Before the crap hit the fan on the South Coast the blogmaster was haunted by a pronouncement of Dr. John Mwanza almost three years go. It was at the height of the embarrassing period the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) was unable to supply water to rural parts of the island. Mwanza reminded Barbadians that besides Barbados being a water scare country, an old mains network had continued to undermine the quality of BWA’s water distribution network.
Wise heads in this forum have often cautioned about successive governments failing to make quality decisions be it the management of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Public Transportation, Waste Management, Judicial System, Enforcing the Financial Rules to name a few. A reminder that all members of parliament should have to complete a mandatory training the Pros and Cons of Good Decision Making?
What some of us cannot process is the decision by the BWA to construct a 50 million dollar headquarters in St. Barnabas. Key decision makers would have been aware that the BWA distribution network has been compromised by a 100 year old mains network in some parts of the island. Some commentators estimate the mains are leaking greater than 50%. The blogmaster would add that until recently all the pumping stations- many in a bad state of repair- were totally dependent on fossil power. Despite the 60% hike in the water rate. The inability of the BWA to honour its financial committent to Innotech under a lease purchase agreement comes as no surprise to sensible observers.
While arguments can be made for housing the operations of the BWA in a modern structure – one does not need the benefit of hindsight to judge that it was a poor decision to commit millions of taxpayers dollars to construct a state of the art building while at the same time 104 water tanks needed to be installed in parts of the island- standpipe style. We should be embarrassed.
On a related note the SSA built a modern building at Vaucluse to house the operations at a time the authority was unable to maintain a fleet of garbage trucks. Bare in mind the authority has also been unable to oversee a comprehensive waste disposal system. Up to the time of posting this blog the new SSA building estimated to have costed taxpayers 30 million dollars remains unoccupied.
The preamble is to sound a warning to the Mia Mottley government.
As a people – represented by our elected government – we cannot afford to continue making poor decisions. In this instant the supply of potable water. With the exception of a very few government and parastatal agencies the consensus is that they are poorly managed. Minister in the ministry of finance Ryan Straughn recently pronounced:-
…that Government will be taking a closer look at the process by which people are appointment to boards…Minister Straughn says a key provision of the draft law will be the introduction of the fiscal responsibility principles, which will hold government accountable for fiscal policies it implements. Sanctions will also be introduced against public entities, which rack up excessive debt, or fail to supply financial statements. An audit committee is also to be established.
As a people we have to hold elected AND public officials accountable. Whether it is Dr. John Mwanza or Prime Minister Mia Mottley crying SABOTAGE without being pressed by civil society to support with credible evidence. Whether it is civil servants not adhering to the financial rules of government. People must be held accountable.
Big up the Auditor General Office!