Guyana Water Inc is trying to baffle its way through Consumer Concerns
By Eileen Cox
Stabroek News
October 6, 2002

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It seems that Guyana Water Inc is moving apace for a clash with consumers.

Listen to this undated letter that was received by an 86 year-old consumer who had been granted relief over a period of five or six years.

“Dear Sir/Madam,

“I refer to your application for Tariff Exemption and wish to inform you that Tariff Exemption is not included in the Policies of your new Water and Sewerage Company, Guyana Water Incorporated.

“We regret any inconvenience caused.

Sgd. G. Fausett

Gladstone Fausett

Head, Customer Relations & Commercial Services”

The application for relief was sent to the Guyana Sewerage & Water Commission since late last year. The inconvenience that will be caused to many of those who were granted relief will be disconnection from potable water when payment of $6,000.00 or more cannot be made.

This is a callous letter and shows that the merger was the result of a half-baked plan. Anyone with a little semblance of intelligence could have seen that the merger was not done in the interest of consumers. Both entitles had flaws.

To take two inefficient entities and seek to find efficiency in a merger is asking for double trouble. Even in the choice of members for the new Board there was seen an absence of common sense. A member of the GUYWA Board with administrative experience over many years was omitted.

Water is essential for life. To say that consumers in the developed world pay for the water they consume and that people in the developing world should also pay is not viewing the problem in its entirety. People in the developed world receive financial aid that covers the basic necessities of life. This is not the case in poor developing countries.

The Guyana Sewerage & Water Commission (GS&WC) had one very serious problem. The accounting system was not reliable. Customers were told to keep copies of all receipts in order to prove payment of water rates.

The introduction of meters in some areas was posing some problems. One household with a diabetic, a wheelchair occupant and a grown daughter received a bill from GS&WC for $44,760 for the year 2001.

The Bill date is 31/12/2002. The charge is obviously unreasonable and leads one to believe that the meter was malfunctioning. Bills should be sent at monthly intervals when meters are installed in order to alert householders of their consumption of water.

Two households occupying the same compound were being asked by GS&WC to share the cost of water consumed as shown on one meter in the compound.

This is seen as a request for interminable disputes between the occupants of the households. A house is locked up for the whole year and no water is consumed but the owner is billed for a year’s supply of water. These were some of the problems faced by those with metered premises.

GUYWA the other entity that was merged with GS&WC to form GUYANA WATER INC., had its own problems. Le Ressouvenir residents complained of no water supplied for five or six months. Middlesex complained of discoloured water that stained kitchen sink, pots, clothes, bathrooms. Residents used rain water collected in tanks. What about those who could not afford tanks?

There were many areas where the health conscious visitor was horrified to see the quality of the water resident perforce had to use. In Bartica there are still complaints of contamination of the river water that has to be used for washing and other purposes.

In Amerindian settlements at Mashabo and Capoey Island - and no doubt in other settlements - school children and adults have no alternative but to use polluted water. Instructions may be given to boil water for drinking purposes but that is an additional expense for persons already living in absolute or critical poverty. Sterilising equipment costs money.

So, we return to the bill that is being sent by GUYANA WATER INC. to persons who, for five or six years, were receiving exemption from payment of water rates and to the terse letter that followed.

Many of these persons will be living on incomes of a few thousand dollars a month. Who will grant relief if not GUYANA WATER INC? The situation needs immediate attention. GUYANA WATER INC., must not be allowed to baffle its way through. To manage water supply in Georgetown and throughout the whole of Guyana is a tremendous task and needs trained management.

October 17 is dedicated to the eradication of poverty. Is this how we approach poverty eradication?