Water utility now under PUC umbrella

Stabroek News
August 30, 2003

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The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) is now formally under the control of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which gives the agency the powers to regulate water rates and also to monitor and regulate service quality.

The order took effect from August 1 and it states that all rates to be charged by a public supplier are to be governed by Section 48 of the Water and Sewerage Act. The PUC is also tasked with dealing with customer complaints.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Minister of Housing and Water Shaik Baksh said the rates to be charged by GWI from January 1, 2004 would have to be submitted for the scrutiny of the PUC. He said GWI was governed by a licence which made provisions for its regulation. Baksh said Section 11 of the licence stated that a customer-service contract should have been drawn up by June of this year. He said the contract had to be submitted to him, proposing the standard terms and conditions for the water supply and sewerage services provided to its customers. Baksh told the media that the customer-service charter had been completed by the management of GWI and consultations would be held shortly on it.

The customer-service charter is expected to ensure that GWI in accordance with Section 51 of the PUC Act establishes clear procedures for the billing and collection of revenues from customers. Copies of the charter would be displayed in appropriate places.

He added that, with assistance from the UK Department for International Development, the PUC had already set in train the recruitment of a consultancy, noting that it would be necessary for the PUC to have expert support services to take on the role.

The minister said GWI’s licence, being managed by Severn Trent, would be guided by certain benchmarks to be satisfied during the five-year contract. These include water-quality standards and the reduction of water losses to 25% within the five years. Baksh said should this happen it would have a positive impact on the financial sustainability of the utility, adding that right now water losses countrywide were in excess of 60%.

Moreover, Baksh said at the end of the five years all Guyanese should be in receipt of 24 hours of continuous water service and that the utility was expected to improve its collections efficiency by 90%.

He added that by the end of the five years 85% of households should have metres. Severn Trent would be evaluated on a yearly basis based upon the benchmarks.

Stabroek News understands that GWI has since prepared a ten-year development plan which is to be submitted to the minister shortly.

Asked whether GWI’s tariffs would be set based upon the electricity charges, he said cost recovery would be taken into consideration, noting that the coverage of operations and maintenance costs would determine its tariffs. (Nigel Williams)

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