The Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) has written off approximately $500,000.00 of the outstanding amount owed by the Observer Media Group (OMG).
The disclosure comes from Utilities Minister, Sir Robin Yearwood, during his presentation in the 2017 National Budget debate in the House of Representatives Wednesday night.
Yearwood said claims that the government was bent on ‘locking down’ OMG, which operates both Observer Radio and the Daily Observer, are far from the truth. The minister said the company owed APUA a huge sum of money and that the statutory corporation was simply ‘seeking to collect’ what is due.
“We have decided to write off the amount because the company claims that it is owed by the government, which makes it unable to pay its bill. However, when asked to produce documents to support these claims, the OMG was unable to do so,” Yearwood told parliament.
The minister said APUA took the action to write off the amount in an effort to demonstrate to OMG that there was never any ulterior motives; all the utility company wanted was its money that was owed.
He said OMG still owes APUA approximately $1.5 million
According to the minister OMG had what he called ‘a corrupt deal’ with the former United Progressive Party (UPP) Administration where the company operated without paying for utility services. Over a ten-year period, these monies were estimated at over $2 million.
Yearwood said APUA will no longer allow any individual or company to rack up large outstanding utility bills. He said a programme of disconnection will be implemented across the board equally to anyone who owes for utility services.
The minister also reported that APUA is no longer operating in the ‘red’ and that all its accounts are in the positive (black) position. He noted that whilst the company is ‘not yet out of the woods’, he expects APUA to turn ‘a small profit’ for this operating year.
Yearwood added that there will be no increase in the electricity rates which have been in place since 1979, however, he said consumers can expect an increase in water rates due to the huge expense involved in reverse osmosis (RO) process.
Most of the water piped to consumers in Antigua and Barbuda comes from the RO process.