PUC obligated to ensure consumers get efficient service from power, water, telephone companies – President

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The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is obligated to ensure that citizens benefit from efficient delivery of electricity, telephone and water services and that consumers are fairly charged, President Irfaan Ali suggested Monday morning.

The PUC has the power to initiate and conduct investigations into the operations and standards of service of any public utilities under its purview. Currently, it has oversight over the power company GPL, the water company GWI and the two telephone companies, namely GTT and Digicel.

On Monday morning, the President swore in Dr Nanda Gopaul as the final member of the Commission. Dr Gopaul joins Chairperson Dela Britton and three other Commissioners—Dr Leyland Lucas, Ms Verlyn Klass and Mr Rajendra Bisessar at the PUC.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony for Dr Gopaul at the Presidential Secretariat in Georgetown, President Ali said that the PUC can determine how effective it has been by examining the work it has done to protect the interests of consumers and ensure such quality that is expected to be given to the consumers are given and that they receive what they pay for.

For example, he said that under the Public Utilities Commission Act, the Commission is required to ensure that every public utility maintains its property and equipment in such condition that enables it to provide a service that is adequate, efficient, non-discriminatory, affordable and safe.

He referred specifically to the power company GPL, which he recently criticised for not maintaining “any of its (facilities) for almost four consecutive years.

Dr. Nanda Gopaul poses with President Irfaan Ali moments after taking the Oath of Office as a Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission on Monday

“Their lines were not maintained; their system was not maintained.

“…we have to correct that,” Ali declared.

President Ali said the regulations of public utilities is vital for protecting the interests of the public.

“Public Utilities provides essential services to citizens and to businesses.  Regulations, therefore, are necessary to ensure that neither state control of public utilities, nor unchecked market power of public utilities, harm the rights of consumers,” the President stated.

He said that unless judiciously regulated, public utilities can use their market dominance to avoid fair pricing, and the provision of adequate, reliable, and quality services.

As such, he said in the exercise of their duties, regulators of public utilities, protect the interests of the public.

“They’re expected to examine the services provided by public utilities, ensuring the social and economic welfare of consumers, and ensuring the provision of quality, and efficient services,” the President added.

He noted that Public Utilities Commission is tasked with regulatory, investigatory and enforcement, along with other functions conferred upon it by the Public Utilities Commission Act, and by our laws, including the Guyana Energy Agency Act, the Electricity Sector Reform Act, and the Telecommunications Act.

In this regard, he said the PUC can examine how effective it has been based on how it has performed the task of investigating various complaints from consumers and getting those complaints resolved.

The President said that under the Act, the PUC is empowered to institute rules prescribing the quality and standard of service to be provided and maintained by public utilities.

“It possesses the mandate, determine the Justice legality and reasonableness of the rates, the entity charges for its services.

“The exercise of such powers, is to ensure that no public utility provides any service to any person at the rate is preferential or discriminatory.

“And in so doing, the commission is expected to act with due regard to the interests of both the consumer and investor,” the President stated.

In this regard, he said that he was pleased that today there is an environment in which the monopoly held in the telecommunications sector has been dismantled.

The public is also protected through the requirement of the PUC to approve any programme of development and expansion of facilities and services intended by a public utility. This, he said, it for the Commission to determine the reasonableness of costs and other factors of financing such a programme and to determine that the benefits to be accrued by the consumers is safeguarded from the intended development and expansion.

“The public interest is paramount. Thus, when exercising its function, the PUC is obligated to act justly, to protect consumers’ interests, and to consider the interests of the public utilities.

“The Government of Guyana is committed to supporting the work of the PUC, as it is committed to expanding and improving the quality of public services provided to citizens,” the President stated.

According to President Ali, the work of the PUC is expected to intensify as Guyana enters the new phase of its development.

He said there are plans to boost power generation and water supply.

 

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