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WSC begins ‘huge’ institutional strengthening

The Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) has signed a contract to undergo “institutional strengthening”, and commenced an organizational review that should ultimately place it under formal regulation.

The move is part of a fundamental revamp of the organization.  Executives are fixing New Providence’s infrastructure while also cleaning house at a bureaucratic level.

General Manager of WSC Glen Laville called the institution strengthening “huge” to its long-term success.

“Without a reform of the sector itself, really you’re not going to see the true benefits of investment,” he explained.  “It will help us turn around.  However, one of the things we’ve emphasized is there is no silver bullet approach.”

Similar to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), WSC has continued to grapple with a number of financial issues. The corporation owes millions to Consolidated Water, the Cayman Islands-based provider, although government contributions have helped reduce these liabilities.

It is further understood that WSC loses up to 50 percent of its water through rampant leakages in an old and efficient network.  Miya, an Israeli firm, has been hired to reduce these leakages by half within the next five years.

Excavation begins in January, and fortunately, the new institutional strengthening regime should also be online at this time.  WSC executives are now developing the necessary strategies, Laville said, which goes through approval by the board and the government.

All of these initiatives are part of a $83 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to revamp WSC.

“Institutional strengthening has to be with organizational restructuring.  It is restructuring to improve efficiency and productivity, and also with a focus on becoming a regulated utility under the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA)”, the general manager told Guardian Business.

Being subject to regulation under URCA, he added, means there are higher performance standards and accountability.  Tariff adjustments would have to go through the regulator.

And in the event of complaints, Bahamians would have a more formal means to have their voices heard.

“The good thing is it would be a transparent activity,” Laville noted.  “With the government having to pump so much subsidy, there are no performance agreements to ensure diligence.”

In regards to the work by Miya, he reported that the Israeli firm is on the ground and has already submitted its inception reports, which describes its communications with stakeholders and early findings.  A baseline survey report will follow that is far more specific on future excavation works, beginning in January 2013.

WSC is still receiving and mulling over proposals for four new water treatment plants in New Providence and 60 “lift stations” as part of the $83 million loan.  This additional infrastructure upgrade will take up approximately $16 million of the loan.

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