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Offline Flex

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WASA Thread.
« on: October 02, 2011, 05:43:43 AM »
WASA workers get $80M discomfort allowance it’s no pay off to accept five per cent says Duke.
By Brent Zephyrine (Guardian).


President of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke has denied that the “Discomfort Allowance”—which saw some Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) employees take home as much as $50,000 per person—was an inducement for his union to accept the five per cent “payout package” for monthly paid workers.

“This (discomfort allowance) was not a payout. When we negotiate, everything on the table speaks towards making an agreement. “The allowance was not to appease because that suggests that it was meant to satisfy somebody who is peevish and that is not the issue,” he told the Sunday Guardian during an exclusive interview at his Abercromby Street office in Port-of-Spain.

Duke explained that the “allowance”—which had its genesis “many years ago” (pre-dating the Occupational Safety and Health Act)—was one that “was paid to employees who were working in certain centres (sick buildings) that were deemed to be unfit” or not in compliance with proper health and safety standards.

He said: “Right now WASA is doing some serious renovations to some of its offices, but in order for those plans to go forward, you must bring an end to the situation of discomfort as far as is reasonably possible and this is what we (the PSA) have sought to do (by negotiating for such an allowance.)

“What we see here is actually compensation for what workers have undergone and we are saying that those situations should not occur again but we have signed that agreement only recently, so we will need to give them some time to improve their facilities.

“The union decided to make an agreement in the interim since management had no place to relocate workers. So, until they found such a place, management said, don’t stop working because we need you and we’re going to pay you this,” the PSA head added. Duke said the onus was on the management to fix those “sick buildings” and also attributed blame to the former government whom he accused of neglecting WASA employees and who, by their inaction, necessitated such a “pay off.”

“Why did the People’s National Movement force workers to work in that environment after all these years. How many buildings did they build for WASA workers? “Had they dealt with their work then, there would have been no pay off.

You feel this (discomfort allowance) is something workers are longing to get?” he asked. Duke added, too, that because WASA’s “daily paid workers” were “compensated long before” in this regard, it seemed only equitable to the union, that those monthly paid workers be endowed with a similar benefit and so the PSA “decided to negotiate for that.”

Breakdown of “allowance”

Earlier this year (July 21), as had been widely reported in the media, the PSA accepted a five per cent wage increase valued at $183 million (including arrears) from WASA. However, WASA’s multi-million dollar budget for the one-time payment of a “Discomfort Allowance” to its monthly paid workers, was not as publicised.

Section One of the Memorandum of Agreement between the PSA and WASA’s monthly paid staff, for the period January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2010, identified an $80 million allocation for the payment of “discomfort allowance” claims in “two tranches.”

It stated: “A lump sum payment of eighty million dollars (TT$80M) in full and final settlement of all and any claims arising out of Discomfort Allowance claims. “The Authority commits to make this payment in two tranches. The first tranche shall be paid by August 15, 2011 and the second tranche shall be paid by August 31, 2011.”

Asked if these “tranches” were actually paid, WASA’s Employee Relations manager Winston Driggs responded: “Yes, they were paid.” Driggs added: “It was a one-off payment and was a matter which had been disputed for a number of years now and was only paid this year.” A document, exclusively obtained by the Sunday Guardian, revealed the breakdown of the categories (longevity) of workers and their respective “allowances” as shown in Table 1.

Additionally, every worker within the bargaining unit, “with at least three years’ continuous service” over the aforementioned period (2008 to 2010), was given “a lump sum payment of $3,000,” according to the memorandum. The Sunday Guardian has learnt that people who retired this year, were paid on the basis outlined in categories (a) to (f) above.

Those who retired between “the Collective Agreement periods 2008 to 2010”, were entitled to the lump sum payment in category (g), on a prorated basis (that is, $40,000 divided by 36 months, multiplied by the number of months employed during the period 2008 to 2010).
 
Enhancement to take five per cent

One WASA spokesman said the discomfort allowance “was something under the table” and if management’s bargaining proposal was not accepted and had gone to court, they (WASA employees) stood the risk of losing such benefit.

He said: “That (discomfort allowance) was something we were fighting for years and they decided to put it in this package, but if it had gone to the Industrial Court, that section of the proposal would have been struck out by management and would no longer form part of the collective agreement.”

Asked whether it was a “payout package” given to WASA workers so that they would accept the five per cent, the spokesman responded by saying: “Yes, it was something like that. It was an enhancement to take the five per cent.

“You see, when you look at it, it was not only five per cent we were getting so how could we refuse that package especially those persons with over 25 years service who stood to lose a lot ofmoney,” the spokesman added. Another WASA spokesman said “the real purpose” of the discomfort allowance was to “compromise” with the union since WASA was not in total compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

WASA response forthcoming...

When questioned last Thursday on the issue and on whether the “discomfort allowance” was to be construed as a five per cent “payout”, WASA’s Corporate Communications Manager Ellen Lewis advised that the Sunday Guardian forward its questions to her via e-mail and such was complied with. She later indicated that “a response will be forthcoming” and offered no further comment up  until late yesterday.

Table 1

BREAKDOWN OF ALLOWANCE

Category  -  Category Pay
0-2 years  -  $4,000 per person
2-5 years   - $8,000 per person
5-10 years  -  $15,000 per person
10-15 years  -  $35,000 per person
15-25 years  -  $45,000 per person
25 years and more -   $50,000 per person
Retirees  -  $40,000 per person
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Offline zuluwarrior

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Duke: WASA payout to Israeli firm a saving
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2013, 05:25:32 AM »


Duke: WASA payout to Israeli firm a saving


Published:


Thursday, May 2, 2013



Yvonne Baboolal
 


The decision of the International Court of Arbitration ordering the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to pay Israeli firm Merhav Mekorot Development T&T Ltd (MMDTL) $100 million is a very good one, says Public Service Association (PSA) president Watson Duke. “The $100 million is really a savings to the taxpayer.”
 
 
 
 
 
At a press conference at the PSA’s Abercromby Street headquarters on Tuesday, Duke said the $100 million was only five per cent of the $2 billion WASA would have had to pay MMDTL if the contract had been allowed to go through. WASA signed a contract with the firm on April 12, 2010 but it was never implemented. Disputes between the parties arose over the signing, completion and putting into effect of the agreement.
 
 
 
All WASA’s claims and counterclaims in the matter were dismissed and it was given until today to pay the $100 million to the Israeli company. Duke recalled that in May 2010 the PSA resisted the contract, saying it was an insult to WASA workers who were equally capable of doing the same work. He said the PSA still stood firmly behind that position. “The stopping of the contract is to the benefit of WASA and the workers.
 
 
 
“$100 million is a mere five per cent of $2 billion. Had the contract continued, WASA would have had to pay the Israeli firm $2 billion. Not one single director of the company is a local.” Commending the work of WASA workers over the past two years and noting the 400 per cent increase in rate collection last year, Duke called on the authority  now to reward those in the trenches.
 
 
 
He said WASA had already given a commitment to pay workers a four per cent salary increase but it should be given without delay. “I’m calling on WASA to use the $1.9 billion savings from the Israeli firm contract and the profits from rate collections to pay workers.” Declining to disclose how much workers have to be paid, he said: “It’s just a drop in the bucket of $1.9 billion.
 
 
 
“The time has come to reward WASA workers with more than just a trip to the Hyatt. What is required is pocket money. I am calling on the minister to settle the four per cent salary adjustment of the workers.”
 





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Offline Flex

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WASA Thread.
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2020, 11:26:47 AM »
Minister: Ex-WASA CEO fired for improper $2m payment.
By Gail Alexander (Guardian).


The for­mer Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Au­thor­i­ty (WASA) CEO was fired last year be­cause he breached his du­ty in fail­ing to ob­tain WASA Board ap­proval and the prop­er au­tho­ri­sa­tion for a $2 mil­ion pay­ment, ac­cord­ing to Pub­lic Util­i­ties Min­is­ter Robert Le Hunte.

Le Hunte gave the ex­pla­na­tion in the Sen­ate yes­ter­day fol­low­ing queries from UNC Sen­a­tor Wade Mark on the cir­cum­stances which led to the sus­pen­sion and sub­se­quent dis­missal of the ex- CEO —El­lis Bur­ris last year.

Bur­ris was fired last May af­ter be­ing sent on va­ca­tion as a re­sult of an in­ter­na­tion­al in­ves­ti­ga­tion. At the time Bur­ris said the mat­ter was with his lawyers who would “use their le­gal minds to de­ci­pher what is right from wrong. Bur­ris was ap­point­ed CEO in Ju­ly 2017.

Le Hunte had said last year Bur­ris was sent on leave be­cause of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to al­le­ga­tions that he’d tak­en ac­tions with­out the Board’s in­volve­ment.

At yes­ter­day’s Sen­ate, Le Hunte said the for­mer CEO was ad­vised to go on leave in or­der to fa­cil­i­tate a probe in­to the pay­ment of al­lowances on or around Oc­to­ber 10, 2018 out­side of his pre­scribed lim­it, with­out the WASA Board’s ap­proval .

Le Hunte said, “The Board af­ter giv­ing full con­sid­er­a­tion to the mat­ter and on the ba­sis of ev­i­dence avail­able to it , in­clud­ing the re­spons­es and in­for­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by the CEO con­clud­ed that the CEO breached his fidu­cia­ry du­ty of care and faith­ful ser­vice to Wasa in fail­ing to ob­tain the re­quired ap­proval of the Board. “

“Fur­ther, that the CEO failed to fol­low due process to en­sure the pay­ment was prop­er­ly au­tho­rised and in ced­ing his ju­ris­dic­tion and/or au­thor­i­ty in au­tho­ris­ing the pay­ment. In the cir­cum­stances and based on loss of trust and con­fi­dence in the CEO, his ser­vice was ter­mi­nat­ed. The CEO has sub­se­quent­ly in­di­cat­ed his in­ten­tion to bring le­gal pro­ceed­ings on the mat­ter b is­su­ing a pre-ac­tion pro­to­col let­ter.

On Mark’s query about the pay­ment, Le Hunte said it was in the vicin­i­ty of, or about $2 mil­lion. He couldn’t say how many ben­e­fit­ted from the trans­ac­tion.

But Le Hunte said the sys­tems in­volved in the is­sue have been tight­ened at WASA to en­sure that peo­ple are made aware of their lim­its and when they have lim­its, cer­tain things re­quire “es­ca­la­tion.”

He said when peo­ple have cer­tain lines of au­thor­i­ty and there are pro­ce­dures , in run­ning an or­gan­i­sa­tion one had to en­sure peo­ple act­ed with­in the pre­scribed lim­its of way of au­thor­i­ty oth­er­wise it was left open for a lot of things to hap­pen.

“We al­so en­sured man­agers are aware of their lim­its and un­der­stand the con­se­quences of not keep­ing things in the pre­scribed lim­its,” he added.

Al­so at yes­ter­day’s sit­ting, At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi— on oth­er queries — said T&T is a “very liti­gious so­ci­ety.”

He said he has seen vast amounts of lit­i­ga­tion re­gard­ing the state con­cern­ing po­lice ac­tiv­i­ty. He said there can be no greater in­de­pen­dent re­view­er than the courts

He re­it­er­at­ed that some raids at Gulf View last year in­volved po­lice be­ing in “hot pur­suit of an al­leged per­pe­tra­tor of a kid­nap­ping.

Al-Rawi said po­lice can en­ter a house with­out a search war­rant when ef­fect­ing an ar­rest. Of­fi­cers may en­ter the premis­es with­out war­rant to pre­vent a mur­der, ar­rest a per­son they fol­lowed on­to the premis­es, to pre­vent com­mis­sion of a crime or fol­low an of­fend­er run­ning from of­fi­cers.

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 11:36:12 AM »
Fired WASA CEO: I did nothing wrong.
By Ken Chee Hing (Newsday).


Former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) CEO Ellis Burris has described his dismissal from the authority as a “witch hunt.”

Burris, who was ap­point­ed CEO in Ju­ly 2017 is adamant that he did nothing wrong. His intention now is to begin legal proceedings.

Burris spoke with Newsday after Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said on Tuesday in the Senate, that Burris was fired last year because he breached his duty by failing to obtain WASA’s board approval and proper authorisation for a $2 million payment.

Le Hunte was responding to queries from UNC Sen­a­tor Wade Mark on the cir­cum­stances which led to Burris's sus­pen­sion and sub­se­quent dis­missal in 2019.

Bur­ris was fired last May af­ter be­ing sent on va­ca­tion as a re­sult of an in­ter­na­tion­al in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Le Hunte had said last year Bur­ris was sent on leave be­cause of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­to al­le­ga­tions that he had ac­ted with­out the board’s in­volve­ment.

Speaking with Newsday on Thursday, Burris denied any wrongdoing.

“I have not exceeded any limit. WASA has given the authority to the CEO, who has a limit of $3 million."

Le Hunte said over $2 million had been wrongully spent, but Burris said, "these were monies legitimately owed to workers at the Navet dam. They have been toiling over time, going to work on time, their home-to-office travel has been there years and months to be paid…it was not paid.

"The union raised the issue. I. as the CEO. must investigate. I did investigate, as it could have created an industrial unrest. I therefore went about my normal procedures.”

Calling his dismissal “nothing but a witch hunt and wickedness," he said he wanted the public to know.

"They know when and where I’ve worked already. I was the Chief Administrator in the Tobago House of Assembly, I was the Permanent Secretary and Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Utilities, I’ve been the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tobago Development. All these places I’ve worked without any problem… I am aware of administration and administrative activities.”

Burris said it seemed there was a feeling that he went to "clean up" WASA, which was plagued with several ongoing issues.

From the time he arrived, he said, "Tthere were challenges by some people. Some people believed that I must have come to clean up the place, but I was at least walking and working with them. We had a nice quarterly meeting where we reviewed the last quarter and gave suggestions for the upcoming quarter. The entire (board of) directors prepared their presentations on a quarterly basis for discussions at quarterly meetings.”

When the issue of the payment to workers arose, he said, "I went about from a public service perspective to investigate. I put the auditors in, I sought legal advice and after that a note was supposed to be prepared for the board. I sent a note to the director of HR, who generates notes on HR matters to the board, to prepare the necessary arrangements to go to pay the workers.”

The matter is now in the hands of his lawyer, Pamela Elder.

He complained, “Already the process has been flawed because of the way it was handled. It is unfair for an individual to be treated in this way.I hope the State would reconsider what has happened.”



Former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) CEO Ellis Burris

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Offline Flex

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2020, 01:14:37 PM »
Why WASA digs up newly-paved roads
By NARISSA FRASER (NEWSDAY).


When a road in T&T is paved, drivers and commuters rejoice. But this rejoicing often turns into annoyance at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) for digging up parts of these roads just a few days later to do repairs. Many even jokingly say WASA actually stands for Workers Against Smooth Asphalt.

The most recent examples include the work on Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain, and in Otaheite.

But the company wants to assure the public it has good reason for doing so.

Newsday chatted with senior manager, corporate communications of WASA Daniel Plenty, who shed light on the issue.

Plenty said the Ministry of Works and Transport contacts WASA before any roadwork begins, and the authority then repairs existing leaks along the route.

But while the road work is being done, heavy equipment often damages the pipelines buried under the road, leaving WASA no choice but to fix it.

“If leaks occur, the authority has no other option than to excavate the newly paved area, in order to repair the leak that developed during the paving exercise," Plenty said.

“In the case of a high-leakage pipeline, the authority would undertake installation of a new pipeline and decommissioning of the old one before roadworks. This approach was followed along Fishing Pond Road in North East Trinidad.”

He said the most common damage was to water service connections to individual customers, since these are usually more shallowly buried than the mains.

Asked how important these repairs are after a road is paved, he said they are critical.

“This is also an essential part of our water conservation drive.”

These repairs are co-ordinated with the Works and Transport Ministry and usually take 24 hours .

When asked if the workers who pave the roads need to do a better job to prevent such damage, he did not point any fingers.

He said, “In some instances, the authority's pipelines are aged and in a deteriorated state along the routes where roadworks are being undertaken.”

But one additional issue people often have with this type of roadwork is that the roads are not always properly repaired after the pipelines are fixed. This even sparked a recent trend of putting placards into potholes that people believe are a result of WASA not properly fixing the area it dug up.

Plenty said WASA will continue to work closely with the Works and Transport Ministry “in relation to the execution of restoration works that may potentially affect our pipeline network.”

Newsday tried to reach Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan for a comment but all calls went unanswered.

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2020, 07:27:57 AM »
WASA moves to sell seven properties over unpaid bills
BY CAROL MATROO (NEWSDAY).


WASA is on a drive to collect over $700m owed by customers and intends to auction off delinquent customers properties to recover the sum.

Seven commercial properties were recently listed for sale by the public authority after other attempts to recover payment failed.

According to WASA chairman Romney Thomas: “I can’t tell you with any specificity how many times we have been pursuing them. The last step in the process is we would have sent them disconnection notices, request for payments, ask them to come in to meet us. That is the last step, so it would have been a long period before we take this step.”

Thomas said he could not say how long the property owners have been owing the authority since they were different properties and different people during different periods.

He did say that the amount owed to WASA – not just these seven properties – was over $700 million. On the authority’s website, there were 15 properties up for sale.

“This is the absolute step that we want to take, not one we want to take very lightly. It is a very draconian step but it is our responsibility to recover what is outstanding. We have a responsibility to provide water for everybody. If we don’t get paid for the service, we can’t provide service for the law-abiding citizens.”

Late last year acting CEO Alan Poon King had urged customers to pay their bills, saying water management, water treatment and water distribution cannot be done free of charge.

“We want to ensure people pay their bills as we need the funds to treat and distribute the water. We ask people to work with the authority so that all can benefit. It’s a simple thing, pay your bill to avoid disconnection.”

He said WASA’s rates were already low when compared to rates in other Caribbean countries yet people are lax in paying their bills.

“The message is you need to do your part. The rates equate to just about the maximum that you can pay for a residential property, about $3 per day. WASA has a responsibility, but customers have a responsibility as well.”

WASA is an authority regulated by the Regulated Industries Commission.

Commenting on the move, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said the authority required payments to fix leaks, prepare roads to get more water and to fulfil its mandate to provide water to the people of TT.

“At the end of the day, I think WASA, as with any business, also has to be able to pay the bills that they have for suppliers, for the people who do the work. Cash is king, cash flow is king, so I think WASA, in its management...it is important for anybody who is managing the business has to look at that cash flow and manage the receipt of that. I think that is what the management of what WASA is doing as any good manager would attempt to do.”

In T&T, WASA clients receive their billings every quarter (every three months). They are given two billing periods of grace before the authority takes action.

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2020, 05:32:31 AM »
WASA employee dies during sex in company vehicle.
By Cassandra Thompson-Forbes (Guardian).


Tobago Police are probing the circumstances surrounding the death of a 56-year-old man who died at French Fort, Scarborough on Monday evening after having sexual intercourse with a woman in a WASA vehicle.

The victim has been identified as Roland Reid of Signal Hill, an Estate Inspector employed with the Water and Sewerage Authority(WASA).

According to police reports around 6:20 pm, officers from the Scarborough Police Station responded to a report of a death at Smallville, French Fort, Scarborough.

When officers arrived they saw Reid seated in the driver’s seat of a car belonging to WASA. Guardian Media understands that Reid was wearing a white vest, multi-coloured underwear and a pair of grey socks at the time.

Police say the body bore no marks of violence. Reid was identified by his brother who lived a short distance away.

A 37-year-old woman told police that around 5:00 pm, after having sexual relations with Reid in the vehicle, he complained of feeling unwell and began gasping for breath, he subsequently went motionless.

District Medical Officer Dr Okali visited the scene and ordered the body removed to the Scarborough Hospital Mortuary.

An autopsy would be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.

Ag Insp Campbell of the Scarborough Police Station is continuing investigations.


Roland Reid, of Signal Hill, also WASA employee, found dead in a company vehicle after sexual relations with a woman.

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2020, 05:40:13 AM »
WASA goes on major water rationing drive
By Carisa Lee (Guardian).


Citizens can expect their daily water supply to be reduced significantly soon as the Water and Sewage Authority, in response to record low levels at its reservoirs across the country, plans to ration its supply nationwide.

This was the word from WASA CEO Alan Poon King as he toured the Arena Reservoir in San Rafael to update the media on the issues the authority was facing due to the lower than normal rainfall levels so far this year.

“In cases where customers may be accustomed to 24/7 supply, that may be down to five days a week and five to three and so on. We amend as required,” Poon King said.

According to Poon King, all four reservoirs across the country have been operating at a deficit amounting to 25 million gallons a day. He said WASA depends on the Trinidad and Tobago Metrological Service for rainfall projections but in the last 16 days its forecasts had not come to pass.

“For the month of July we have been producing around 215 million gallons a day and whereas ideally, we want to be between 240 or 243 gallons a day,” Poon King said.

At the Arena Reservoir, which supports the Caroni Water Treatment Plant and stores 10 billion gallons, Poon King admitted that capacity was the lowest he had ever seen it. He said the last time it was that low ten years ago and the last time it was at capacity was in 2018.

At this stage of the year, Poon King said the Hollis, Caroni Arena, Navet and Hillsborough reservoirs should be at 50 to 60 per cent capacity but currently they are all significantly below, with Hollis at 15 per cent and Hillsborough at 40 per cent.

“Roughly 18 months that we’ve had not normal rainfall has resulted in all the storage levels at our reservoirs…being significantly depleted,” Poon King said.

However, he said the authority has a goal and plans to have all four reservoirs at capacity by December 31, 2020. But in order to accomplish this, water production will be reduced.

“At the Caroni Water Treatment Plant we are doing 50 million gallons a day as compared to a capacity of 75 million gallons a day,” he explained.

He said whatever volume of storage is realised through rainfall, WASA will compensate accordingly.

Poon King said WASA had also stopped its disconnection drive because of the COVID-19 pandemic but said patrols to identify errant customers who use hoses during the current restrictions in force are underway. He said the fee for those found guilty of this breach is $75.

The CEO said WASA is currently owed $800 million in arrears by customers, adding this is an area they will also have to work on.

“We do need to collect rates to provide the service we need to,” Poon King said.

Current Reservoir Levels:

Reservoir*Current % capacity*LTA % capacity

Hollis* 15.98%*54.81%

Caroni Arena*20.33%*58.58%

Navet*26.17%*57.23%

Hillsborough*40.09%*53.55%

Current Plant Production

Water Treatment Plant*Current Production* Normal Production

Caroni*50 mgd*75 mgd

Norht Oropouche*16 mgd*23 mgd

Navet* 17 mgd*20 mgd

Hollis*4 mgd*8.4 mgd

Hillsborough*1 mgd*1.5 mgd

Rainfall levels for the year

Month* Actual*Average*Notes

Jan*68 MM*80 MM

Feb*29 MM*50 MM

Mar* 5 MM* 32 MM* Top 10 driest on record

Apr*3.1 MM*59 MM*2nd driest on record

May* 38.9 MM*110 MM

Jun* 197.3 MM*251 MM

Jul*33.1 MM*251 MM

Year to date (End of June)

341.3 MM*582 MM

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2020, 12:34:45 AM »
Govt slashes $600 million from WASA allocation
By Chester Sambrano (Guardian).


The government has planned to reduce its yearly allocation to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) by almost $600 million.

The decline comes at a time when there is a Cabinet sub-committee set up to review the operations of the Authority to make critical changes amid unprofitability.

According to the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure of Statutory Board and Similar Bodies and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) 2021 document WASA is to receive $1 billion in this fiscal year as opposed to the $1.6 billion it requested. This represents a decrease of $595,082,500.

The document shows other income being generated, among them, from metered supplies, unmetered supplies, Pt Lisas accounts and royalties, and in the end the total income projected amounts to $2.48 billion, a decline of $286 million in revenue compared to the previous year.

According to the document, there are to be several decreases in expenditure at WASA as well. Under the line item Salaries and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) there is a decrease of $174 million and Wages and COLA also see a drop of $112 million.

Goods and Services is another area where projected expenditure is declining from $1.4 billion to just over $1 billion.

Guardian Media sought clarity from Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales on the significant reduction in state support for WASA.

"As the Finance Minister indicated, given the drastic fall in the country's revenue and the impact of COVID on T&T and the world economy, the Govt does not have the financial resources to pump $2 billion annually into WASA," he said.

The Minister added that, therefore, WASA's board and management are required to "manage the utility in a manner that accords with fiscal prudence and fiscal responsibility in light of the new realities."

He added that, "we will identify those areas of wastage and move swiftly towards reengineering and restructuring the utility to ensure value for money for the citizens as well as sound corporate governance."

In recent times WASA has been under increased scrutiny and there were concerns of mass retrenchment.

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has since advised the government to increase water rates and keep all the jobs.

He has also signalled his intention to fight any plan to remove staff at the authority.

A Cabinet sub-committee set up by the Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to address the lingering water woes, was given three months to come up with a comprehensive plan to improve the country’s water supply to citizens.

Among the areas the committee will examine will be WASA’s operations, mounting debt, ageing pipelines, governance structure and poor water distribution.

Chairing the committee is Minister Gonzales, who will work alongside members— Housing Minister Pennelope Beckles, Energy Minister Franklin Khan and Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox.

The committee has to submit recommendations and a framework for the restructuring of the water company to Rowley by November 30.

As he delivered the budget on Monday Finance Minister Colm Imbert said while the report has not yet been received, the government is looking at increasing the water tariffs in this country.

The Public Utilities Ministry under which WASA falls will be allocated $2.091 billion compared to $3 billion in the last fiscal year.

The overall 2020/2021 budget is $49.5 billion.

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Re: WASA Thread.
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2020, 09:11:24 AM »
Minister slams ‘lying WASA manager’, says major shake-up coming for 2021
By Shaliza Hassanali (T&T Guardian).


Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, right, chats with Paramin residents during a visit to the area earlier this month.

A major shake-up is expected to take place soon at state-owned Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), as Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales moves to make the organisation efficient come 2021.

Part of the restructuring exercise may lead to job losses, a cut in overtime, an overhaul of the management, and will include the introduction of technology to detect leaking pipelines and low water pressure in communities.

The disclosure came from Gonzales last week, just days after a detailed report on WASA’s lingering issues along with recommendations to transform the beleaguered organisation into a productive and profitable one was submitted to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for review. For decades, WASA has been plagued with a host of problems that no government has been able to address.

In September, Rowley appointed a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Gonzales and included ministers Donna Cox, Pennelope Beckles and Franklin Khan to look into the operations of WASA and come up with a comprehensive plan to turn around the cash-strapped company.

Gonzales, who did not reveal the content of the report, said he was dissatisfied with WASA’s service to communities, lack of staff accountability, hefty overtime bills, and the million-dollar bonuses paid out to workers. He is also unhappy that WASA is facing mounting debts and a staggering $600 million owed to contractors which cannot be accounted for by the authority.

Gonzales, who assumed office in August, said he never anticipated WASA to be in such “a bad and chronic state.”

He said WASA which was operating on “autopilot”, is “dysfunctional” and in a “crisis”.

The minister said a lot of things taking place at the authority were “unacceptable and worrying” as paying customers deserve a reliable water supply.

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, left, with WASA officials.

Misled by manager, some not doing their jobs

Gonzales said he had solid evidence that some of WASA’s managers were not doing their jobs.

A month ago, Gonzales said he asked WASA’s technical staff to find out why Paramin residents were not receiving water. First, he was told some issues needed to be sorted out. Then he got a report stating that everything was OK.

“The last report I got was that the entire community was getting an efficient water supply. But the residents kept telling me a different story, they were still not getting water.”

Realising something was wrong, Gonzales said he visited Paramin with a WASA management team only to find out from residents that their taps had been dry for weeks.

“In other words, I was being misled by the management of WASA as to the true situation taking place on the ground. Can you imagine if the Prime Minister had asked me what was the situation in Paramin? I would have reported to him what was reported to me by senior management in WASA.”

This, he said, was unacceptable.

He said some managers working in various regions had not been informing their bosses about problems on the ground so corrective action can be taken.

Gonzales said equally shocking was that no disciplinary action had been taken against the manager who had deceived him.

Asked if he was in support of workers being suspended or reprimanded for failing to carry out their duties, Gonzales said he preferred to hold people accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

“In any serious organisation or country, he (manager) would have been placed on suspension already. If you cannot trust the information provided to you, it paints a very dark picture as to what you are dealing with in that organisation. The problem inside of WASA is bad management.”

He said if these issues continue at WASA “we will only be spinning top in mud.”

Gonzales said the time had come “to take the bull by its horns.”

Management operating in silos

Gonzales revealed that WASA’s outdated organisational structure must be reviewed and streamlined.

“There are too many levels of management...there are about seven or eight levels of management which makes it almost a nightmare to manage. It’s difficult to send information down from the top and vice versa because of the various levels. They all operate in silos. There is no interconnectivity.” WASA has 50 managers.

As a citizen, Gonzales said he was “very disappointed that such an important organisation as WASA had reached to this level where it cannot provide an efficient service to the people of this country.” He said he was fed up of complaints from communities, customers, citizens, and MPs about WASA’s poor supply.

“From the Prime Minister straight down. The Prime Minister has to complain to his Minister of Public Utilities that there are areas in Carenage and his constituency not getting water. I find that is most embarrassing.”

Asked if we can expect a managerial shake-up at WASA soon, Gonzales replied,

“There must be a managerial shake-up. It’s impossible to manage the company with this (current) managerial structure. It cannot be business as usual.”

Going forward, Gonzales said workers will also be graded on their performance.

Gonzales said he has no intention of playing politics with WASA and Public Services’ Association president Watson Duke, as all constituencies have been suffering for water for too long.

“I don’t have time for that. What has to be done will be done.”

WASA overstaffed, workers must be held accountable.

Gonzales dismissed reports of WASA being privatised but admitted the organisation is overstaffed. He said WASA’s staff to management ratio was very high when compared to international water companies and the matter must be looked into.

“I have seen documents and a number of reports during this investigation that WASA is overstaffed. We have to look at it. All the reports point to the fact that WASA is overstaffed.

“But this is something I am certain we will have to look at. It is something you would have to tread on gingerly, as you are talking about people’s bread and butter.”

Gonzales said he knows that workers are very concerned whether or not they would have their jobs in 2021.

A 2012 report compiled by WASA showed that in an attempt to get funding from the Inter-American Development Bank, one conditionality was that the authority undertakes an urgent staff rationalisation exercise. This was done by the previous People’s Partnership government.

Gonzales said WASA needed to get 2,500 of its 5000 employees out of the organisation. He said 1,000 employees accepted VSEP which “cost the people of this country $400 million.”

By 2015 however, Gonzales said, WASA’s workforce returned to its original figure of 5,000.

“In my view, WASA has been operating without strategic guidance. If you can get management right in WASA to hold people (workers) accountable for their respective regions, 60 to 70 per cent of the problems at the organisation can be dealt with.

“We have to change the philosophy in which we approach the management of a critical sector like WASA. In this country, if you don’t hold people accountable it’s ole mas and J’Ouvert morning every single day.

“People must be held accountable and once you start to go down that road, I can assure the people of T&T you will see an improvement in your water supply.”

Illegal connections pervasive in T&T

Gonzales’ visit to Paramin also unearthed that several residents had illegal water connections.

“These illegal connections have been preventing water from going to legitimate customers. Illegal connections in the country are very pervasive.”

Gonzales said he mandated WASA’s new board headed by Dr Lennox Sealy to undertake an audit of WASA’s legitimate customers and identify those who have been illegally obtaining water so they can become paying customers.

If they fail to comply, they will be disconnected, he added.

“The evidence is that 40 per cent of the water WASA produces is not accounted for as a result of leaks and illegal connections which is a loss of revenue and wastages taking place.”

WASA produces 220 million gallons of water daily. While WASA loses millions of gallons of water annually through ageing infrastructure, Gonzales said installing new pipelines would only solve part of the problem.

He said for deprived communities to get a regular water supply WASA has to provide technological and pressure management support.

“You can put in new lines, but if you do not have proper water pressure management, the pipes are going to rupture.”

He said WASA has to invest in technology which can inform its workers when there is insufficient water or too much pressure in their system or a leaking pipeline.

WASA’s $90 million overtime bill

Gonzales said in the report of the Cabinet sub-committee, “we have outlined a work programme.”

He said the first thing WASA has to do is provide water to communities according to its schedule and rebuild customers’ trust.

“You can come with the biggest plan to transform WASA if that plan does not have the rebuilding of trust, then that plan will go nowhere.”

Another bugbear, Gonzales said, was WASA’s $90 million yearly overtime bill.

Each month, WASA pays $91 million in wages to its employees.

“And you are spending $8 million annually in all kinds of bonuses and allowances. Yet still, you are complaining that you don’t have money to buy simple plumbing tools to do the job. The issue is not money. The issue is management. $90 million in overtime is ridiculous.”

He said this issue stemmed from the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the unions and WASA.

“WASA is a 24-hour operation. How can you negotiate a collective bargaining agreement on an 8 am to 4 pm work basis?... That anything after 4 pm is deemed to be overtime.”

Bonuses not tied to performance

Gonzales said he discovered that WASA paid bonuses to workers who did not utilise their sick leave.

“But you don’t have the documentary evidence to suggest or to point to the fact that person A or B was on the job at a particular point in time.

“Who pays a bonus for persons not taking sick leave?”

He said these bonuses were not tied to performances which makes “it a free-for-all at the organisation.”

The question: Should an underperforming state enterprise pay bonuses to employees?

“If bonuses are tied to performances that is a different story. I am all about supporting and paying bonuses to employees who perform and when there is an improvement in services,” Gonzales said.

He disclosed that WASA’s employees receive far better salaries compared to workers in the utility sector.

Over the last decade, he said, the Government had pumped $21 billion into WASA.

“What have we gotten for $21 billion?” he asked.

WASA received $1 billion in the 2021 fiscal package as opposed to the $1.6 billion it had requested.

“A lot of the monies going into WASA are not going into items that can result in an improvement of service to the people.”

Recently, the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) advised that they began a price review process for WASA.

The process involved three stages with the RIC publishing its final determination after reviewing all comments and concerns raised during public consultations.

WASA’s last rate increase was in 1993.

Gonzales said the role of the RIC is not about increasing rates but having benchmarks to ensure the efficient delivery of the utility service.

“In looking for a tariff increase for water in T&T the process entails WASA producing a comprehensive business plan to the RIC. So, it is not about getting up one morning to raise the rate. The RIC will not approve an increase in tariff if WASA does not demonstrate how it will improve its inefficiencies. You cannot ask people of T&T to pay more for water and that money will be used to fund inefficiencies.”

$4 billion in debts, WASA unable to verify $600 million owed to contractors

He said the Government would have to make tough decisions for WASA to become financially sustainable as its debts stood at $4 billion.

“Then we have another nightmare within the organisation, nearly $600 million of unrecorded liability, meaning that $600 million in debts owed to contractors, with WASA not having the capacity to verify those bills due to mismanagement. Some of these contractors have taken WASA to court and WASA has been losing those matters because the records at WASA cannot substantiate the debt. It puts WASA at a disadvantageous position.”

The real measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.