Outstanding revenues owed to the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) has accumulated to a whopping $3 billion from a number of residential and commercial customers who have failed to meet their utility obligations.
Chief Executive Officer of GWI, Shaik Baksh made the revelation during a press conference on Friday, outlining that an aggressive programme has been launched to go after errant customers. While revenue collection has recorded an overall improvement, unwillingness to pay the billed rates has been on the front burner of reasons.
“The outstanding debt right now is just over $3 billion owed by customers out there…The revenue collection has been improving but there is much more to be done. We have several strategies being employed to bring in these revenues. In some communities, there is an unwillingness to pay for the water service. That is a big challenge for GWI. We’re urging the customers out there to come forward and pay their bills to enable us to provide an improved level of service,” Baksh told media operatives.
The utility company is especially focused on chasing after commercial customers who owe dues for services provided. Nevertheless, since the new management took over in September of 2020, the CEO said the water company was able to climb out of a mountain of debts and overdrafts, and is now financially sustainable.
“Financial sustainability has been achieved. We have a stable financial position at GWI here. By that, we have eliminated any need for overdraft facilities at the bank. Secondly, we have a fairly good cashflow to meet all of our commitments, that is, employment costs which was skyrocketing.”
With a reduced staff complement of 988, Baksh said the company is saving $240 million annually and their productivity ratio has seen positive numbers.
Moreover, an inherited debt of $800 million for payment to suppliers is almost cleared, with some $50 million remaining. After the new management took over operations in 2020, Government had also cleared GWI’s debt to the Guyana Power and Light, which had accumulated to some $8 billion at that time.
Overall, “prudent” financial management has been lauded as the reason for the company’s turnaround.
Baksh outlined, “We have achieved a lot of cost-cutting without affecting the operations of the utility. Electricity costs was also reduced tremendous. We have an energy efficiency unit at work to ensure we have more savings because employment and electricity costs here are high. We targeted those areas. So, it is prudent financial management in all areas.”
Meanwhile, through a robust metering programme, 15,000 new meters were installed in 2021. This year’s target is 20,000. The goal is to have 85 per cent meter coverage by 2025; bringing down water losses and contributing to its continued financial stability.
“Moving forward, we have to reduce the NRW (Non-Revenue Water) because this contributes to financial sustainability. We are trying to bring down, under the strategic plan, NRW losses should come down to 55 per cent by 2025. We are revising that to a figure of about 45 to 50 per cent. We want to do more, because as we reduce the water losses, it redounds to better financial management of the utility,” he highlighted.
From now until the end of June, GWI will be waiving the residential reconnection fee of $7500 for customers, on the condition that they pay 50 per cent of the outstanding balance. Getting customers back on track will translate to increased revenues for the State-operated entity.
Director of Commercial Services and Customer Relations, Andrea Khan commented, “We are willing to offer a wallet-friendly payment plan to offset the remaining expenses. This is a limited time offer. We’re urging persons to come into our office and take advantage of this relief programme…We will work out your payment arrangement so that you can back on stream.”
If residential customers are caught tampering, a penalty fee of $30,000 is instituted.