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T&TEC rate hike under review, says regulator
The Regulated Industries Commission should never have been established, a senior official of the RIC said at The University of the West Indies’ Conference on the Economy (COTE) 2012 at the Learning Resource Centre, St Augustine campus.
“In my view, there really never should have been an RIC. The PUC (Public Utilities Commission) should have remained,” said Glen Khan, deputy executive director of the RIC, as RIC chair Anne Marie Mohammed listened on.
Speaking at the two-day conference on Friday, Khan said that was his personal opinion because in many countries including the US the regulatory institutions have existed for over 100 years.
“They haven’t closed down any. They haven’t changed the name. They have simply changed the laws,” he said. The RIC was created by an Act of Parliament in 1998 and by the turn of the millennium, the PUC was defunct. But he added: “The good work the RIC has been doing in protecting customers” is “a function the PUC never had.”
Early in his presentation to UWI students and other members of the campus community, he said the role of the RIC included making recommendations for licences, yet the RIC was left out of the selection of Powergen.
Further explaining the role of the RIC, he said that WASA and T&TEC remain under its purview, but Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) “went under the authority of the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT).” He told his audience that when customers of WASA and T&TEC were aggrieved, if their efforts to get redress from the utility failed, the RIC would take it upon itself to pursue the matters on the customers’ behalf.
He said T&TEC now automatically rebates customers for power supply failures but added that the electricity commission still needs to perfect how it calculates the rebates because all “the payments that should have been made have not been made.” Still, he said the complaints against T&TEC, for the most part, are not from individual customers but more related to infrastructure such as light poles and fixtures.
He said that prior to the rate increase approved in 2006, there was not a review of T&TEC rates since 1992 by the PUC. He said that rate increase was not implemented until two years later because “politicians become very nervous” when it comes to utility rate increases. Khan said the rate increase “was a positive thing for T&TEC, and the RIC was beneficial to T&TEC because it made it more profitable to T&TEC.”
Asked about the status of the rate increase application, he referred questions to chair Mohammed. She declined to give a direct response saying she was at the time “only the chair of this panel” referring to the COTE session. She would only say that T&TEC has increasing costs to bear. Still, she confirmed that a rate increase application is under review.
Speaking on WASA, Khan said, “WASA is the public utility with the most complaints to the RIC.” He said that about “84 per cent” of the complaints received on WASA are about inadequate supply. He said it was the hope of the RIC that every WASA customer could get at least two days of water per week. He said that while this might seem like a low aspiration, there are parts of the country where the water supply is deplorable.
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