Locals could soon fill two top water posts
-former Managing Director now in Iraq By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
March 18, 2004

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The Guyana Water Inc (GWI) will soon advertise for locals to fill two top posts now vacant as a result of the recent resignation of Managing Director, Derek Hodson and the earlier departure of the Commercial and Customer Services Director, Mike Byrne.

During an interview with this newspaper yesterday acting Managing Director, Andrew Barber said Hodson resigned from the post about a month ago and was now working in war-ravaged Iraq on another project.

Barber said unlike Byrne, Hodson's resignation was based purely on the fact that the company was managing well with the present management staff.

"Hodson's resignation was not planned in advance, but now that everything is in place he was released," Barber told this newspaper.

Byrne on the other hand left the country last year after receiving several extortion threats during the crime wave. Since his departure Allen Eiton, an expatriate was appointed to the post, but Barber said he would be replaced as he was not part of the Severn Trent team. Barber acknowledged that the Commercial and Customer Services Director post is very critical to the effective running of the company, especially in the area of rates collection, which is still below the required standard. Derek Hodson

Barber told Stabroek News that despite losing the two very senior officials Severn Trent will continue to fulfill its mandate and is committed towards honouring its five-year performance-based contract to manage GWI.

Severn Trent took over management of the water company last year January under the contract which is being funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development.

Barber said that GWI intends to extend the vacancies advertisement to other Caricom countries. He said GWI has already begun a programme of training for local managerial staff. According to the Managing Director, Severn Trent has identified a few persons on the present staff who have the skills and experience and who will be trained to take over when the Severn Trent contract is up.

In the meantime, Steve Witter another foreigner is the acting, Operations Director, a position made vacant with Barber's elevation.

Barber said he did not feel pressured in his new role, noting that he is the longest serving member of the Severn Trent team and understood well their responsibilities.

He acknowledged that both the GWI board and the government have been very supportive to the company so far. Last year Severn Trent had been severely criticised by the Ministry of Water for not making more rapid improvements.

The new Managing Director said the company was still cash-strapped as customers continue to be delinquent in paying their bills. He noted too that they were still indebted to the Guyana Power and Light for electricity used. He said the two companies have been negotiating, noting that GWI has decided that after payment of wages whatever revenue was accrued by the company would be channelled to the payment of electricity bills.

Barber complained that while GWI was trying to provide a satisfactory level of service to its customers, many were wasting water.

In terms of its programme of reducing pumping hours, Barber said the company would need to review its position. He pointed out that what was needed now was more efficient running of its water pumps around the country. Barber mentioned that the company had taken a decision to close down some of its pumps stations in its drive to cut back on energy consumption. He said GWI has since closed down the Vryheid's Lust pump station, a decision which aggravated residents. At present the village gets water through a nearby pump station. Barber said as time progresses GWI may close down other stations, but not before community meetings were held to sensitise residents about their plans.

Speaking on the issue of water wastage, Barber noted that last year October a leak team was set up. He said the team has been working in Georgetown repairing leaks on customers' as well as GWI's water mains. Barber said so far the team has repaired some 4,700 leaks. According to him the leak team has made tremendous strides to date and has contributed significantly in the reduction of water loss.

He identified, Caneville, East Bank of Demerara, Mon Repos on the East Coast and 'B' and `C' Fields Sophia as the areas which have benefitted significantly due to the leak inspection team.