SPAN is now an independent body

CYBERJAYA: The National Water Services Commission (SPAN) will now be a wholly independent regulatory body.

It will also, in a move to conserve water in Malaysia, start pushing for rainwater harvesting and having “water auditors” to advise companies and government departments on how to use water efficiently.

Besides conserving water, such a move will be extremely important in light of reports of drought due to El Nino, which is set to occur later this year.

SPAN has also started drafting rules and regulations on integrity for the commission, which will include full disclosure of assets as well as a sexual harassment policy.

Its new chairman Charles Sant­iago said in the past, the commission had a “tendency” to give out contracts, but that would now no longer happen.

“SPAN is a regulator, so the commitment for us now is to behave like a regulator.

“SPAN will no longer give out any contracts and we will regulate the (water) licensees in the interest of the country and the consumers,” he said in an interview here.

SPAN, added Santiago, should be seen as a regulator in the likes of Britain’s Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat), which regulates both water and sewerage.

He said alarm bells would often go off for water licensees and operators in Britain whenever they spotted a letter from Ofwat or knew that a visit was coming.

“Because Ofwat is seen as a serious organisation, they instil discipline in the industry and that is what we should be doing here,” he said.

Santiago said he hoped SPAN officers would be met with the same level of respect like that of Ofwat whenever they go to any water treatment plant in the future.

Santiago, who is also DAP’s Klang MP, said he had met with Water, Land and Natural Resources Min­ister Dr Xavier Jayakumar recently over SPAN’s independence.

Citing the example of his appointment as chairman, he said a draft of the press statement was sent to the ministry’s office for clearance before this was to be issued.

However, the press statement did not actually go out, said Santiago, although the appointment had earlier been reported and speculated in the media.

Dr Xavier made an official announcement on Oct 31 last year.

Santiago said both he and the minister agreed that SPAN must act independently of the ministry and the government.

“Of course, we have to have our conversations all the time because we are the water regulator and the water ministry, but you (the ministry) cannot determine every step of what is happening here in SPAN. Otherwise, we become your branch office,” said Santiago.

Besides stemming leakages from non-revenue water as well as through having a transparent open tender system, he said SPAN would push to have water auditors as a way of promoting the conservation of the resource.

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