Beautiful Virgin Islands

Friday, Sep 30, 2022

BVIEC fearless, will even turn off the Premier - Dr Wheatley

BVIEC fearless, will even turn off the Premier - Dr Wheatley

Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has suggested that one of the factors responsible for the BVI Electricity Corporation’s (BVIEC’s) success as a statutory body is its fearlessness.
“Electricity will collect more revenue than Water and Sewerage,” Premier Wheatley said in the House of Assembly (HOA) recently. “One of the most important reasons why Electricity will collect more is they not afraid to turn you off.”

He continued: “They will turn off the Premier. They’ll turn off the magistrate. They’ll turn off… I don’t know if they’ll turn off their own family member. They probably turn off their own family member. I’ll tell you this, you have to try hard to get them not to turn off government.”

The Premier was at the time debating the Water & Sewerage Act, 2022 which seeks to convert the Water and Sewerage Department (WSD) into a statutory body to improve its efficiency.

Premier Wheatley said some persons have questioned why the government has moved to make the WSD a statutory body, and he argued that it was important to do so for several reasons.

The WSD has reportedly suffered significant losses over the years, largely due to leakages and other unaccounted-for water losses; with some officials pegging these losses at more than 30 per cent of the agency’s annual production.

This issue was further compounded by billing losses, whereby revenue was reportedly not being received for nearly 40 per cent of the water that was used.

Dr Wheatley, who also serves as the territory’s Finance Minister, disclosed during the debate that the BVIEC is owed some amount of money by the government, but did not indicate that figure at the time.

“Government owe Electricity money and if you do not pay them, they will turn you off. And I don’t want to be embarrassed, to be in my office and in a meeting and then the lights go out. They’ll turn you off. When they turn you off, people go and pay,” the Premier said.

He also praised the entity for its efficiency in being able to effect remote disconnections of delinquent customers and said they are seeking more efficient ways of doing so.

“They don’t even have to come by your house now. They want more efficient ways of turning you off. They could just sit down in their office now, press a button and all of a sudden you see your TV turn off, fan turns off [and] you’re looking outside to see the little jeep… the little orange jeep,” he said.

Dr Wheatley noted that the electricity company will also charge at least what it costs for it to operate, in addition to its other overhead costs, such as staffing.

The Premier further contended that the BVIEC has a greater degree of independence in making its own financial decisions and is not tied to any central government system, and does not need to go through the Financial Secretary or Attorney General like government agencies, since the entity has its own legal counsel.

He also pointed to the hiring practices of government bodies as another factor, noting that it sometimes takes as much as six months to hire staff members.

“Sometimes it takes you a long time to get somebody hired, right? You trying to get somebody hired — all of us know it. You’re there six months, a year, two years trying to get somebody hired. An organisation cannot function like that,” Dr Wheatley said. “So for these reasons a statutory body is more appropriate for something that wants to function more in a business-like way.”
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