Water Commission Says Funds A ‘Fee Loan’ By Consumer.
THE dredging fee of 10.43 percent that was attached to a hike in water rates in 2013 will only be used for the dredging of the John Compton Dam.
The National Water and Sewerage Commission pointed this out in a document that outlined the conditions for managing the fee.
Public interest in the fee rekindled recently when its two year duration expired last month and the water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) Inc. asked the Commission for an extension of the fee, providing documentary evidence in support of its request.
With approximately EC$11 million in the dredging fund to date and with the Commission presently perusing the evidence supplied by WASCO, there is heightened public interest in this latest development which has caused the Commission to release information to the public that deals strictly with the fee.
The Commission, for instance, is letting it be known that it is WASCO which is responsible for managing the dredging fund, but regulatory oversight remains with it, meaning that it monitors the fund.
The Commission further states that WASCO reports on the dredging fund by providing the Commission with monthly bank statements.
Noting that the funds in the fund belong to consumers, the Commission adds that the dredging fee is a “free loan” granted to WASCO by consumers. That loan does not require repayment but is condition based.
In outlining the conditions for managing the dredging fee the Commission notes that goods, services and works must be procured through competitive bidding, where it is possible to do so, and that a detailed expenditure report (the Commission may request audited financial reports) must be presented to the Commission on a quarterly basis on the operation of the dredging fee.
It further noted that the dredging fee shall only be used for the dredging of the dam and that permission must first be obtained from the Commission to utilize the fee for any other purpose.
Regarding the project plan for the dam’s dredging the Commission notes that the plan should include significant milestones, towards the successful completion of the dredging, in particular the selection of the contractor for the John Compton Dam De-silting and rehabilitation study; commencement and finalization of the dam de-silting and rehabilitation study; selection of the contractor responsible for undertaking the dredging works; commencement and completion of the dredging works and development and implementation of a maintenance plan post dredging.
“The Commission may, in its sole discretion, request the inclusion of other milestones if the Commission deems it to be necessary,” the Commission explained, adding that this project plan must be submitted upon completion of the John Compton Dam Se-silting and Rehabilitation Study.
According to the Commission the annual plan for the dredging project shall include all work related to the dam dredging project to be completed in the financial year; be submitted at the end of the first quarter of the calendar year and be subject to review by the Commission.
It added that if the annual plan for the dredging project satisfies the Commission’s requirements, a letter of no objection will be issued to WASCO. Otherwise, the Commission will request that WASCO re-submit an annual plan for the dredging project which satisfies the Commission’s requirements.
Quarterly reports detailing the progress of the dredging project as well as sums added to and disbursed from the Dredging Fee Account are to be submitted by WASCO to the Commission within 45 days following the end of the final month of the quarter. Additionally, an annual progress report must be submitted at the end of the first quarter of each financial year, together with the annual plan for the dredging project.
Also, monthly bank statements for the Dredging Fee Account must be presented to the Commission by WASCO.
The Commission explains that all contracts or other formal agreements related to the dredging project which could result in financial obligations, in excess of EC$2500.00, from the Dredging Fee Account should be submitted to the Commission for its “no objection” prior to the execution of the contract or agreement. A schedule of payments must accompany the contract submission.
Before any disbursement in excess of EC$5000.00 is made, the Commission must be informed in writing at least 10 working days prior to the disbursement. The Commission may review the disbursement as presented or may request clarification or additional information.
In addition to these required submissions, the Dredging Fee Account shall be subject to an annual audit by an independent auditor to be approved by the Commission. The audit shall be financed by WASCO.
The Commission further notes that the dredging fund may be terminated for the following reasons: completion of the dredging or gross violation and/or misuse of the dredging fund.
“If there is a gross violation and or misuse of the dredging fund, before terminating the dredging fund, the Commission will endeavour to provide WASCO with sufficient time to remedy the situation, violation and or misuse of funds. Termination will only be used as a last resort,” the Commission notes.