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by Shawn Cumberbatch

The state-owned Barbados Water Authority is to be the subject of further investigation.

Following a 2012 special audit in which Auditor General Leigh Trotman raised several concerns about aspects of the BWA’s operations, including procurement, mains replacement, staff recruitment, and customer service, that statutory body will now face a management and operations audit.

This news comes as the organisation seeks suppliers for mains, fittings and related accessories.

Barbados TODAY understands that as part of the multi-million dollar Water and Sanitation Systems Upgrade being financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, Government will hire a consulting firm to conduct the audit

Companies, which have until March 15 to submit expressions of interest, will be required to conduct a “minimal” number of tasks, including interviewing “key staff” members.

And at the end of it all, the consultant will have to produce: * A long-term customer service plan. * Structure and systems for non-revenue water management and control and effective plant operation and maintenance. * Standard operating procedures for major operational and maintenance activities. * A meter management plan. * A water quality sampling and management plan. * A billing and collection plan. * Manpower and training plans. * An organisation structure.

Who ever wins the bid to undertake the BWA audit will have to prove they have past experience in carrying out the required management and operations probes, as well as that they have “past experience in the carrying out of management and operations audit of utility companies, especially water utility companies”.

They must also have at least 10 years “participation as consultant in a role that is similar to the proposed consulting services within the last five years”.

Some of the issues to be examined in the upcoming audit were also covered in the Auditor General’s special audit. In the case of customer service, the Barbados Audit Office found that the BWA’s response to such issues was hampered by poor information management and the inadequacy of performance targets”

One of its main recommendations in this area was for the BWA to develop “targeted timeframes to facilitate the assessment of its performance” and to ensure that data captured in the system was accurate and reliable.

In the 60-page audit report, the company was also advised that while its finances seemed to be improving, it “should seek to restrict or even reduce its operating expenses”.

“The BWA is a very labour intensive organisation that should be able to benefit from the increased use of more efficient equipment than that which is currently employed,” the Auditor General said.

In addition, there will be increased debts resulting from the loans for the various projects when they come on stream. BWA should carefully analyse its financial situation to ensure it has the ability to meet these commitments,” Trotman added.

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