GWI is abusing its authority

Dear Editor,

I am a 78-year old pensioner living alone at 55 E Robb Street, Georgetown. During my decades of service with GWI, I have never defaulted in my payments or cited for any infractions. In February 2019, GWI submitted their usual bill. The total amount due was $6,388 representing services rendered for January 2019. The payment due date was February 15, 2019.

I paid the full amount on February 6, 2019 (receipt attached). On February 26, a GWI crew disconnected my service. Attempts to engage them proved futile; they “don’t want to see or hear anything.”

An immediate visit to GWI (Vlissengen Road), with a request to engage a management official, was flatly denied. I was routed to the staff designated to deal with routine complaints – “the source of the problem to address the problem.”

The youthful female, name unknown, they don’t provide names, took my pertinent bill and conferred with someone in an enclosure, returned and prepared a “Request for reconnection form” for me to pay the “prescribed fee.” I reminded her in no uncertain terms that my purpose there was to report an “illegal disconnection” and whether anyone is willing to address it.

The staff was not very receptive. I sensed they were desperate in finding a reason to justify, first identifying an outstanding balance of $2,718 (bill provided); however, that was negated as it was already paid (receipt provided).

They then claimed an outstanding unpaid bill of $7,920 (bill provided) for services rendered for the month of February 2019 with a payment due date of March 18, 2019.

In an effort to bring a resolution, I agreed to pay this bill in full there and then, though it was not yet due and the month of usage (February) was not yet finished.

Trying to assert your rights seems to make matters worse. Finally, it was agreed that GWI will reconnect at no cost; they prefer the term “illegal disconnection” in preference to error. I was faithfully promised reconnection either later the same day, or very early the following day (27th) but it did not happen.

On February 28th, I sought help via the PUC. A female officer, having examined my documents, made telephone contact with GWI. Resulting from that conversation, she assured me it was not my fault, and further, that GWI gave an undertaking that reconnection will be done later that same day. Reconnection took place the following day, late evening of March 1.

On April 09, 2019, I paid my next bill of $5,890 representing services rendered for the month of March 2019. The payment due date was April 15, 2019. Hours after this payment, GWI reappeared and disconnected my water, the usual repetition as described. I was livid.

In the face of all the irrefutable documentary evidence, they continued to attempt spurious explanations to the contrary. On this occasion, in their mad desperation, they produced an immediate printout of a new bill (provided) with all figures being consistent with the previous bill except that this bill reflected a balance outstanding payment of $2,780 comprising what I deduce as fictitious meter readings for the months January and February, which were already tabulated for and paid.

In any event, this claimed $2,780 was already accounted for and paid. I must admit, I find it difficult to comprehend their computations in arriving at the amount due and outstanding for payment. Experience has taught me not to challenge those computations; it is akin to “flogging a dead horse”!  I assume the term “Total amount due” represents my current total obligated payments. I always pay the stated amount due in full, no partial payments.

In the heat of these confrontations, a burly male security officer (Frank) was summoned, I suspected to arrest or evict me from the premises, but to his credit, in a very cordial approach, having ascertained my problems, collected my bills and queried with pertinent staff in my absence. He later returned my bills and said, “Sir, on behalf of GWI, I would like to extend an apology. Arrangements are being made to reconnect your water.”

I thanked him for his courtesy but explained that it is not his place to apologise as he is not the source of the problem, it is for the person or persons in that office who need to. Again, I was faithfully promised an almost immediate restoration of my service but as usual, it was not done on that day, neither the next nor the next.

On Friday, April 12, reluctantly I reached out the PUC once more, hoping to have an audience with the chairperson. Unfortunately, she was not in office. The officer who dealt with me previously, offered her intervention. I initially declined, having regard to my prior experience, that is say, it is apparent that GWI has no regard for mid-level PUC officers. Unable to ascertain if and when the chairperson will be available in view of the approaching weekend, I consented for the PUC mid-level staff to intervene which, to my surprise, yielded a positive result.

Thus far, I have received no coherent explanation for this wanton and reckless termination of my service. I, for my part, have been faithfully adhering to my obligations. On the contrary, GWI, armed with their coercive authority to assist in executing their mandate dealing with mala fide customers, have been abusing their authority with impunity, as is clearly demonstrated in this case.

I refuse to accept that this was an error, negligence, oversight, call it what you will. This more fits into the description of malicious and deliberate acts, bordering on criminality. Commonsense dictates that such authority corresponds with care and responsibility, and dare I say, consequences. It is reasonably expected that disconnection should be employed as last resort when all other attempts have failed.

It is apparent that GWI mercilessly, and without hesitation, terminates and then imposes the draconian reconnection fees as a first resort, shifting the onus on the customer to provide evidence to the contrary. When the reverse occurs, who compensates the customer? GWI and its complacent staff should be categorically made to understand that they are not a law onto themselves and unaccountable to anyone. Their behaviour does not demonstrate an iota of remorse.

I am aware that there are systems in place to deal with this type of dereliction but somehow it appears that system is not functioning as it ought to. In the meantime, l am prepared to go the extra mile of lodging funds in advance for potential future use of my water supply, hopefully, to avoid future similar harassments.

By this medium, I am also seeking an assurance that there will not be a repetition.

Finally, I am patiently looking forward to a timely response in anticipation of a positive redress, failure of which will force me to seek other options.

Yours faithfully,

Hilton Jagmohan