An independent senator is accusing the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) of turning the Senate into a “mock sport”.
Speaking this afternoon on the Barbados Water Authority Amendment Bill 2018, Monique Taitt took issue with the fact that while the Upper Chamber had yet to even consider the measure to impose Government’s Garbage and Sewage Contribution (GSC) levy, the water company had already announced it would take effect on Wednesday, August 1.
Taitt was also concerned that notice of the sitting was not given until the very last minute.
“Today is the 30th, we had notice of this bill on the 28th or the 29th and to make matters worse the water authority is advertising that it will start on [August 1] and this chamber has not yet voted on it,” Taitt said.
“So what does that make this Chamber? Mock sport?”
When Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced her $1.2 austerity Budget on June 11, she indicated that the GSC would come into effect on August 1.
As part of the measure, the levy for households is set at $1.50 per day – approximately $45 per month – while commercial premises will be charged at 50 per cent of their monthly water bills.
This notwithstanding, Taitt said it made little sense that the BWA should announce its implementation ahead of Senate confirmation.
“If we are now here dealing with it, what are we doing here? How are we dealing with it but a statutory board has already announced it? So what is our purpose? You are making sport at the Senate.”
The independent senator also complained that some sections of the legislation was not clear.
“We have provisions for access to a relief board, for a relief certificate, but we do not have a relief form, manner or time. If you look at section 25 d (1) however you would notice that there is provision for a 21 day period where you can appeal the decision made by the relief board to the minister. So there is proscribed time in the bill, but at an appeal stage. I would be bold to say that the bill needs to be fixed so that proscribed form, manner and time are clearly identified. If not, in what manner are you making your application for your relief certificate from a caring board?” she asked.
Taitt also expressed concern about the possible impact of leaks on commercial consumers, some of whom have already complained that the GSC could send their water bills skyrocketing to as much as $60,000 per month.
“The commercial consumer has to pay the bill plus 50 per cent of the bill. If you are a commercial consumer and you have a underground leak, not a surface leak where you see it bubbling up, you do not know you have a leak until you get a bill telling you that something is wrong. Meanwhile according to this bill you will have to pay the bill no matter how much it is plus 50 per cent of that. So if you have an underground leak that amounts to $5,000 to $10,000 of water in a month because it is a 30-day period. You have to pay that $10,000 plus another 5,000 as the levy,” Taitt complained.
When the bill was put to a vote, Taitt gave a conditional yes, insisting the matters she raised must first be addressed.