Employees criticize GM Donoso for high non-revenue water rate

MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso. /
MCWD general manager Edgar Donoso. / SUNSTAR FILE

SOME employees of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) have criticized general manager Edgar Donoso for his failure to address the non-revenue water (NRW) problem of the water district.

“Donoso’s focus on expanding water supply without a comprehensive plan to address NRW demonstrates a lack of understanding of our true priorities,” according to anonymous employees in a letter sent to SunStar Cebu on Monday, April 1, 2024.

The anonymous employees alleged that despite Donoso’s openness to suggestions, the water district’s problem with NRW remains unaddressed.

They also criticized MCWD for failing to deliver a viable solution despite being aware of the impending effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

NRW refers to the water produced and lost before reaching consumers. It can occur through physical losses due to leaks and damaged pipes; it also includes free water that the MCWD provides for firefighting purposes.

To recall, the Commission on Audit in its 2021 report flagged MCWD for its NRW reaching 29.04 percent, which is over the acceptable maximum rate of only 20 percent.

In previous statements, MCWD officials attributed the high NRW in 2021 to the impacts of Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai).

MCWD officials said the water district had to deliver water to areas lacking water supply after the calamity. There were also instances where pipelines were damaged by heavy equipment used for drainage projects by various local government units.

The anonymous employees, however, alleged that the NRW rates of MCWD had failed to see any significant improvement.

Underlying motives

The anonymous employees said the Pipelines and Appurtenances Maintenance Department and the Non-Revenue Division have been offering solutions to the NRW problem; however, Donoso allegedly favors supply-centric approaches.

“Employees are left questioning the underlying motives behind these decisions. If Donoso’s leadership is indeed grounded in public service, why are areas such as Mambaling, Cebu City and Opao, Mandaue City still without running water, despite desalination projects initiated last year?” reads a portion of the letter.

The employees said Donoso’s alleged failure to hold suppliers accountable for delays only exacerbates the problem.

“Unity within MCWD remains elusive when decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of a select few. With over 800 employees, it is unacceptable for a single individual to dictate the fate of the entire water district,” the employees added.

Bankruptcy

The anonymous employees also doubted Donoso’s warnings of bankruptcy and privatization under the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and while they acknowledge Donoso’s skill in managing the water district’s finances during the Covid-19 pandemic, they worry that his focus on desalination instead of fixing NRW issues could harm the water district’s long-term viability.

Effective March 15, LWUA assumed control of the MCWD board, suspending the board led by Jose Daluz III, for six months. This is to investigate the issues surrounding the water district, including its high NRW rate.

SunStar Cebu tried to get the side of Donoso, but the general manager, through MCWD spokesperson Minerva Gerodias on April 1, said he would answer the allegations in due time, possibly within the week.

Daluz has questioned LWUA’s authority to take over the MCWD board, and Donoso has sought the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel’s (OGCC) opinion on this. Last March 21, LWUA Chairman Ronnie Ong said LWUA and MCWD would wait for the OGCC’s opinion. / WBS

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