Moonilal, Gonzales wrangle over WASA


Dr Roodal Moonilal.

OPPOSITION MP Dr Roodal Moonilal has accused Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales of being less than honest about a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and a secret deal with a Canadian company to restructure WASA.

He read from documents at the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report on Monday night, to counter Gonzales’ claims that Moonilal was telling lies.

Gonzales said he was baffled by Moonilal’s statement on Sunday which accused the government of entering into a secret deal with a Canadian company and signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to restructure WASA.

Gonzales said that was a “big lie,” but Moonilal read a newspaper report dated March 9, 2022, which quoted Gonzales as speaking about the arrangement and announcing, during a Conversation with the Prime Minister forum, the signing of a MOU with the Canadian company for a modulated water treatment plant.

Moonilal accused Gonzales of being in an alternative world after denying signing any such MOU.

“He is not following what is happening with his own speech. So, Mr Gonzales, tell us, were you lying at the conversation with the PM or were you lying today? Just tell us which day you were lying.”

Gonzales also rubbished Moonilal’s claim that while WASA managers were to be sent home under the restructuring programme, new managers were being secretly trained.

Gonzales said rather, some 50 OJT recruits were assigned to training at several agencies, including WASA, to access future employment.

Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales. File photo/Angelo Marcelle

He said the PP administration had had a plan to transform the utility and send workers home through an IDB loan programme, and had it stuck to its task, government would not be facing the difficult challenge it is today. Instead, he said, government had to repay a loan of almost $400 million to the IDB.

From the UNC platform on Monday night, Moonilal said the loan the PP received from the IDB was not intended to restructure WASA but to assist with a wastewater treatment programme.

He said this loan came with an approximately $11 million Voluntary Separation Employment Programme (VSEP) to negotiate with the unions to reduce staff, if possible.

“His argument was to blame the UNC, that they did not fire the people. The minister said the PP took a loan from the IDB and part of the conditionality was to fire people.”

On the contrary, Moonilal said, the initiative had nothing to do with restructuring, as Gonzales claimed, but was to finance two major wastewater treatment plants, one in Malabar and another in San Fernando.

While the Malabar facility was completed around 2018, the San Fernando plant is still outstanding and there is now a cost variation of some $90 million, he said.

“I am reading from the IDB release of December 2012, which talks about TT improving its environmental conditions with a $246.5 million loan.

“A conditionality of the loan was the offer of VSEP. Voluntary separation – not mandatory, not firing people, not sending them home.

“The minister said the PP signed a loan with the IDB for X million and part of it was to send people home. That fella don’t understand what is voluntary or involuntary. That is why he is a voluntary fool. “

Moonilal also spoke of a loan the PP government had accessed to deal with flooding in Port of Spain, “but when the PNM came into office, they fouled up everything, mismanaged everything and they could not access the loan, which went back to the IDB

“Today, just a drizzle in Port of Spain, and everywhere flood away.”

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