Government to establish a monster holding to manage local water supply companies

Government to establish a monster holding to manage local water supply companies

The most recent idea by this center-right government, following the unprecedented water crisis in Pernik, is to establish a state-owned mega structure, which would take over the management of the whole of the water sector in the country. The largest parliamentary opposition, the left-wing Bulgarian Socialist Party is against the measure. BSP MP Ivan Ivanov said transferring the management of the water supply to a new national body would only sweep all the thefts and violations to this point under the rug.

Currently the national water supply is managed by local water companies. 14 of them are 100% state-owned, 16 have a 49:51 municipal-state ownership, 26 are entirely property of their respective municipalities, 2 have split private-municipal ownership and 8 are entirely private. The water supply companies with predominant state ownership answer to the Ministry of Environment. The new holding, however, would be under the Regional Ministry.

In December 2019, amid the growing water crisis in Pernik, PM Boyko Borissov attempted to blame the local water supply company for the situation stressing the fact that the water management companies have been privatized. He failed to acknowledge that in fact 51% of the Pernik water company is state property. Regardless, the implication that the crisis is a result of privatization was a point he would continue to maintain. Then he also mentioned the idea for the holding, which he introduced in a more official matter this Thursday during a Cabinet meeting.

Just a few years ago Borissov’s government established another similar structure, also meant to take care of failures in the water sector. The company “Water Reservoir Management” had to carry out all emergency repairs of 418 water reservoirs across the country. It received a half-a-billion leva budget to do so. To date the company has not made a single repair. However, Mediapool reporting revealed that the company more than makes up for its idleness regarding the water reservoirs with buying new cars. Late December 2019 the company purchased 30 cars for about a million leva. Along with cars, the company has also bought computers, servers and so on, but notices for public contracts regarding reservoir repairs are notably absent from its website.

If previous cases are any indication, the new holding will not do much more that drain funds and introduce yet another layer of confusion when it comes to pointing to individual responsibility for the crisis in the sector.

The Regional Minister Petya Avramova said the company would have a budget of one billion leva and be 100% state owned. She would be appointing the management and board of directors of the new structure, which received also the full support of the newly appointed Environment Minister Emil Dimitrov and his college Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov.

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