Le Hunte encouraged by start of WASA transformation

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FORMER public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte.

FORMER public utilities minister Robert Le Hunte said recently-announced steps by his successor Marvin Gonzales to reduce the operating costs of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) by 25 per cent are a step in the right direction.

The measures are aimed at improving WASA’s efficiency.

“The height of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Le Hunte said. “In this regard, an organisation with income levels of $700 million and expenses of over $2 billion is not sustainable and will continue to be a drain on the Treasury.”

He recalled having said publicly on many occasions that there was no single “silver bullet” to fix WASA.

So, he said, “Reduction in expenses, together with a number of other initiatives, are required to see the ultimate objective of improving the reliability of the water supply to the citizens in the country being achieved.”

Le Hunte was heartened to see work on WASA’s transformation has started.

He reiterated his hope that both an improved authority and improved water supply will be the outcomes.

Le Hunte resigned as public utilities minister and a government senator on May 18, 2020.

In an interview that day, Le Hunte rejected claims that his resignation was the result of a falling-out between the Prime Minister and himself.

“I have no problem with the PNM or Dr Rowley.”

Having been a PNM member for 33 years and a minister for just three years, Le Hunte said, “This is about service. This is not about position.”

Now that he is out of government, Le Hunte said his “professionalism and integrity” prevent him from divulging any Cabinet deliberations, which are private and confidential.

Le Hunte was replaced in May 2020 as public utilities minister by Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds.

After the August 10, 2020 general election, newly-elected Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Gonzales was appointed to the post.

Le Hunte became executive director at the Inter-American Development Bank last month.

In a statement issued on Tuesday in response to questions from Newsday about the restructuring of WASA as announced by Gonzales, the National Union of Government and Federated Workers Union (NUGFW) said it has no comment to make, since its president James Lambert had not met with the company on the matter as yet.

But the union said Lambert had a “deep concern over the fact that workers will be sent home.”

No date has been given as yet for a meeting between WASA and NUGFW.

The union represents daily paid workers at the authority. The Public Services Association represents WASA’s monthly paid workers.

At a news conference in Port of Spain on July 28, Gonzales said WASA’s 426-strong management team will be cut by 50 per cent, and the company’s top management was replaced last July.

He said Cabinet has just approved a transformation plan for WASA, to attract the “best and brightest talent” for new management posts to be publicly advertised.

WASA will divide the country into five regions – northwest, northeast, central, south and Tobago – each to be run by a regional manager and a water resource agency.

Gonzales promised talks will be held with the PSA and NUGFW before touching the jobs of any of WASA’s 5,000 workers. He said workers will be able to re-tool and re-skill for new positions.