Action not words needed to deal with a recalcitrant outfit

Like any interesting TV series, water supply privatization in Selangor runs into many episodes. Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik has spoken out strongly against the water company, Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas), for using imported pipes in their pipeline replacement program in Klang Valley, supported financially by the government. This was reported in the media on 7th June 2005.

In press reports, Dr Lim claimed that his ministry had issued a show-cause letter to Syabas for violating the concessionaire agreement in using foreign manufactured pipes. According to him, under the agreement Syabas had to call open tenders from local pipe manufacturers to procure the pipes.

The replacement of pipes is the first major task, which is being carried out by Syabas after the privatization of Perbadanan Urus Air Selangor (PUAS) at the beginning of this year.

Whether or not any follow up action will be taken on such a blatant violation of the concession agreement is left to be seen.

Many consumers in this country can still vividly remember that, when water supply was taken out of the Ministry of Works in early 2004 and transferred to Dr Lim's ministry, the minister came out with a number of positive initiatives to revamp the ailing water industry in this country, giving a ray of hope to all water consumers in this country, particularly those in the Klang Valley. Amongst them was the deferment of water supply privatization until after the setting up of necessary regulatory devices.

But, late last year and out of the blue, Dr Lim announced that PUAS would be privatized to the disappointment of many. Dr Lim gave a lame excuse that the financial situation of PUAS was critical. What went wrong?

Again in February this year, the local dailies reported that the water supply departments of Negri Sembilan and Pahang would be privatized but not a word came forth from Dr Lim.

Based on the above precedents, many water consumers in the Klang Valley have a gut feeling that Dr Lim would be pressured to let Syabas's violation fizzle out without any action taken.

Actions speak louder than words. If Syabas were allowed to get away scot-free, the minister and the government would certainly lose credibility.

13/06/05 2007