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 Commentary: How My Husband Fixed a WASA Booster Station

Commentary: How My Husband Fixed a WASA Booster Station

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By Alicia Chamely

THE Water and Sewerage Authority is a mess.

“What a surprise!” said absolutely no one.

Except for President of the Public Services Association Watson Duke, whose modus operandi is to be completely contrary despite the obvious.

In fact, Mr Duke claims WASA is the best it has ever been. He has even gone so far as to suggest that the Government pump some more money into this thriving state enterprise.

Dear Mr Duke, if having taxpayers cough up $23 billion over the last ten years for only 46.5% of the population to receive a dependable supply of pipe borne water is WASA running at its best, then I am terrified to see what it would be like at its worst.

Unless you have been drinking the same tap water as Mr Duke, it came as no surprise when a Cabinet-appointed sub committee released its findings on the operations of WASA in Parliament this week.

The report summed up what was going quite eloquently, “WASA has become an unwieldly, overstaffed, under productive and unresponsive organisation that is no longer capable of efficiently servicing citizens.” Ouch.

The special commissioned report found WASA lacked managerial accountability, is horrendously over staffed with employees who refuse to work but demand increased remuneration, financial mismanagement, corruption and parallel operations by trade unions… I see you Watson.

Regarding staffing, WASA currently has 3,043 monthly paid employees, 1,785 daily paid workers and a jaw dropping 426 management personnel. You would think with this much man power I would be able to get water in my mains rather than relying on truck-borne water.

It gets worse though. Ever wonder why it takes WASA so long to fix its booster stations or any other little problem?

Well the report found that WASA does not possess the in-house equipment needed to handle such repairs, which I might add is one of the authority’s core functions. Instead they keep running up debts with private contractors to handle the work with little to no accountability as to whether the job was done correctly.

Again this doesn’t surprise me. Once after a particularly long streak of not getting water my husband was informed the booster station was having some issues, not to worry though the crew was there. So being the Mr Fix It that he is, he headed on down to see what was being done. Surprise surprise, the crew didn’t have the tools they needed and informed him it would take a week or so for them to get them. My husband wasn’t dealing with this nonsense, got his own tools and fixed the pump while the WASA crew watched this random dude, fueled by rage, do their very simple job.

Oh, WASA how did you get here? Again it isn’t a mystery.

WASA, like many state-run enterprises, has long been used as a political tool to hand out favours to friends and supporters.

After years and years of abuse, we now have yet another state enterprise that has been crushed by zero accountability and self-serving political misconduct.

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Where do we go from here? As recommended WASA needs to hit the reset button and reformulate its entire system of operations. Unfortunately, I am doubtful this will happen without some major push back.

For this to happen a complete staff audit will need to take place, something Captain Duke has already signalled his intentions to fight.

Should re-staffing actually happen, I genuinely feel sorry for those who will have to seek new employment elsewhere, especially in the private sector.

You see, while working for WASA employee X had no oversight. He could slack around all day and still collect a pay check. Even if the company made zero profits in a financial year he was still given a bonus.

Thanks to his union which figuratively held a gun to every Governments’ head to get what it wants in exchange for party support, employee X is used to get salary increases without having to prove his value to the company or take on additional responsibilities.

Essentially, WASA has destroyed the work ethic of their employees and fostered a culture of entitlement.

Management is going to have a hard time too for very similar reasons.

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Now it should be noted there are WASA employees who work for their pay. The guys that deliver my truck-borne water are awesome. They are timely, polite, do their do without complaint and frankly I see them so much we’ve become friends. They are, however, unfortunately a minority.

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, who genuinely seems to be a good guy, has an immense task ahead of him and I am doubtful he will be able to completely do what needs to be done without caving into political and/or union interference. But one can dream, I suppose.

Frankly, WASA should to be used as an example for all other state enterprises. Things need to be shut down, reformulated and restarted for them to fulfill their main purpose, which is to provide the country with a reliable supply of pipe borne water with transparency, and accountability.

I am hoping Minister Gonzales has the testicular fortitude to fulfil such a herculean task. I am also hoping he manages to do so in a way that sets a new precedent as to how such entities should be run. Also it would be nice to have someone shut Duke up for once.

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