Premier Dr D Orlando Smith said the amount central government owes the Water and Sewage Department (W&SD) is estimated at more than $3.4 million.
The Department, in fact, doesn’t even know exactly how much it is owed.
“As of 31st March, 2017, the amount of arrears outstanding to the Water and Sewerage Department by central government is estimated at $3,421,862.04. We hope to have a better idea of the true outstanding debt by 30th September, 2017, as the Department is currently working towards reconciling its figures,” Premier Smith said.
He further stated that the government doesn’t know when whatever outstanding amount will be paid.
“Given the value of the arrears, it will take some time to bring the outstanding amount current. However, as noted, the Department is currently going through a reconciliation exercise – at the end of which it is expected that the Department and central government will work together to regularize the accounts.”
“Notwithstanding, I believe that we all agree that it is necessary to account for amounts owed for water used on a monthly basis as it is the proper and responsible thing to do, and so the Department has been working to remedy this situation,” Premier Smith further said.
He disclosed that oldest portion of the debt dates back to 2004.
“The arrears date back to 2004. It is uncertain what transpired then. But my understanding is that there may be a number of factors that can account for the arrears, including improper billing, as well as untimely billing and payments.”
“It should be noted that, since 2012, the Water and Sewerage Department has been working with the Treasury Department and the respective Departments to receive information from them as to what journals had been submitted for payments but have not cleared,” the premier said.
He was responding to questions Leader of the Opposition Andrew Fahie asked in the House of Assembly on April 20.
Premier Smith, in the meantime, noted that a system is now in place to ensure utility bills are paid on time.
“A decision was taken by my government in 2016 to centralize payment of utility bills through the Telephone Services Management Unit. It is hoped that, by centralizing these payments, the payment process would be carried out in a more timely manner, thus avoiding the difficulties that have been encountered over the last several years,” Premier Smith further said.
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