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File: A potable water truck fills up tanks.
RADHICA DE SILVA
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Essential infrastructural projects like road repairs will suffer if unspent balances are used for water trucking.

The warning comes from chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy, and Mayaro MP Rushton Paray, a day after Minister of Local Government Kazim Hosein announced that he was granting approval for $14 million of unspent balances to facilitate water distribution in all regional corporations.

But both Paray and Sammy called for new funding to be made available.

Paray said the $14 million in unspent balances were already allocated to essential infrastructural projects.

“The total of $14 million represents unspent balances from prior fiscal allocations, which the respective corporations are re-directing to vital repairs of roads, bridges and other crucial projects,” he explained.

He said under the relevant legislation, the Minister could only direct municipal corporations on policy matters and not on the utilisation of allocated funds.

Saying Hosein must present a more sustainable solution to the water crisis, Paray called on the government to provide new funding for truck-borne supplies.

“The re-directing of $1 million by each corporation would, at best, permit short-term water trucking, but would cheat the corporations of critical funding for vital infrastructural works. The Minister should source other funds to repair water tenders, to pay truckers and to finance other associated costs,” he added.

He noted that WASA must be mandated to provide water to tax paying customers.

Meanwhile, Dr Allen Sammy noted it may be more than a month before the Corporation is actually able to provide truck-borne water.

“The government should not expect at this last minute to draw down on funds that are intended for developmental works such as roads, bridges, drains, land slippage, cemeteries and recreation ground repairs, markets and abattoirs, and draw down on that money and spend it on water trucking,” Sammy said.

He added: “We are mindful of the challenges of people who are not connected to the WASA system and they need to be provided with water. We already have a programme to deliver to these people commencing from the end of February, which is at the beginning of the dry season,” he said.

Sammy said 400 gallons of water is given every six days to 612 households without a pipe-borne connection at a cost of $665,000. He noted that if the Corporation now has to provide truck-borne water to WASA customers, it will take a month to invite tenders for water trucks, get the trucks insured, inspect them to make sure they are road worthy and obtain permission from WASA to get access to their hydrants. And he maintains that central government should provide new funds for water trucking, noting that this should not come from unspent balances.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Minister of Local Government Kazim Hosein said the decision to allocate $14 million in unspent balances for water trucking was a positive one.

He added: “The decision will be executed as planned and the relevant approvals will be given as promised.”

Hosein said when he met with all the chairmen and chief executive officers on Monday, the decision to allocate $1 million in unspent balances was welcomed by all and no objections had been raised by anyone.