Bold steps taken to improve water supply service
By Abigail Butler
Guyana Chronicle
December 1, 2002

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THE Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) has taken steps towards improving the quality and level of service it is providing. In this regard, GWI Friday signed a five-year Performance-Based Management Contract with Severn Trent Water International (STWI).

The 3M pounds sterling contract is being funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), of the British Government. There will also be an incentive fee of 284,992 pounds sterling should the management team meet the required target.

The contract provides for the installation of five managers over the five-year span and several short-term support personnel and specialists.

Among other things, the management operations are aimed at improving the efficiency, and long-term performance of the water and sewerage systems, improving service to poor areas and the hinterland region, improving the efficiency of revenue collection and customer service and public relations functions. The operations will also include implementing the cost recovery policies of the Government of Guyana, ensuring effective management of human resources, the professional management of the water and sewerage system, and ensuring the implementation of the investment component that will be carried out in parallel and financed by other funding agencies.

It is expected that by the end of the contract, Guyana Water Inc. will be a utility that meets the requirements and needs of the nation.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Water Inc., Mr. William Wilson and Project Director of STWI, Mr. Simon Langton signed the necessary documents at the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (Red House) in Georgetown in the presence of other personnel of both entities and the Housing and Water Minister, Mr Shaik Baksh.

Minister Baksh later told a news conference at the Guyana Television and Broadcasting Company (GTV) studio that the signing came at an opportune time. He referred to the Project Steering Committee of donor agencies and the government that also met yesterday to review the progress made in the water sector.

Minister Baksh recalled that the modernisation programme started about two years ago with studies that led the government to move ahead with its implementation.

This resulted in the passing of the water sector legislation in the form of the Water and Sewerage Bill in Parliament which set the pace for the modernisation programme, he said.

What resulted was the creation of a single utility in May this year with the merger of the former Guyana Sewerage and Water Commission (GSWC) and the Guyana Water Authority (GUYWA) and the taking over of the Linden Water Supply.

According to the Minister, Guyana Water Incorporated is currently suffering from several weaknesses in many areas largely due to the lack of requisite managerial and technical expertise. He said many of the staff members have also left, presenting problems both at the central and divisional levels.

At the divisional level, he said there is poor response to consumer complaints, long periods of time are being taken to solve technical problems and many communities have not been enjoying a good supply of potable water.

He added that they are taking measures to upgrade the division and had recently advertised for ten engineers.

The Minister noted that there is need for improvement both in terms of the technical management of the system as well as in the administrative arrangements in areas of metering, response to consumer complaints, billing and collection of revenues.

He said they are experiencing tremendous problems in collecting revenues despite the new system which has been put in place and that the collection is now well below the target due to late billing.

As such, STWI will be providing a Managing Director, Operations Director, Customer Service Director, Hinterland Manager, and a Corporate Planning Director. The positions for the Corporate Planning Director and the Customer Service Director were specifically created.

There will also be about eight support staff to provide the necessary expertise and from time to time specialists from overseas will be coming to support the team.

The contract also provides for the management operations to meet certain set targets. Failure to meet these requirements will see the imposition of penalties.

They are expected to reduce the high incidents of wastage to 25 per cent from the current estimated 75 per cent. This, the Minister said, is mainly due to leakage. He said this will have an important impact on the cost of the utility in terms of energy.

Another area is the continuity of service where the management team is expected to provide a water service of 24 hours.

Collection efficiency and metering are also to be better dealt with which the Minister said is an important aspect of the modernisation programme.

He said the energy costs at the beginning of the year was about $67M per month and this has since been increased to about $96M.

Time frames were also set to repair leaks which normally take weeks to be done.

The operator will be required to provide training to their local counterparts who are expected to take over at the end of that five-year period.

Meanwhile, Minister Baksh said progress has been made in the water sector despite the challenges and difficulties faced and referred to the major schemes where the building of water factories continue to progress. He also referred to the Rose Hall plant covering villages from Number One to Whim now being commissioned and the La Bonne Intention (LBI) area where work is moving apace.

He said they are upgrading the water treatment plants, the pumping stations, putting in new transmission lines and are rehabilitating the overhead storage tanks along the East Coast Demerara which will benefit about 60,000 persons.

He, however, noted that places like Annandale, Lusignan, Success and Happy Acres, all on the East Coast Demerara are having problems including a low supply of water as a result of the collapse of the Lusignan well a few months ago. He said that about $5M was spent to rehabilitate this, though it is not functioning as expected but promised that by January there will be some improvements.

The investment plan for the next two years will see more systems being built across Guyana including the hinterland regions, he said.

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