I usually pay my Guyana Water Inc (GWI) bill for an aged relative. In June I paid $6050. An amount of $6048 was stated on the bill as the total due for June. It was later acknowledged by GWI staff that the bill was an estimated one and that the actual charge should have been for $4048. GWI did not offer a refund, but said the overpayment of $2002 would be rolled over to the July bill. The July bill came, with a current charge for $971. It therefore means that an overpayment difference of $1031 should have been reflected. Amazingly, the July bill reflects an overpayment of a mere $2. Only God knows where the remaining $1029 went. I intend to query the July bill. That means I have to take time off again from my job to help somebody do their job of simple Maths. Maybe something is wrong with the computer programme too. My visit to query the obvious discrepancy will cost me downtime and transportation, since these types of queries invariably get nowhere over the phone. While a thousand dollars is lunch money for many, it can purchase a few days vegetables for most households. Imagine someone who lives out of central Georgetown having to deal with a matter like this. Someone who wasn’t fortunate to go very far in school; someone who lacks the ability to do simple addition and subtraction would be at the mercy of institutionalised malpractices and error.
They would lose their money right before their eyes. Many Guyanese have woeful tales of discrepancies and overbilling by utility companies. Estimated charges are the hallmark. Even more frustrating, in many instances, is the hood-winking one receives as imposed panacea or deflection from the rip-offs by these utilities. Their defence teams are led by lofty clerks, some of whom simply go to work to clock hours or post selfies on Facebook and Instagram.
Most of my compositions highlight indiscreet realities faced by Guyanese, especially common folk. Negligence or incompetence leading to the aforementioned discrepancy when multiplied institutionally causes thousands of people to feel frustrated, disillusioned and often end up with central government bearing the brunt of blame. Sometimes too, people like me have to bear the brunt of frustrations others feel because of failing systems or practices.
It is unacceptable for utilities to be making fundamental errors particularly when there is generally no easy compensatory mechanism for the associated inconvenience and costs they create for the average consumer outside of the Public Utilities Commission or court. Consumer advocacy is virtually dead.
I will not be presumptuous to blame GWI head, Dr Richard Van West-Charles, for the obvious misrepresentation of his efforts.