PUC to regulate water company

Stabroek News
November 30, 2002

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The government is to apply for an order which would allow the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to regulate Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) from January.

This announcement was made yesterday by Minister of Housing and Water Shaik Baksh at a media briefing. Baksh told reporters that “in terms of the regulatory framework for the water sector the government has decided that with effect from January 1, 2003 the regulation of the water sector will fall under the PUC.”

GWI will be managed by a British firm, Severn Trent starting in January as part of a five-year contract funded by a British development agency.

He noted that as the Minister of Housing and Water he would first have to issue an order under the Water and Sewerage Act which he intends to do next month. He noted that Prime Minister Samuel Hinds would also have to issue an order.

Baksh reported that the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) through a consultancy will be providing institutional strengthening for the PUC to take on the added responsibility.

The minister said the decision had been planned all along and noted that the PUC was the regulatory body for utilities in Guyana, including electricity and telecommunications.

Baksh observed that there were many challenges still to be overcome in the water sector, but his ministry was ready to move ahead to ensure that every citizen was fully supplied.

He said the major schemes including treatment plants were underway and mentioned that technical commissioning has begun at the Rose Hall water treatment plant which will cover from Number One Village, Corentyne to Whim and provide water to some 60,000 residents. He said there had been difficulties in the area where some residents were not getting water, but that the problem has since been corrected.


At La Bonne Intention, he said, the upgrading of the water treatment plants, the pumping stations and installing new transmission lines along the East Coast Embankment should be complete by next year.

The minister conceded that, “on the lower East Coast, places like Annandale, Happy Acres, Lusignan and Success, residents have been suffering from a low pressure of water supply, but this is due to the collapsing of the Lusignan well a few months ago.” Baksh said his ministry spent over $5M to repair the well but the production has not come up to the expected level. “Therefore those communities are experiencing some hardships, but we are hoping that with the LBI system in place and well managed that there would be some improvement next year.”

He said two projects on the East Bank and in Bartica are being funded by the World Bank and a representative from the financial institution had been in the country recently and expressed satisfaction at the way things were progressing.

The Minister told the media that GWI was hoping to expand its services to the hinterland and it is in that context the government was bringing in a management crew.

He said “at this point in time the GWI is suffering from several weaknesses in several areas, largely because of the lack of requisite managerial and technical expertise.” He said some of the more qualified staff left the utility long before the merger with the Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commissioners while some left after and this presented problems at both the central and divisional levels of the corporation. Baksh pointed out that at the divisional level there have been poor responses to consumer complaints, technical issues have arisen and officers have not been able to solve them and communities have expressed their disgust at the utility’s operations.

He said the corporation has since taken measures to change this and as a result it has advertised vacancies for ten engineers who will be put into the divisions to upgrade both the technical management of the system as well as the administrative arrangements in terms of metering, the response to customer complaints, billing and collection of revenues. Baksh noted that this was being done at the central level also since they have had problems with the billing collection systems. “Here in Georgetown we have had tremendous problems, although we have installed a new system.

The managerial capacity is lacking and we have made changes over the last months in the customer department and we have advertised vacancies for two customer service managers.”

He said collected revenues were well below target. “And this is largely because a lot of billings were delayed, but shortly we should complete all of the billings and I am urging all consumers to pay up their bills so that we can more effectively run the corporation.” (Nigel Williams)

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