VROMI Minister Christophe Emmanuel with members of GEBE’s management team in Parliament on Monday.
PHILIPSBURG–The state of affairs at utilities company GEBE was the topic of discussion for Members of Parliament (MPs) in the House of Parliament on Monday afternoon. The meeting was requested by MPs Franklin Meyers, Theo Heyliger, Sidharth Bijlani, Tamara Leonard and Claret Connor of United People’s (UP) party.
Shareholder representative Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Christophe Emmanuel and GEBE’s management were present in the Central Committee meeting and took note of questions asked by the MPs. A brief presentation was made by GEBE’s management before the legislators fired their questions at the delegation.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenrick Chittick, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Iris Arrindell and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Veronica Jansen-Webster all chipped in during a 20-minute presentation. The company has a detailed plan which started earlier this year and will go towards 2020.
The vision of GEBE remains to provide the community with regionally competitive, quality, efficient, sustainable and reliable services and products. Its mission is to be a committed company that provides reliable, cost-effective, quality electricity, water and waste management services in a safe, environmentally-friendly, sustainable and innovative manner, according to Chittick.
Arrindell said GEBE’s core values are integrity, accountability and responsibility, being client-oriented, reliability, teamwork and open, honest communication. The company has also focused its attention towards the re-branding of Customer Service to Customer Care Department. GEBE also launched its Customer Care card recently.
As far as customers are concerned, the company said it has 20,906 electricity customers and 20,068 water customers. These are broken down into three categories: Domestic, 17,422 electricity/17,423 water; Commercial, 3,472 electricity/2,631 water; and large consumers, 12 electricity/14 water.
The company’s management also informed MPs that GEBE has a number of new projects in the works. “A modern warehouse, new garage and parking for vehicles, new workshop for distribution team, new office for distribution team, a modern office building and a new power plant office. All new building will be environmentally friendly,” stated management in the meeting.
GEBE also has a plan for moving to liquefied natural gas (LNG). Engine #20 is LNG-ready, according to Chittick. Future engines will be LNG-ready and conversion of Engines #18 and 19 to LNG will be initiated in the near future.
There are 15 GEBE water tanks country-wide. “Presently, water storage is one day. Renewal and upgrade of water tanks: two tanks in Cay Hill, Cay Bay ongoing, Cupecoy pending and renewal of Mount William Hill and Pelican area. A new tank for the Claude Estate, St. James, Rice Hill area and the working relationship of the water quality control lab is in good condition,” said Jansen-Webster.
There are four substations, 462 transformer houses and 24 pole transformers in St. Maarten.
MP Theo Heyliger congratulated the management for having been appointed to the managing board. He asked about the terms of their contracts and who makes the final decision in regard to the extension of their contracts.
“GEBE over the last months had serious challenges with keeping the power on. What are the plans to address this in regard to additional production units? What are the plans to address the areas with distribution challenges? Customers had issues with unregulated power surges that damaged appliances, etc. Why doesn’t GEBE install power regulators at the meters to avoid damage to its consumers? This would be a good initiative,” stated Heyliger.
MP Ardwell Irion in his presentation on the floor of Parliament asked: “Do you believe in this vision and mission? Or would you prefer to create a new one with this new management’s vision and mission?
Members of Parliament
“For years there has been public confusion when it comes to the fuel clause. Is the fuel clause directly related to the oil prices in the international markets? Can we get the calculation of the fuel clause and in layman’s terms for the general public?
“It was mentioned that GEBE is building a totally environmentally-friendly building. What do you mean by this? A building like that can mean that even the sewage is recycled and the building materials or the manner in which you build is also environmentally-friendly?”
MP Frans Richardson said: “The mission statement of GEBE is: ‘We are a customer-oriented company that provides reliable, cost-effective, quality electricity, water and waste management services in a safe, environmental-friendly, sustainable and innovative manner.
“Our fraction would like to know as of when the concession included ‘waste management’ and if this is the case can Parliament be provided with a copy? Or is this an aspiration of NV GEBE?”
News reports about GEBE are seldom positive unless it is about a sponsorship provided by NV GEBE or training, he said.
“May we state here that we are very pleased with the efforts made by NV GEBE and all companies on this island, ‘The Friendly Island,’ to improve customer service? I can remember the days when I was a very young man and we truly lived up to that slogan in all areas of service in St. Maarten. So I say to NV GEBE: continue working on improving the customer service. Be an example. The people of St. Maarten surely deserve it,” said Richardson.
According to a PowerPoint presentation GEBE made to Government in February regarding the solar car park, Government as shareholder of GEBE will have to formalise the signing over of the parking lot land on Walter Nisbeth Road to GEBE for its solar-energy park project to go ahead.
However, Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI Christophe Emmanuel does not see the need for land to be transferred. According to the media, he asked, “Why should Government transfer land to GEBE if they are requesting to put down a solar park? It’s just a matter of GEBE and Government coming to some kind of agreement allowing them to use a parking lot.”
“Now I don’t disagree with the Minister. We see no need to transfer already scarce Government land to GEBE, but this is an interesting project and we would like to know if any progress is being made so that the solar car park can become a reality,” added MP Richardson.
MP Romeo Pantophlet will be submitting his questions in writing. However, he wanted to know about the accounting firm that is handling the company’s financing. “Is it true that the company handling the financial statements of GEBE also does the external audit? If this is true then it would be a direct conflict of interest,” stated Pantophlet.
The management board will have a chance to answer all questions posed by the MPs, as President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams adjourned the meeting until 2:00pm Wednesday, May 24.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/65979-mps-fire-questions-at-gebe-management