Guan Eng says Liang breached secrecy laws over Penang water rates

Liang-Teck-Meng-lim-guan-eng-span-1GEORGE TOWN: The head of a federal water regulator may have violated the secrecy laws by revealing Penang’s application to raise water rates, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

Lim said National Water Services Commission (SPAN) chairman Liang Teck Meng told the press that Penang informed SPAN in writing of its intention to increase water rates.

Lim, who is also Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) chairman, said an application to increase water rates was indeed sent to SPAN last December, but was withdrawn in February.

He said the application was rescinded after the state water utility company decided to just impose additional surcharges on water wasters.

“Liang says I have slandered him, but he did not dare to sue me…he is a coward,” Lim said at a press conference in Komtar.

Lim said Liang might be afraid to sue him since he could have broken secrecy laws under the SPAN Act 2006.

He said it was not proper for Liang to reveal contents of letters between SPAN and water utility companies.

Under Section 41 of the Act, SPAN members and employees are barred from disclosing information obtained during their employment. If found guilty, they may be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed for a maximum of three years.

On Monday, Lim said SPAN wanted all states to increase and standardise their water rates.

Lim then gave a detailed timeline of letters exchanged between PBA and SPAN.

PBA had initially applied to SPAN to increase water tariffs last Dec 23, but withdrew it on Feb 21.

On April 25, SPAN wrote to PBA “objecting strongly” to its withdrawal.

Lim said that on June 23, SPAN wrote another letter to PBA to say its plans to increase water conservation surcharge would “not generate sufficient revenue for PBA and that a water tariff increase should be considered”.

Penang uses the highest volume of water at 286 litres/capita/day (l/c/d) last year, compared to the national average of 209 l/c/d.

Comparatively, Singapore recorded 152 l/c/d in the same year. The United Nations’ recommendation is 148 l/c/d.

It was previously announced that a surcharge of RM1 will be imposed on every 1,000 litres of water after usage of 35,000 litres.

Previously, the surcharge, called the water conservation surcharge, was 48 sen for every 1,000 litres of water used beyond 35,000 litres.

According to PBA, the surcharge is applicable to 25% of 504,400 domestic users, which comes up to about 126,000 users.