Audley Shaw chides Government for delayed water project
Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw has raised concerns over what he said were long delays in the implementation of a critical Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded project that is aimed at significantly reducing the amount of water being lost by the National Water Commission (NWC) owing to underground leakage.
At present, the NWC can only account for about 35 per cent of water it produces, as the majority of the liquid is wasted through underground leakage.
Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill admitted that the IDB had earmarked US$42 million for the restoration of leaking infrastructure in the NWC's system.
Shaw charged that nearly four years had elapsed and the project was still languishing, adding that the IDB had informed him that the money "is not being taken up on an aggressive basis".
Responding, Pickersgill said he had forwarded a plausible explanation to the IDB as to why the project had been delayed.
"We can't fool around with US$42 million, and the proposals that came, it boils down to two big companies and there was an aspect of it that was a bitter pill for me to swallow so, in terms of the procurement, it has taken some time ... the requests for proposals were scandalously high," Pickersgill stated.
The water minister told members of the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament reviewing the Estimates of Expenditure and other budget documents, last week, that the project would be mainly concentrated in Kingston and St Andrew. He said part of the proposed contractual arrangement was a provision that dealt with measurable results.
He said the underground leakage affecting the NWC supply was the number-one problem his ministry was working assiduously to fix.
Meanwhile, Pickersgill said the Government would be aggressive in its approach to collect the $25 billion owed to the NWC by its customers. Of the $25 billion owed to the NWC, the Government is responsible for $2 billion.
The NWC proposes to increase its revenue from $14 billion to $17 billion this fiscal year.
Pickersgill said the NWC would embark on an amnesty to get customers to pay their arrears, noting that the "system of going to court is not working, although there is provision in the law to sell the property".