Will Anyone be Held ACCOUNTABLE for Sewage Scandal?
Submitted by DAVID COMISSIONG, PRESIDENT, Clement Payne Movement
Who is going to hold the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) accountable for the south coast sewage crisis – an environmental and public health scandal that is threatening to destroy Barbados’ all important Tourism industry and to unleash diseases on persons who reside or work in the affected areas. And perhaps even more to the point, who is going to hold the Minister responsible for the BWA – Dr. David Estwick – and the Cabinet that he is a member of, accountable?
We Barbadians need to remind ourselves that this sewage scandal has been ongoing for well in excess of two years now! Please recall that as long ago as Thursday 22nd of October 2015 Opposition Leader Mia Mottley – speaking at the Barbados Labour Party’s Christ Church West Central candidate nomination meeting – issued a public warning that “something has gone terribly wrong with the south coast sewerage system’’, and that people who live around Graeme Hall, Christ Church were already complaining bitterly about the breakdown of the sewage system. Ms Mottley also made a pointed call to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to bestir himself and carry out an urgent investigation into the matter.
Well, the 22nd of October 2015 is exactly twenty-six and a half months ago!
As we are all aware, the duty to establish, operate and maintain public sewerage systems in Barbados resides with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), and it is a statutory duty.
The BWA is a statutory corporation that was established by the Barbados Water Authority Act, Chapter 274 A of the Laws of Barbados, and section 5 of the Act stipulates that its functions are:-
to prepare and submit to the Minister proposals for the establishment of efficient sewerage systems capable of meeting the need for sewerage services throughout Barbados;
to design, construct, provide, operate and maintain sewerage works for the purpose of receiving, treating and disposing of sewage;
to keep under constant review the quality, reliability, and availability of sewerage services;
to conduct research programmes for its purposes; and
to disseminate information and advice with respect to the management and treatment of sewage.
All of the evidence that is available to us points to the BWA having failed to carry out the duties and functions imposed upon it by the Barbados Water Authority Act and/or having been guilty of gross negligence in the carrying out of those duties and functions. This – it seems to me – may well be a matter that should be taken before the Law Courts of Barbados under the provisions of the Administrative Justice Act Chapter 109 B of the Laws of Barbados.
Section 6 of the Administrative Justice Act provides that “the Court may on an application for judicial review grant relief in accordance with this Act
a) to a person whose interests are adversely affected by an administrative act or omission;
b) to any other person if the Court is satisfies that that person’s application is justifiable in the public interest in the circumstances of the case.”
And the “relief” that the Court may grant includes an order of Mandamus requiring the statutory board to carry out its public duty, as well as an order for damages in money.
We Barbadians must resolve to bestir ourselves and make the effort to hold our public authorities – inclusive of Government Ministers and statutory corporations – accountable. If we fail to take steps to do so, we will only be encouraging them to engage in even more irresponsible and detrimental behaviour.