TIME TO PRIVATIZE GUAM’S INEPT WATER AGENCY

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 25) - If the Consolidated Commission on Utilities gets its way, Guam Waterworks Authority customers will be paying for the ineptitude and poor management decisions of the water agency and previous administration for a total of nine years.

In September 2001, the Public Utilities Commission passed an 11.5-percent water surcharge, for a period of seven years, to pay $15 million in past-due power bills. Implementation of the surcharge, which is expected to generate about $3 million a year, was put off at the request of senators, who then issued a moratorium in May 2002, delaying the surcharge for a year.

Now, the CCU wants to extend the surcharge another two years to also pay off a recent $9 million settlement resulting from a 1999 lawsuit.

The real injustice of this is that Waterworks customers are being forced to shoulder the burden for these costs.

None of this additional money will go toward improving the water or sewer systems; it will only be used to pay for the failures of previous Waterworks management and the associated administration. It's ridiculous to expect GWA customers to foot this cost, especially in today's economic conditions.

The water utility's normal rates are supposed to be enough to operate the agency, which includes paying its bills. For whatever reason, Waterworks and the administration chose not to pay $15 million in power bills. The nagging, unanswered question that remains is: where did the money for those bills go?

Now, because this is a government-run agency, the liability becomes the responsibility of ratepayers. But, in fact, the ratepayers already paid for the utility bills. And while the ratepayers did not create the lawsuit, the ensuing settlement becomes their responsibility as well.

And as long as this government is in charge of water services, there are no assurances that this kind of thing won't happen again, and consumers once again may be forced to pay unreasonable surcharges to cover the poor and wasteful management practices at the government-run authority.

What is clear is that the government of Guam is incapable of running Waterworks properly, and because of that, water customers can't afford the system either.

The solution is privatization. Draw up a request for proposal and put it out there so we can sell off Waterworks. The sooner this happens, the better it will be for all of us.

April 25, 2003

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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