So, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has rewarded incompetence by approving the National Water Commission's (NWC) application for a rate increase.
According to the OUR, it has reduced the K-Factor charge on bills by 13 per cent, while allowing the NWC increases of between 13 and 18 per cent on its rates as of October 3, 2013.
The OUR, it appears, was not moved by the views expressed by Jamaicans about the inefficiencies of the NWC during the series of public consultations on the rate increase application.
We had thought that those views were reasons enough to reject a rate increase at this time.
Based on what we have read about the NWC, we strongly believe that it needs to undertake a serious review of all its operations, because, as we have stated in this space before, we are convinced that there are areas where it can make cuts and tighten systems that will ultimately provide it with the funds needed to modernise its infrastructure.
The Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Mr Robert Pickersgill had told us that the NWC needed the rate increase in order to improve the provision of potable water and sewerage services to the Jamaican people.
According to Minister Pickersgill, this effort needed to be supported by a rate regime which would enable the NWC to attract financing for its programmes and projects.
That there is great need for the services mentioned by the minister is not in question. After all, there are still many Jamaicans today who, amazingly, do not have access to potable water and sewerage services.
When one considers that people still live in this country without those services, after the NWC has been granted rate increases in the past — the last one being 23 per cent in 2008 — we cannot share Minister Pickersgill's view.
The minister's argument is even more ridiculous when placed against the fact that the NWC found $26 million to pay a foreign firm to assist in the preparation of the rate increase submission to the OUR.
As we have argued before, we are still bewildered by the callous decision of a State-run company to spend $26 million on putting together a document in this tough economic climate.
We still agree with the position advanced by the Opposition spokesman on Water, Dr Horace Chang, that the $26 million would have been better spent on improving the NWC's procurement and implementation capacity and to speed up its K-factor-funded projects.
The K-factor, readers will recall, is a programme that the NWC had pledged to use to generate funds to finance specific types of projects, such as reducing the level of non-revenue water; rehabilitating/retiring selected waste water treatment plants; and expanding the sewer collection network in Kingston and St Andrew.
Add all those to the fact that the NWC has admitted that it is losing billions of dollars annually to theft, fraud and leaks, and you can understand why we strongly oppose any rate increase to the commission.
The OUR, however, believes otherwise. So here's to the continuation of ineptitude.