Kurt Wartski Patiño, manager of the Calarcá Public Service Company (EMCA), in Quindío.
Photo: private archive
The issue of public utility rates is at the juncture in the country, after President Gustavo Petro announced that he decided to hand over the functions of the Energy and Gas Regulation Commission (CREG) to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, in order to to intervene in the Colombian electricity market, in the face of complaints about the alleged abuses in the rates of said sector. The controversy is great and there are those who believe that this can lead to the bankruptcy of public service companies. However, for Kurt Wartski Patiño, manager of the Calarcá Public Services Company (EMCA) in Quindío, this is possible and he confirms this in this interview for the Telecafé program “La hora de Acero”, taken up by The viewer.
In context: Petro announces that Minminas will assume CREG functions
Is it possible to lower utility rates?
Yes, and we are working hard to strengthen ourselves, to respond to the community and to the challenge we have with the mayor, in view of the delivery, on October 19, of the Public Services Company to the municipality. And precisely, one of the challenges is to review the rates, in such a way that they are consistent with the difficult situation that the country is experiencing.
But how can rates be lowered or charges frozen? Couldn’t that bankrupt the company?
We have been working on this issue for several months. We have to remember that the private companies that operated EMCA for 20 years had the administrative management and today we, the municipal administration, are going to have it. This is an important step to take into account in decision-making, since what those private companies had was a business and those resources are already passed on to the municipality.
Freeze rates or lower them?
We are studying both options. The best thing for users would be to download them, but we are on that task. Now, what is a fact is that either of the two alternatives will be released from October.
And how many citizens would be benefiting from this measure?
Calarcá has 80,000 users and everyone would be benefiting, in urban and rural areas. All the paths and townships.
How is it that EMCA has been in the hands of the private sector and is going to pass into your hands, to the municipality?
Twenty years ago, the Public Services Company of Calarcá signed a contract that involved a strategic alliance with the private sector, which ends on October 20, when the company must pass to the management of the municipal administration.
Do you believe that public services should be in public hands or in the private sector?
You can not enter to point out which system is better than the other. What I can tell you is that since last August 21 we restarted the operation to recover the company and emphasize that each of the officials is committed to making it the best every day. This has allowed us to work by leaps and bounds and despite the fact that there are more than 30 days to go before the contract ends, we have made great progress in the possibility that, starting in October, user rates will be frozen or lowered. Here it is with facts: for example, 65% of public lighting today we have with clean energy and we trust that by next year at the latest we will have 100%.
How many employees does EMCA have and what is the projection to abolish the issue of contracts for the provision of services?
That is another commitment that we have acquired with the employees. They are all working directly with the company and are permanent employees. We have zero service provision contracts. The human resource and strengthening of EMCA is done by our employees and that is what we are betting on. The managers of all companies must take into account that the strengthening of these is not only due to technology, cars or buildings, it is the people who work for them.
How many employees do you have today?
We have a staff plant that we are barely adapting and we believe that in December 2022 we will have about 300 more employees.
In Quindío there is controversy over the issue of water, which is not much and what is worrying is that the water sources could be threatened by the planting of avocado and mining, how do you see the panorama?
We have outlined several strategic lines: the first was to recover the company and we already did it; second, to illuminate with clean energy and we also achieved it. We still have the goal of leading the protection of our rivers, which are what give us life, and we are working with the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Quindío to do so. Fortunately we have many water sources and the supply from the Santo Domingo River is not being threatened, that is the most important thing. Likewise, we are vigilant of all the water sources that supply us.
Is there mining exploitation or exploration in Calarcá?
I don’t know, but the question gives me the opportunity to start working on this issue, which seems extremely important to us and of great interest to all citizens.
Another neuralgic issue has to do with wastewater treatment. Is there a project underway for Calarcá?
We will have a wastewater treatment plant for the municipality, we don’t have the money, but we will have it. It is worth around $25 billion, which is a lot of money for Calarcá and for the EMCA, but we are going to make the effort and we are going to have it.