The Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) has written to its monthly-paid staff to inform that salaries will be late, once again! The letter to all monthly-paid workers, dated May 30 2014, informs staff that APUA has collected so very little revenue in May 2014 that it is unable to meet its obligation prior to the scheduled payday.
This inability to meet its many obligations has been a chronic problem faced by the APUA. It owes more than $80 million dollars to West Indies Oil Company for fuel supplied; it owes more than $38 million dollars to the Antigua Power Company for electricity provided by a private supplier; it owes more than $20 million dollars to Sembcorp for desalinated water supplied to APUA Water Division.
APUA was once the crown jewel of the Government’s business concerns, with profits that allowed the Electricity, Telecoms and Telephone Divisions to subsidize the Water Division. However, the profitability of the APUA meant so little to the UPP regime that it fired the General Manager upon coming to office, and made Chaku Symister, the Chairman of the UPP, sit in the seat of the wrongly dismissed Manager. APUA’s profitability has nose-dived ever since that day.
The Minister responsible for APUA, Mr. Wilmoth Daniel, also increased the number of Board Members from five persons to eleven. Just last year, a Consultant hired by the APUA lamented that there was not even one person on the APUA Board who understood engineering and financial principles. APUA has been the greatest reflection of UPP incompetence. The UPP changed APUA from being a profit-making firm, to a debt-ridden Authority that is unable to pay its staff.
The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party has a plan to rescue APUA after June 13 2014. That plan begins with forgiving households all debts incurred before December 31 2013, thereby providing all households to pay outstanding 2014 debts, and bringing back on to the revenue side all those households that are currently without electricity.
The UPP plan is to advise the APUA not to disconnect anyone during these last 11 days leading-up to the June 12 2014 election date. The UPP plan has resulted in thousands of households refusing to pay their May 2014 obligations, and a 50% decline in income for APUA during the month of May. APUA will have to borrow money from the Central Government to pay May 2014 salaries. Further, even the Central Government had to borrow $17 million dollars on Thursday, May 29 2014, on the Regional Government Securities Market in order to meet salary obligations for civil servants this month. The monthly wage bill for government is $30 million dollars.
The APUA is in deep trouble. The UPP plan to sell this asset is one of the crazy ideas that a failed UPP is desperately trying to advocate.