There are currently no plans to privatise any of the three state utility companies but if the Government can be convinced that move will be profitable, that position can change in the future.
This according to Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales.
He was speaking to CNC3’s the Morning Brew host Natalee Legore on Wednesday morning when Legore asked him to address rumours that the T&T Electricity Commission (T&TEC) might be heading towards privatisation.
Gonzales said there were no plans to privatise T&TEC, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) or the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT.)
But Gonzales added, “Unless or until we can see some benefit or convinced in some form or fashion that there might be need for diversification for private partnership to make those companies more viable and productive but at this time, the data is not to privatise WASA or T&TEC.”
Gonzales spoke at length about the issues facing WASA as he said his most important mandate is to ensure a 24/7 water supply for the entire country as quickly as possible.
In a Public Accounts Committee report in 2018, there was said to be a surplus of 2,000 employees at WASA.
The authority was said to have a wage bill above $91 million a month and was in massive debt- earning $709 million in 2017 while spending $2.88 billion in the same period.
The shortfall of $1.9 billion was covered with a Government subvention. In the three years since, the financials at the state-owned water company have not improved and neither has its ability to provide a reliable water supply to the country.
During the interview, Legore asked Gonzales whether there would be job cuts at WASA.
She said there were reports that the authority was overstaffed by 4,000 employees.
Gonzales denied this, saying, “From the information provided to me currently has 4,800 workers or let us say, 4,900 workers. How on earth can you retrench 4,000 in the authority and leave probably 800 people to run the authority? So there cannot be any truth to the fact that WASA is oversized by 4,000 workers because you just simply have about 4,800 workers in the utility company.”
He said retrenchment is not the quick fix for the problems plaguing the authority. Gonzales said WASA has suffered under poor management and while he said a manpower audit should be done soon, he said WASA’s board will likely be replaced before workers are sent home.