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Minister of Public Utilities, Robert Le Hunte, answers a question in the Senate yesterday.

Eighty per cent of the arrears owed to the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is owed by residential customers – and the Electricity Commission’s biggest private-sector debtor is Desalcott, says Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte.

He spoke about the situation in the Senate on Tuesday replying to UNC Senator Wade Mark’s questions on measures being taken to ensure debts owed to the utilities paid off.

Le Hunte said both the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) and WASA, in managing receivables, had adopted a “multi-pronged strategy” including the appointment of a special team in their commercial departments dedicated to recovering debts from government agencies and industrial customers.

Payment arrangement plans have been established for very large public and private debtors. WASA also has a moratorium for customers with outstanding bills to come in and regularise the position.

He said his Ministry has been working as well with Finance to ensure adequate funding is made available this year to ministries and state agencies to ensure they meet their obligations to T&TEC and WASA and to prevent undue pressure on the cash flow of both.

Finance is also finalising a US$100 million loan for WASA to clear arrears owed to Desalcott for desalinated water, and to access further funding for Desalcott payments.

Le Hunte said Government billing to WASA was “very small, probably less than 10 per cent of receivables.” He said the debt recovery teams have been working well and there are “different approaches for different customers.”

Mark asked if Government owed TTEC over $1 billion with Le Hunte’s Ministry owing over $100m. Le Hunte said, “I could assure you it’s not $1 billion that is owed. T&TEC has sales and a revenue of over $3 billion and their total receivables are still less than 90 days sales,” he said.

On other Opposition queries, Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste- Primus said the Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSH) has a sanctioned strength of 48 officers, but at January 2020, only had actual strength of 38 officers. She said the Ministry was committed to working with the agency to strengthen and fill all vacancies. She said previously some OSH inspectors had been operating from home and not reporting for work for almost two years.

Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon also said the Moruga ETeck park is 98 per cent completed and is scheduled to be completed next month.