Mind-boggling dysfunction at GWI

Dear Editor,

In yesterday’s SN I saw that GWI has been given the green light to increase its water rates. Everywhere around me I see it is just more of the same, moving forward to yesterday.

Sometime in the middle/latter half of July 2017, I was sitting at the table I have in my bottom house looking over some documents  when my gardener said that someone from GWI was there to check the water meter. A young lady came into the yard to do so. I then called her over to speak to me and I showed her my bill from GWI and asked her why it is saying “do not pay” and what am I supposed to do with it? She took the bill and after close examination she was as mystified as I was, so she told me that she would check at the head office. She did and called me the next day to tell me that I owed $57,000 and they are about to disconnect me and that I should go into the office on Vlissingen road. When I did so they confirmed that I owed $57,000.

I asked how it was that I could owe so much, when I kept getting bills telling me “do not pay” and that the bill was showing a +$6000 amount. After much checking and researching, they told me that the service had been disconnected in December 2016 and that after the outstanding amount was paid, it was reconnected but the records of GWI continued to show it as disconnected and so even though they kept reading the meter monthly and the amount of water usage on the meter was rising, they failed to discover the error and kept sending me bills saying, “do not pay”! Editor that is a hell of a way to run a public utility.

I told the young lady in the enquiry department at Vlissengen Road, that I don’t have that kind of money in Guyana at that time but that I have property in the US and that at month end I will see what I can do, she promised to hold the disconnection until then.

On Saturday 28th July 2017, I travelled to the US on Jamaica Flight #OJ 262/270 and returned on August 10 on BW 527, I have the tickets as evidence. So in fact I was not here at the end of the month of July.

On returning on the 10th of August 2017, I discovered that the water was disconnected, so I went into GWI again, with the full $57,000, which remember that this huge amount [to be paid all at once] had escalated to that level through bad book keeping and carelessness at GWI for over a year, which kept reading a meter which was entered in the books of GWI as disconnected, but was actually showing $4-5000 usage per month. Begging the question what sort of systems do they have for these matters at that utility? No wonder it is always in so much economic difficulties. Editor, a disconnected water meter cannot show increasing amounts being used. Nevertheless GWI kept sending me bills telling me “not to pay”! They said that not only will I have to pay the $57,000 but that I will have to pay the reconnection fee. I refused to pay a reconnection fee since by paying I would be making myself pay to hide the incompetence of GWI.

I asked to speak to the supervisor at Vlissingen road and I told her that I am perfectly willing to pay the $57,000,  that I had it on me at that time in cash, but I refuse to pay a reconnection fee! Since it was matter of principle, as all of this confusion was caused by GWI which was guilty of serious lapses in record keeping performance. I had wasted several hours of my time to unravel the problem which was not my fault and indeed was entirely the fault of GWI, which was now asking me to pay for it. She refused to waive the reconnection fee and I left.

So on the 23rd of August 2017 I wrote to my friend Dr Van West-Charles who is the CEO of GWI. I told him that due to his being my friend I will not make a big issue of it, but if these people insist that I must pay a reconnection fee, when in doing so I would be obscuring the fact that this was entirely their fault and I had no intention of doing that, I will make life very uncomfortable for GWI.

Two weeks later around 3-4th September I received a letter from Dr. Van West-Charles informing me that there will be no reconnection fee, and that I should just pay the bill. I immediately paid $40,000 pending the reconnection and I left Guyana on September 11th, 2017 for the US. When I came back in October 2017 I was told that the water was still not connected, and I went into GWI and asked them if they were not going to honour Dr Van West-Charles’s undertaking to me to reconnect with no reconnection fee as per his letter to me dated sometime early in September 2017? They asked me what letter? I asked if the department was not informed that Dr Van West-Charles had instructed, in a letter to me, that I would be reconnected at no charge? They told me that they were not informed about any letter so I went to Dr Van West-Charles’ office and asked his secretary for a copy of the letter since I had received mine on one day and literally left for the US the next day and it was probably placed in the briefcase I travelled with but I could not find it. I also asked why a copy of Dr. Van West-Charles’ letter was not sent to the Vlissingen road office as an instruction to reconnect my water supply. She informed me that she did not know but she promised to look for the letter and give me a copy. I went there to the CEO’s office several times over the next few weeks and they could not locate that letter from the CEO of GWI to me.

On the 14th June 2018, employees of GWI came to my gate. I was working at my computer in my underwear so I could only just peep out the side of the door and they told me that they were there to disconnect and remove all of the GWI pipes from the road to my house. I refused to open the gate since it was utterly ridiculous that they should now be removing a pipe about 6 ft long from the road where they had already disconnected the water supply to my house nearly a year before. It is why I am now making this a public protest about the dysfunction of GWI.

Yours faithfully,

Tony Vieira  

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