Remarks by PM Christie at the Official Re-Naming of Water & Sewerage Corporation

This renaming ceremony this morning during the commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Water and Sewerage Corporation is for us a reminder of just how far we have come as a people and a nation and reflects a pattern of development that has always been characterized by an upward and progressive trend.

Let me at the outset extend my congratulations and best wishes to the Honouree on this occasion, Mr. Elikiam George Moss, to his dear wife, Maggie, his children and members of his family who have come to be with him on this occasion.

Today we honour his contribution to nation build through his years of service and leadership to this jewel in our crown, the Water and Sewerage Corporation of The Bahamas. Mr. George Moss is wholeheartedly deserving of this recognition, this tribute and this honour in having this building named in his honour. But the naming of this building while in itself will emblazon his name in the hearts and minds of employees and the public as a whole is not the end of the story but at a deeper level it speaks to the work that he has done as a public servant, par excellence, over the years to the point where the Water and Sewerage Corporation gas become synonymous with his name.

As in everything there is a history which, if only briefly, bears reflecting upon.

By 1975, it had become obvious to policymakers that given the phenomenal expansion of residential neighbourhoods in New Providence coupled with increased commercial demand that the demand for clean potable water was inadequate. There are those among us who remember the water shortages and hours when the supply of water amounted to a trickle. And even when water was available it was not always of the highest quality. Something needed to be done.

The Government went out to international lending agencies and in addition to feasibility studies done by these agencies the conclusion was reached that there had to be a radical overhaul in the manner in which water was being supplied and redistributed in New Providence. It was further determined that the archaic form of management of the supply and distribution of water which at the time was a division of the Ministry of Works had to be addressed by a corporation whose sole responsibility would be, among other things for the protection of water resources, regulating the extraction, use and supply of the water, the disposal of sewage and for connected purposes.

There was some urgency to the establishment of the Corporation which came into being on the 14th July, almost forty years to the day.

Much to the credit of the Government of the day, the decision was taken to hand the responsibility of spearheading the development of the Corporation to a Bahamian. The individual chosen to become the General Manager of the Corporation was a young man with impeccable engineering credentials who had received his engineering qualifications in Britain and who, also, to his credit had also studied Business at Cranfield School of Management, a leader in Business Education and in research, also in Britain.

At the time of his appointment, Mr. George Moss was an up and coming executive in the executive management team of the then BATELCO and could have opted to take his chances there. But he believed in The Bahamas and he knew that he could offer something to this newly minted Corporation and this he did.
To put it mildly, the nascent Corporation faced many challenges.

In order to address the New Providence water scarcity crisis, water had to be barged in from Andros. Without going into details, this was a logistic tightrope, the success of which depended on many things and which required steady leadership. But George Moss was up to the task and in time the crisis abated and the Corporation was able to move on steadily with its development plans. Today, the barging of water is a thing of the past and for most Bahamians the regular supply of piped water is something we take for granted.

He took over an antiquated civil service management system which came from the Corporation having been a division of the Ministry of Works. While keeping some of the more practical aspects of that system, he modernized the financial and accounting and procurement systems and gave his managers the flexibility that they needed to achieve results.

But I can say this about George Moss. He brought to his leadership of the Water and Sewerage Corporation great tact and delicacy and the highest level of dedication. His was a balancing act between a Minister and the Cabinet on the one hand, his Chairman and the Board and on the other, while at the same time addressing his overall responsibility to the management and staff of the Corporation, including a fractious union. In this combination of factors he always displayed that precision of thought and direction that is an engineer’s mind but also that strategic vision that no doubt came from his studies in business school.

The result was that the Water and Sewerage became a performance driven entity and that is very much on display today. The culture that Mr. Moss brought to the Corporation persists up to this day. With this type of leadership the Corporation has grown to that which it is now!

As we meet this morning, we are still in the octave of the 43rd Anniversary of Independence which we celebrated a week ago, Monday. The theme of this year’s celebration is, “Honouring our People’s Excellence.” In so doing, we celebrate the spirit of excellence that pervades pervades our everyday lives in so many ways.

We include in this spirit of excellence those who provide a range of service delivery throughout the public service, sometimes in difficult and trying circumstance and which so often we take for granted. George Moss must be counted among this group.

And while most assuredly it is George Moss’ day to be recognized we think back on the contribution made by like-minded individuals who helped to build our utilities throughout our nation.

I think of Coburn Sands, Peter Bethel, Freeman Duncanson and Bradley Roberts, the early pioneers of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation.

I think of Eugene Knowles, I. Robert Bartlett and Barrett Russell who placed the Bahamas Telecommunications on the course to excellence and prosperity and added to this list must be George Moss who began and shaped the Water and Sewerage Corporation.

They were all Bahamians who believed in The Bahamas and who gave us the highest standard of service in providing modern day infrastructure to move our nation forward. They did what they had to do within the competencies, capacities and resources that were available to them at the time. Having come this far we must not turn back.

After forty years the Water and Sewerage Corporation continues to grow. The demands of today are different from what it was in 1976 but the Corporation has kept pace. Today, the Corporation has gone from a predominantly groundwater supply to desalinated water offering better quality and reliability in its service.

The Corporation’s ability to monitor its systems and respond quickly to customer needs has also improved significantly. At the same time, the Corporation continues to build on Mr. Moss’ work and legacy and have developed plans to modernize its operations and to improve the level of service and reliability to its valued customers.

The range of new initiatives that the Corporation has undertaken are staggering and I am pleased to note that one of the significant achievements of 2015/2016 has been the smooth rollout of the $81 million IDB loan programme aimed at reducing non-revenue water losses and it is now at a level where such losses have been reduced from 7million gallons per day to less than 3million gallons per day thus saving some 2.5 billion gallons saved to date.

If this volume would have had to be produced it would cost in the region of $15million. So there is a positive outcome to this expenditure and the borrowing from the IDB. Time would not permit me to relay all that the Corporation will be doing to produce and provide safe drinking water to Bahamians all across The Bahamas as much of this has already been made public. But suffice it to say, we have come a long way since 1976 to a point where we now have a corporate entity that in every which way meets the standards that was set out for it by policy makers of that time.

And so, what I can say is that Mr. George Moss laid a foundation that has stood the test of time. It is a foundation on which this superstructure that is now the modern Water and Sewerage is being built. Mr. Moss is a very modest man and he would not, and rightly so, take all of the credit for all that has occurred in these forty years but he was the indispensable leader.

He had a vision as to where the Corporation would go and he ensure that this vision was turned into a strategy; a strategy into a plan and a plan into an edifice that is now the ongoing activities of the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
I end by putting on record the thanks and appreciation of the Government and people of the Commonwealth to Mr. E. George Moss and to his family on this occasion.

Your prodigious efforts during the early years of the Corporation are greatly appreciated by Bahamians of past and present generation. You were present at the creation and our nation which to record its appreciation by now putting your name on the face of this building as a reminder of all that you have done to help in the development of our people.

I wish you well and may God continue to bless and guide you in your endeavours. Thank You!

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