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Government Expenditure
PM Must Speak the Truth on DESALCOTT

PM Must Speak the Truth on DESALCOTT

Date: October 22 nd, 2019
Dear Editor/Newsroom,

It has been revealed that the Government is currently negotiating another loan, this time to pay for the yearly 500MTTD purchase of potable water from DESALCOTT. At the Standing Finance Committee held on 21st October 2019, Dr. Keith Rowley stated that the result of an expanded contract with DESALCOTT “has bankrupted WASA permanently”
Like all state entities including special purpose companies, the public perception is that WASA is riddled with corruption.
Mr. Prime Minister, WASA’s bankruptcy is due to a wide range of reasons.

  1. WASA’s failure to meter has led to inefficient use. The ‘Review of the State of the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago 2010-2015’, (an April 2018 Report published by the Regulated Industries Commission), states that as of 2015, only 3% of
    the residential customers and 51% of the commercial customers were metered, which results in the high levels of unaccounted water and commercial losses. According to the World Health Organization, Trinidad’s level of unaccounted-for water is notably higher
    than the 42% average in large cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Can PM Rowley explain why this State metering delinquency?
  2. According to the 2018 RIC Report, an ideal well-maintained utility would have one break per km per year of distribution network. As of 2015, WASA experienced approximately 8.7 breaks per km of water distribution network per year due to its aging
    pipeline infrastructure. 47% of all WASA pipelines are in need of upgrading or replacement. Can our PM explain what, under his stewardship, has WASA been doing with its approximate annual allocation of 2BTTD? How much has been invested in
    maintenance and repair of pipelines?
  3. According to the RIC, at the end of 2015 WASA employed an average of 15 staff per 1,000 water connections. According to World Bank (2000), a range of 4-6 staff per 1,000 connections is regarded as good practice for a well-managed water utility in developing countries. These staff wages accounted for approximately 50% of WASA’s operating
    expenditure The RIC 2018 report stated that “WASA’s operational and financial performance is well below the internationally accepted level for a well performing water utility”. Even a corner parlour will go bankrupt with such a high operating cost. Is this sustainable business practice?

Given the overall lack of water conservation or containment incentives, practices and education awareness programmes, what are Government plans to wean off the public’s thirst for and increasing dependence on DESALCOTT?
Considering that DESALCOTT stated that the plant was built at a cost of 1.35B TTD twenty years ago, and that our nation has already paid an approximate 500MTTD x 20 years=10BTTD for water (a 700% return on investment), one would expect that the rates would have been discounted. Without transparency the public perception is that the rates
are being padded. Can the PM share this information?

According to the DESALCOTT website, WASA contracted DESALCOTT in 1999 for a period of twenty (20) years. That contract would have expired this year! Can Mr Rowley inform the public why this contract was renewed prior to its expiration, by whom, and what cost to the public purse?
As of 2015, only 49% of our population receives a daily water supply. What is our government doing to protect our natural resources to ensure its efficient and sustainable usage?
Rather than allowing the private bottle water companies who enjoy a very low royalty rate of 33c per cubic litre (1000 litres) of our cleanest groundwater resource, why aren’t we capturing the abundant rainfall and the freshwater discharge from our rivers? Does the Government really think we can ever become a developed country if they can’t protect,
contain or harvest naturally reoccurring and abundant water to our beleaguered citizens?

It is time for our nation to wake and face reality! Too late would be the cry when our children’s children are forced to pay the cost of our corrupt wine and jam approach to their future. FFOS is again and again calling on our Honourable Mr Le Hunte to hold public consultations on the future of our water. When will we face the reality of WASA’s dilapidated infrastructure, the outrageous cost of privatised water in a water rich nation, or that northern range quarries (legal and illegal) are further jeopardizing our potable water supply since an estimated 60 to 80% of our naturally harvested potable water emanates from this range?

Unless Cabinet is willing to change its ways and act with complete transparency and inclusion and until Cabinet stops all of the secret contract deals, our children will continue to suffer the long-term degradation of a failed state. Year by year, government after government, every single institution is becoming weaker and less able to stand on its own
shaky feet.

Gary Aboud
Corporate Secretary

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