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Singh not afraid of WASA audit
Former minister of the environment and water resources, Ganga Singh, says he fears no audit into the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) because “all processes were followed” under his tenure.
He made the claim yesterday as speculation continued that the fire which hit the Record Department at the utility’s St Joseph headquarters may have been maliciously set to destroy critical records ahead of a pending audit.
Noting he was happy no one was injured in the “mysterious” fire which destroyed most of the second floor of the administrative complex, where confidential “Blue Files” containing information about government contracts were kept, he insisted all was above board in the award of contracts when he was minister.
“All processes were followed. I have no problem with respect to any kind of audit,” he said in a telephone interview. Singh said the new Government was merely flexing its muscles with the audit but claimed it was also withholding vital information with respect to it.
“The audit is a matter for the current administration. They are demonstrating they are in charge,” he added. He said, however, the Government simply announced there was going to be an audit into WASA without disclosing how much that audit would cost or its terms of reference.
Singh is also calling for a speedy end to investigations into the cause of the fire. “My hope is they find the cause of the firely quickly to put an end to speculation in the public domain,” he said.
Fire broke out in Block B, Building Nine, in the main four-storey building at 4.45 pm Tuesday after most of the employees had already left work. The second floor, where files which may be related to government contracts awarded for water projects and private development enterprises were kept, was completely destroyed.
WASA’s correspondence with customers and the company’s Information Systems Department were also kept on that floor.
Workers said yesterday the second floor fire “touched” the floors above and beneath it, which were also filled with smoke and were damaged by water when fire officers put out the blaze. Workers have been sent home “until further notice.”
The fire came after a new board appointed by the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government ordered an audit into WASA because of “certain irregularities” it observed. Executive members of the utility were demoted or sent on leave to facilitate that process.
After Tuesday’s fire, speculation was rife among workers and members of the public that it was an attempt to destroy files relating to questionable contracts awarded during the last administration. Under the People’s Partnership government, WASA, which was under Singh’s portfolio, embarked on a water for all programme.
Singh had said the then government had “made significant investments to improve availability and consistency of fresh, clean water for families in T&T.”
He said then “over 1,000 kilometres of pipeline have helped to increase the number of homes receiving water from under 17 per cent when we took office in 2010 to over 74 per cent today.”