Members of Parliament yesterday argued over who was to blame for the poor road conditions in some parts of the country, as the Opposition members blamed the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) while referencing the protest in Moruga earlier in the day.
During a sitting of the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) on the Budget allocation to the Ministry of Public Utilities, Minister Marvin Gonzales said Opposition operatives were behind the protest, which prompted an outburst by UNC Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh.
Meanwhile, the SFC was also told that a $45 million dip in the salaries and Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) budget at WASA should not impact operations, but there was no firm figure on what negotiations were outstanding.
“The Government has indicated the policy with respect to the transformation and restructuring of the Water and Sewerage Authority,” Gonzales said.
He said the Cabinet sub-committee put together a report which was laid in Parliament.
“Despite the shortfall that you are seeing reflected here, the transformation of the WASA would result in an improvement in water supplies across the country,” he said.
Gonzales said over the last 20 years, successive governments pumped over $20 billion into WASA.
“If by simply pumping money into an organisation would automatically result in an improvement in service, then the $20 billion the government spent in WASA, then every single community should be receiving a 24/7 water supply,” he said.
“Despite the shortfall you are seeing here, it will not result in further decline in water supply,” he said.
The session lasted almost two hours but was plagued by continuous interruptions and crosstalk between members of the Opposition and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.
At one point, Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde had to force Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh to withdraw his “put up or shut up” directive to Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales.
“Yesterday, I gave an undertaking to give the status of all collective agreements in all entities in the public sector and that was to preempt questions directly to other ministers about the same thing over and over,” Imbert said.
Questions were also raised about an unspent balance of $6 million under the Solid Waste Management heading.
“So SWMCOL received its allocation from the Ministry of Public Utilities and the Ministry of Finance, it is kept in the accounts at SWMCOL and that would be utilised to defray any outstanding expense for 2022,” Gonzales said.
Imbert also jumped in to clarify.
“Any money sent to a State enterprise or statutory authority, disbursed, released and paid to a state enterprise or statutory authority is retained,” he said.
“On the other hand, releases sent to ministries that have not been converted to a grant or credit and then into a cheque payment are returned to the Consolidated Account,” he said.