Mayaro MP Rushton Paray called the decision by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) to refer debtors to a debt collection agency both “reckless and cruel”.
In a public notice earlier this week, the authority said it had has engaged the services of Credit Chex Limited to assist in debt collection from customers who have been in arrears for over two years.
It said Credit Chex Limited will contact customers in default by telephone, in writing or on site visits to advise customers that their account has been referred for debt collection. He said that to avoid the referral of accounts to Credit Chex Limited, customers can settle their outstanding arrears on their account or enter into a credit payment plan agreement to settle the outstanding amount in the agreements.
However, in a press release, Paray said that this decision lead to customers deprived of supply for months being forced to “pay for a non-existent service” instead of being provided with the precious good.
“This ruthless measure is almost sure to punish paying customers by arbitrarily cutting off their supply. It is appalling that the government is allowing WASA to engage in this capricious debt collection exercise even after a cabinet committee recently found the agency’s books to be in a total mess.
Noting that the committee, which was chaired by Public Services Minister Marvin Gonzales, found a lack of accountability and a poor organizational culture, Paray said employing a credit collection agency at this time is “tough and mean”. .
“The committee reported that WASA was operating blindly, with an absence of credible information in key areas such as the customer database, liabilities and payables. In this broken and chaotic system, WASA takes this measure haphazardly, instead acting quickly to repair its books, improve its distribution system, and repair damaged water pipes and roads.
The MP further suggested that Gonzales should freeze the exercise “until the ongoing chaos is sorted out and WASA has a credible list of clients with old arrears.”
“The ramping up of the debt collection campaign would also affect the credit rating of customers who were victims of WASA’s dysfunction and mismanagement. While WASA has a serious cash flow problem, collection of debts must be guided by a watertight list of debts and by the competence and professionalism of the management.