Perceived actions by Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA) executive director, Dr Lennox Sealy, which were not in keeping with Government’s mandate to transform the authority, have led to his shocking resignation yesterday, a mere five months after being appointed to the position.
Sealy’s departure followed the suspension of a senior director last week over misleading information presented to WASA’s board. WASA has commenced an investigation against the director for alleged misconduct.
Guardian Media was reliably informed that changes are also expected to be made soon with WASA’s executive structure.
Following two previous discussions with Sealy earlier this week, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales had expressed Government’s dissatisfaction and disappointment over the slow pace at which WASA’s transformation road map was unfolding.
However, Gonzales said he was shocked and disappointed when Sealy shockingly offered his resignation during a third meeting they had yesterday.
“I expressed my concerns (to Sealy) on behalf of the Government with respect to the pace of the transformation. He offered his resignation and I accepted it. The meeting was all about him tendering his resignation,” Gonzales told Guardian Media in a telephone interview.
WASA is expected to announce Sealy’s replacement in the coming days.
A release issued by the Public Utilities Ministry yesterday stated that WASA’s deputy chairman Ravindra Nanga has now assumed the WASA chairman position and the authority’s board of commissioners will make an announcement on the appointment of an interim executive management team that will work towards facilitating a seamless process of restructuring and transformation of the authority.
“The Government felt that the transformation was not proceeding at a sufficiently rapid pace,” Gonzales was quoted as saying in the release.
Since assuming office in February, Sealy had come under heavy criticism for two decisions made.
Last month, Sealy found himself in hot water after he embarked on a WASA disconnection drive aimed at recovering close to $1 billion in arrears in the height of the pandemic, which resulted in long lines outside the utility’s offices.
The matter led to a wave of objection by the public that caused Gonzales to instruct the authority’s executive management and Sealy to discontinue the exercise.
In March, Sealy also wrote Public Services Association president Watson Duke, who had been on no-pay leave at WASA for 11 years, informing him in two letters of the “untenable nature of the indefinite time off” from WASA “for union’s business.”
Duke, who holds the position of assistant manager, Employee Resourcing at WASA, took the matter up with his lawyer and Sealy was forced to retract the warning letters.
Duke took Sealy to task for making “bad decisions” and instructed his attorney to pursue the matter, since Sealy’s letters had caused him pain, suffering and undue stress.
Asked yesterday if the disconnection drive which he stopped could have led Sealy to tender his resignation, Gonzales said no such thing happened, nor did he engage in a rift or war of words with Sealy.
“It had nothing to do with it. I know the disconnection was badly handled. We had a professional and cordial discussion with each other. He understood the concerns that I had and therefore, we agreed that the Government should have a free hand to make whatever adjustments that need to be made to ensure that the transformation process is not in any way compromised.”
Gonzales insisted that Sealy left WASA on good terms and was not forced out.
“Sealy left on amicable terms. It had everything to do with transformation and nothing else.”
He said Sealy actually handed in his resignation on Wednesday but he (Gonzales) could not deal with it then.
“I could not have dealt with the matter on Wednesday, as I was in Mayaro addressing some water problems.”
However, Gonzales arranged to meet with Sealy at 7 am yesterday at his St Clair office and expressed his concerns at the slow pace of WASA’s transformation process and accepted his resignation.
Asked if there was room for reconciliation, Gonzales said, “No, we were not happy with the pace of transformation.”
He said WASA should have been in an advanced stage of transformation to help provide citizens with a reliable and efficient water supply.
Cabinet was expecting a transformation plan from WASA since April, Gonzales said.
A source at WASA yesterday said Sealy became overwhelmed by operational issues and got sidetracked doing other things.
With Sealy out the door, Gonzales said WASA’s transformation exercise will have to be fast-tracked by Sealy’s replacement.
“The board has to complete a transformation plan within specific timelines.
“It has to be accelerated. Before the end of this current financial year, we should have a full transformation plan.”
Wishing Sealy the best, Gonzales said his resignation will ensure there are no further delays in putting WASA’s transformation in place.
Asked how he felt about Sealy’s sudden departure, Gonzales replied: “Personally disappointed, because as a Government and a minister, we had high hopes for his professional success on this very important transformation. So, yes, from a personal point I am saddened by it. The country requires this transformation. It is necessary, so to put aside our personal feelings and get ahead with the job.”
Gonzales admitted he had high expectations of Sealy based on his impressive CV.
“I thought he would have been a perfect candidate to lead the transformation. So for me, personally I am saddened by the turns of events.”
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