By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) racked up a $40m debt owed to its major reverse osmosis suppliers since Hurricane Dorian struck in 2019, an MP said yesterday.
Bacchus Rolle, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities, told the House of Assembly during his Budget debate contribution that the state-owned water supplier had not been keeping up with outstanding payment arrears due to vendors and suppliers.
He argued that the Water and Sewerage Corporation’s challenges resulted from the absence of an executive manager for internal control and compliance since January 2019, while there has been no executive manager of human resources since June 2020.
Upon coming to office in September 2021, Mr Rolle added: “We found frustrated vendors and suppliers, who collectively were owed in excess of $50m and complained about the responsiveness of the corporation regarding timelines for outstanding payments. We found unsettled legal disputes levied by both unions, legal disputes with the Water and Sewerage Corporation from former employees arising from matters unattended by the previous administration.
“Additionally, the Corporation has worked closely with the Ministry of Finance to implement agreements with the corporation’s major strategic partners, including Consolidated Water, Miya Bahamas and Aqua Design Bahamas. The arrears owing to these three suppliers were in the range of $40m, placing these suppliers, their many Bahamian employees and sub-contractors in a very precarious position.”
The Gladstone Road Wastewater Treatment had been left incomplete since 2017, Mr Rolle added, despite construction having been 90 percent finished. The plant was designed to treat Baha Mar’s wastewater and resupply it to surrounding communities and also back to the mega resort for irrigation purposes.
Mr Rolle said: “Our administration has since engaged Hatch Associated Consultants, who have completed an initial assessment and have now been engaged to complete a detailed assessment of the plant and its machinery.
“Phase two of the plant is scheduled to commence before the end of June this month and, at the end of this exercise, it is anticipated the Water & Sewerage Corporation commence a tendering process for the completion of its facility to operate at 100 percent capacity.”
He added: “Our administration met a highly successful New Providence non-revenue water contract in a very challenged position. The contractor, Miya Bahamas, was owed in excess of $14m with complaints of non-responsiveness from the prior administration with regards to payment timelines, and an expiring contract that will expire in March 2022 with no plans of a contract extension.”
Miya’s contract has been extended until the end of this year. This extension will allow for “clarity” in determining the next steps for the project.
Mr Rolle argued that there was no evidence of work done to fully restore services in Abaco after Hurricane Dorian destroyed the Water and Sewerage Corporation’s infrastructure in September 2019, while the utility lacked “strategic long-term capital development or corresponding funding plans”.