President David Granger, yesterday morning reiterated that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is “the guardian of the public interest”.
He had just completed administering the Oath of Office to Verlyn Klass and Dr. Leyland Lucas, who will now serve as members of the Commission.
At the simple swearing-in ceremony, which was held at the Ministry of the Presidency, the President re-emphasised the Government’s commitment to ensuring that citizens have easy access to public services and to public utility services.
“The country’s relatively large size, low population density and numerous small, isolated hinterland and riverine communities increase the costs, reliability and quality of such services,” he said.
The Head of State noted that the PUC is tasked with ensuring that public utility services are delivered to the people in a manner that is “safe, adequate, efficient, reasonable and non-discriminatory.”
The Commission, in so doing, is tasked with ensuring that the public utility laws are upheld, the President added.
Since taking office, the Government of Guyana has been decentralising access to public services through its policies of regionalisation and local democracy.
Capital towns – at Bartica, Mabaruma, Mahdia and Lethem – have been established in our hinterland regions in order to boost their development and to ensure that public services, including public utilities, are delivered to the people.
“Local Government Elections – held twice in three years – are part of the renewal of local democracy aimed at electing leaders and councils to make decisions and take actions to improve public services within their communities,” President Granger said, while noting that his Government is investing in improving public utility services.
“Wells are being drilled in remote communities to provide water. Internet access is being expanded across the country to improve communication. Unserved communities are being linked to the national electricity grid and other communities are being provided with solar-generated electricity.
Public infrastructure – aerodromes, bridges, roads and stellings – are being extended and upgraded to improve transportation. Electricity powers homes, industry, offices and schools; telecommunication services allow citizens to communicate with each other; transportation moves people and goods and water is necessary for life and human activity,” the President asserted.
The Head of State said public utility services are provided, usually, to large sections of a population across networks. They are necessary to ensure a high quality of life for our citizens. It improves production and productivity and promotes national integration.
“Public utilities – including electricity, sanitation, telecommunications, transportation and water – are essential services to which citizens are entitled. Government’s expressed policy is to ensure that citizens enjoy greater access to adequate, reliable and quality public services and public utility services,” he stated.
As such, President Granger believes that public utilities, because of their essential character and the desirability of universal coverage, must be regulated in the public interest to ensure that, as far as possible, public utility services are accessible, adequate and provided on a non-discriminatory basis; that costs, fees and tariffs associated with their provision or sale are reasonable; and that these services are regular, reliable, efficient and safe.
The Commission, in accordance with the Public Utilities Commission Act 2016, is tasked with regulatory, investigative, enforcement and other functions conferred by the Act and other public utility laws.
According to Section 24 of the Act, the Commission is vested with the power “…to initiate and conduct investigations into the operations and standards of service of any public utility and telecommunications undertaking.”
President Granger noted that the work of the PUC is vital to protecting the public interest by ensuring the delivery of public services.
“Government expects that the Commission will continue to ensure that citizens’ welfare will be continuously enhanced through the provision and delivery of public utility services,” the President said.
Ms. Klass who is an electrical engineer, works as an engineering consultant and a senior lecturer in Electrical Power Systems at the University of Guyana while Dr. Lucas is a Professor of Management and Dean of the School of Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation at the University of Guyana.
Also present at the swearing in were PUC’s chairperson, Dela Britton, who said that the entity has been upping its public awareness campaign.
The PUC is looking to expand its work to outer regions to ensure its message is heard.
The awareness is working with the PUC receiving a growing number of complaints.
It has regulatory responsibilities for the Guyana Power and Lights Inc., the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, Digicel and the Guyana Water Inc.