Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales is describing the Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA) water trucking service “as organised crime, corruption and chaos” vowing to root out all levels of unscrupulous and illegal misconduct within the authority.
Gonzales was responding to the 135-page report of the Cabinet sub-committee appointed to review the operations of WASA which identified its water trucking service to be “corruption-laced.”
On Friday, the report will be laid in Parliament.
Gonzales, who chaired the committee admitted there was some evidence of wrongdoing in the service.
The report found there was “corruption among WASA truck drivers and/or external truck contractors where unauthorised on-site payments are solicited and receipts are generated for non-existent jobs. Water trucks also illegally fill at fire hydrants rather than WASA approved filling stations and illegally sell to WASA’s customers.”
It also revealed that the service was inefficiently managed and as a consequence, its operation was fraught with many problems, including oversized water tankers that were unable to navigate narrow streets and steep hills.
This situation has rendered the service, the report stated, “uncertain and unreliable and has spawned the development of a thriving, parallel and illegal water trucking service, where hapless, desperate customers and willing to pay up to $400 for truck-borne water supply.”
“So they are getting water illegally and selling it to citizens. Some citizens are paying up to $1,500 for a tank of water. And a lot of them are legitimate WASA customers who ought not to be paying for water.”
When there is a disruption in supply or unavailability of water in a community, WASA will provide a truck borne supply utilising a fleet of 35 trucks.
Of this total, 31 water trucks are contracted from external providers who source water from 20 filling stations across the country.
Domestic customers with updated accounts can qualify for WASA’s water trucking service of 400 gallons no more than twice per week.
For non-domestic customers, there is an approval process by WASA’s senior manager of operations.
Only metered customers are required to pay for the water trucking service, while water truckers, both contracted and internal are not authorised to collect payment.
The report cited that WASA needs 78 trucks to successfully service its client rather than its current fleet.
Gonzales drew reference to residents of Lady Chancellor, Port-of-Spain, who had not been receiving water for months due to a myriad of problems.
“Many of these residents are bonafide WASA customers and had to pay for a truck supply.”
Gonzales said as communities expanded across the country, WASA had not been bringing new water into its grid.
“So, therefore, it creates an imbalance with demand and supply. That imbalance has created an avenue for illegal practices and driven WASA to desalinated water which is now unsustainable.”
He admitted that most of WASA’s plants, pumps and machinery were operating at 50 per cent.
“Not because there is no water but because of disrepair. Some of the pumps are not working you have to schedule the water and move it around which creates further pressure on people to purchase water illegally by this water trucking industry.”
Gonzales said WASA has to reduce its dependency on its truck-borne service and provide the nation with a reliable pipe-borne supply.
Questioned if WASA was able to take disciplinary action against any of the truck drivers, Gonzales said, “not that I know of. I have access to audits reports that point to areas of concern that I am looking into. And I would refer the reports to the authorities for action to be taken.”