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Saturday 15 August, 2020

Time to pay up: Disconnections to continue as WASA owed $.5B

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is working to recover more than $540 million owed by residential and commercial customers in both Trinidad and Tobago.

At the start of August, WASA launched its Stay Connected Campaign to assist in its recovery of these arrears.

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The exercise, the first phase of the Campaign, has identified just over 1000 residential and commercial accounts for disconnection over a two-week period, in the event that the rates remain unpaid in spite of final notifications being issued.

Areas targeted thus far include North West and North East Trinidad, with disconnections due to begin in Central Trinidad shortly.

In response to an enquiry by LoopTT, WASA said the objective of the exercise is for customers to pay their outstanding rates with customers being encouraged to do so with disconnection being the next step in the process if payments are not made.

Following the launch of the mass disconnection drive, the Authority said many of the customers that were targeted for disconnection have come into the Authority’s offices to clear or make payment arrangements for their outstanding rates.

“Since the announcement of the Stay Connected Campaign, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of customers visiting the Authority’s Rate Payment Centres,” the Authority noted.

Since 2018, The Authority has engaged in legal action regarding 36 accounts, pursuant to sale of property which it has the power to undertake in accordance with the Rates and Recovery of Charges Act.

WASA said 13 of these customers have since settled their accounts, while another three have made agreements to clear their arrears. The remaining 20 customers are at “various stages of the legal process towards Sale of Property under the Rates and Charges Recovery Act Chapter 74:03”.

At present, the bulk of outstanding rates is owed by residential customers, with a debt of approximately $497 million. The amount owed by customers varies from $912 to $127,457.38.

Despite the exorbitant sums owed by customers, WASA is willing to work out agreements with customers for these arrears to be settled.

The Authority explained that where a customer is due for disconnection during this period, despite ignoring previous notices from the Authority, they can they negotiate to make payments within a period of time and avoid immediate disconnection.

“Customers in receipt of previous notices can still visit any of the Authority’s 12 Rate Payment Centre across Trinidad and Tobago to pay outstanding rates or make arrangements to clear their accounts over a set period,” WASA assured.

Residential customers are not the only delinquent payers as the commercial sector owes $43.8 million.

Meanwhile, State agencies have also found themselves on the list of customers in arrears, with a debt of $65 million. In this regard, the Authority is working with these organisations to liquidate this debt.    

Asked about a timeframe for the completion of this disconnection exercise, WASA indicated that this exercise will be ongoing for the foreseeable future as the Authority continues to target customers in different phases of its Stay Connected campaign.

WASA could not provide figures to LoopTT on the amounts recovered thus far.

The large-scale disconnection exercise is expected to begin in Tobago this week.

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