The Senate yesterday voted 10 for, four against, and one abstention in favor of carrying on stringent reforms in the water supply and sanitation services sector controlled by the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC).
The vote taken during that body’s 36th day sitting specifically called for the creation of an enabling environment through, inter alia, making of policies and enactment of legislations to attract private investment to the sector.
The Senate’s decision was prompted by a report prepared by the Committees on Lands, Mines Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, and Public Corporations, in which they recommended to plenary requesting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to consider fast tracking the privatization of key operational areas, such as the commercialization of the LWSC.
The Chairmen of the two Committees, Senators Albert Chie and J. Gbleh-bo Brown, informed their colleagues that during the performance of their oversight responsibilities, they held meetings with the management of LWSC at the Capitol Building on May 9, and observed that the corporation needed serious attention.
In their conclusion, the Committees reported that “the LWSC has been run inefficiently for many years and is in bad financial state; that it is unable to deliver about 60 percent of the bills to customers it claims to serve, while full collection of debt from bills is far-fetched.”
The seven-page report also discussed that the LWSC has been operating mainly on bilateral and multilateral grants, and that even so, it has been able to meet only 25 percent of the water demands of the Monrovia area, let alone the other counties.
“The LWSC spoke about plans for the government to obtain a loan of US$10 million to support the work of the corporation; with an inefficiently-run corporation, this loan and future loans and grants may be wasted efforts.”
In the debate that followed the vote, four Senators voted against privatization, among them Cllrs. Varney Sherman and Joseph Nagbe. The two Senators, who are also lawyers, argued that communities like West Point and New Kru Town and other less fortunate communities will be victims of such a decision.
But pro-privatization Senators, such as Bomi County Senator Morris G. Saytumah, opted for a quasi privatization of the corporation, and admonished his colleagues not to look at privatization as a monster, saying privatization comes with efficiency.
For his part, Sinoe County Senator J. Milton Teahjay was critical of the lack of attention paid to counties outside Monrovia such as his county, which he boasted is one of the original three counties.
The Sinoe lawmaker warned that he will adopt the method to filibuster whenever a loan for ratification lands at the Senate, which limits benefit to only Monrovia.
Meanwhile, Senator Nagbe yesterday informed his colleagues that he was going to make use of the rules of the Senate that allow him to file a motion for reconsideration if so desired, not later than three sitting days.