Executive director of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Dr Lennox Sealy has admitted that the authority intends to deep dive into the 2019 Inter-American Development Bank IDB) report to help turnaround the cash-strapped company.
The IDB, in December 2019, had proposed a $2.14 billion loan and action plan to the Government to transform WASA by 2024 which would have resulted in an improved water supply, generate revenue and stabilise the authority’s assets.
The report was presented to then public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte, who resigned last May, citing professional conflict on policy positions.
That report was then shelved.
Last September, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley appointed a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to look into the operations of WASA and put forward recommendations to transform the State-owned water company.
Yesterday, in a telephone interview with Guardian Media Sealy said Rawlinson Agard, a former WASA chairman “who was involved in the IDB in doing some reviews on WASA… we have asked him to come and share those studies with us so we can understand the work that was done previously.”
Agard, he said, was not appointed by WASA but “retained” to go through all the IDB reports that he was involved in developing.
“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel at this stage …we don’t want to spend a whole lot of money…we want to move ahead with the transformation project.”
Sealy said no timeline was given to Agard, but they were in the middle of discussing the IDB report.
On Wednesday, Sealy held a meeting with the IDB.
“We have not come to conclusions as yet.”
Having reviewed the report of the Cabinet sub-committee, Sealy said the committee “presented their options quite well.”
Sealy said WASA has never undergone a significant transformation and they are at the highest risk in the public utility sector.
While it is difficult to steal electricity and telephone service, he said it is easy to make an illegal water connection.
“Water is the most emotional of all things. You could do without your cell phone, you could sleep a couple of nights without power but you don’t want to be without water.”
Next month, Sealy said WASA will have a water forum with stakeholders and the public.
In the forum, WASA will outline the responsibilities of the public, workers and stakeholders.
He said, “So we have some big changes. It is going to take some time. I have a limited time to get the train back on track and hand it over to those who will drive the train further.”
Sealy said he has a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) he will roll out.
Among the KPIs, Sealy said, would be to increase the availability of potable water as well as the use of wastewater.
“In Singapore water is recycled. Not a drop is wasted. It is something we do not do here.”
This is one area WASA would have to explore.
Under section 17 of the WASA Act, Sealy was appointed executive director last Monday by Cabinet.
Sealy also replaced Alan Poon King who served as WASA’s acting CEO.
He said the post of executive director also subsumes the responsibility of chairman which he was given last December.
Legal luminaries have stated that Sealy has been given too much power, having assumed the executive director’s position, Sealy said there are mechanisms under which he operates.
“That is what it is.”
He said the sub-committee will be responsible for the changes at WASA while he will report to Gonzales.
While bloggers on social media stated that Sealy was given to much power and could possibly end up like former chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T Calder Hart, Sealy said he is “sandwiched between the minister and Board.
I don’t know that I have all that power. Anything I have to do has to be okayed by the Board and the minister,” he said.
Working alongside Sealy is WASA’s vice chairman Ravindra Nanga.