Former WASA CEO sent back on leave

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

WASA’s former Acting CEO Sherland Sheppard. FILE PHOTO –

FORMER Acting CEO of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) Shurland Sheppard was ordered on 50 days vacation leave following the expiry of his suspension last week.

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said on Tuesday that any further action against Sheppard following the end of the 50 days, will be up to WASA’s board.

Sheppard was suspended for a month on April 13 over a failure to enforce a decision from the board, according to a release from WASA. Gonzales confirmed this was the reason for the suspension.

“The board would have approved a list of names of huge customers, corporate commercial customers who owed WASA hundreds of thousands dollars and the board approved a list of 30 names to be published in the media.

“When the publication came out in the media, only 28 of those names were published and on further enquiries as to why two names were omitted, the CEO was asked to explain. The board was not satisfied with the explanation given and he was found to have been responsible for the omission of the two names. Five Islands Water Park was one of them.

“The CEO was suspended pending the outcome of an investigation that was done, it was completed in about two weeks and he was found guilty. He was asked to explain his conduct, due process was followed and the board took a decision to suspend him for one month without pay for the violation. That one-month suspension came to an end last week.”

Gonzales said he was advised that Sheppard was ordered to take another 50 days vacation leave and also to revert to his substantive position of senior manager.

He said he had heard “foolish talk” from the UNC that he (Gonzales) would have been involved in removing Five Islands from the list.

“This is nonsense and if I as the Public Utilities Minister had ordered that Five Islands be removed, why did the board suspend the CEO if the instructions came from the minister? It doesn’t make sense.

Gonzales said he has instructed WASA’s board to continue to go after money owed to them, as this would enable the authority to put projects into place using its own revenue.

He was speaking at the commissioning of the Lopinot water treatment facility, which was constructed under the community water improvement programme (CWIP).

“This project was as a result of monies spent by the taxpayers on the PSIP. What I would want is WASA to be in a position where it can undertake these types of investment to improve water supply on its own based on its revenue and healthy financial position and that can only happen if customers pay their money,” Gonzales said.

He said that the 30 companies highlighted by WASA, owe the utility between $3-5m.

“I think the authority is doing good work in terms of its collection drive. I receive monthly reports and I’m seeing the numbers going in the right direction and I’m confident if we continue in that way, the utility company will be financially sustainable.”