balance for GWI was reduced by $1.8B in five years. From August 2015 to 2020, the operational costs had increased by $1.1B and this was regardless of the two tariff increases, one in October 2018 and October 2019, almost 100 percent it increased by.”
She added, “I don’t know if people realised that and also not just the bank balances and increase in spending but GWI owed suppliers over $800M and 80 percent of that was long overdue. And of course, the company was infested with corruption. One of the biggest scandals involved the purchase of the SeaQuest.”
In June, Kaieteur News had reported that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has been called in to investigate suspected financial irregularities at the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and among them was a US$9M contract for a water treatment chemical called SeaQuest.
These financial irregularities allegedly took place while the coalition government was in power, under ex-boss, Dr. Richard Van West-Charles.
Informing media operatives of the development was the current Managing Director (MD), Shaik Baksh, who also detailed that a forensic audit of the company is currently ongoing. Baksh had pointed out that there was a questionable water chemical contract, which cost Guyana some G$1.8B over a four-year period, or almost US$9M.
According to Baksh, the money was used to sole-source the water purification product, SeaQuest, through a middleman, from the manufacturer, an American company called Aqua Smart Inc. The product is a trademarked combination of chemicals used to reduce or separate the iron content from the water as part of the purification process.
“They have a middle company doing the procurement and then mixing, batching the product and transporting it to all Regions. So a middle man was there sourcing (the product) from Aqua Smart and this was sole sourcing,” the GWI boss had told reporters.
Baksh said that by doing this, the then management of GWI breached all the tender processes, both at GWI and the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB).
Further to this, Minister Rodrigues pointed out that GWI was without the necessary materials to do basic connections thereby leading to an application backlog of over 5,000.
She said, “There were no basic spares, parts, pumps, supplies, no materials. There were 5,200 applications for new water connections that were sitting there and they couldn’t do anything about it because simple hardware they did not have in the inventory. The company was just bare, it was a shell.”
The Junior Minister added, “There was not a single meter in the inventory so they couldn’t install any meters or service connections too. Since coming into office, we have been through the application backlog and it was cleared. We now have over 2,000 new connection applications and we are working on that.”
Rodrigues was keen to note that measures in the 2020 and 2021 budget have also allowed for her Ministry to be able to restock GWI’s inventory and get the agency up and running efficiently. “…Management is now doing a good job in that regard,” the Minister concluded.
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