Charles Santiago Sacked as Span Chairperson

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Dungun MP Wan Hassan Mohd Ramli of PAS expected to be the replacement.

Charles Santiago has been terminated from his position as the National Water Services Commission (Span) chairperson.

According to the DAP lawmaker, all the other commissioners have been terminated as well.

The Klang MP said his termination was effective April 10 but he only received the letter signed by the Minister of Environment and Water Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man today.

“Anyone who knows me will understand this is not about losing a fancy designation, but rather the deep concern that all the hard work done over the last eighteen months may possibly go to waste.


“My immediate response to the termination is to try and put in place a ‘check and balance’ mechanism, which would allow the public to hold the new administration of Span accountable.

“And to also ensure their actions and decisions are justifiable to the people,” he added in a statement this afternoon.

Charles listed the initiatives undertaken and measures implemented since his appointment as Span chairperson in November 2018.

“One of the initiatives I pushed for to strengthen Span’s functions as a regulatory body is the launch of the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Framework for Licence Holders and Certified Agencies in September last year.

“Under this framework, it was mandated that water supply and sewerage companies must set aside at least 1% of their operational budgets to combat corruption, strengthen integrity and corporate governance within their organisations,” he added.

Charles said he also pushed for Span to conduct special performance audits on water utilities, on top of its usual audit activities, and three companies have been audited so far.

Internal restructuring and raising awareness

The MP pointed out that he also undertook an internal restructuring of Span in September last year, which saw the merging of water and sewerage regulatory units into a single department.

Furthermore, he said the water regulatory body’s enforcement division was strengthened and earlier this year, eight strategic thrusts to “transform Span into a more dynamic, transparent, efficient and consultative organisation” were launched.

“I have always believed that water security should be given national prominence. It is an issue of national security and deserves more public attention.

“As such, I have done my best to raise public awareness through the media about river pollution impacting water supply in states like Perak and Kedah.

“Last year, Span ordered the shutdown of the Ayer Ganda water treatment plant in Perak when we discovered levels of arsenic in the plant’s treated water have surpassed the Health Ministry’s stipulated safe limit.

“This year, I visited a site that has become the dumping ground for plastic and electronic waste on the banks of a tributary of Sungai Muda, a main source of water supply for the people in Penang and Kedah.

“It is a crime that our rivers, a precious national resource, have become the dumping grounds for irresponsible people and industries,” he added.

Charles said he undertook proactive measures to create awareness about pollution of water sources.

“For example, my office organised a seminar on river pollution and its impact on water supply in Peninsular Malaysia last August.

“In the same month, the World Bank launched a report highlighting deteriorating water quality worldwide, calling it an invisible global crisis that has reduced GDP growth in developing countries and caused stunting in children,” he added.

Following the seminar, Charles said an action plan with seven initiatives to combat river pollution was produced.

These, he added, included upgrading sewage treatment plants’ capacity and requiring water utilities to prepare a water safety plan taking into account pollution risks that could disrupt operations at all their water treatment plants.

“My office was preparing for a second seminar, on climate change and its impact on water supply in Peninsular Malaysia, in conjunction with the World Water Day’s theme – Water and Climate Change – last month.

“We intended to consult various stakeholders to provide input to the country’s national climate adaptation plan for water and raise public awareness on the importance of water conservation in the age of climate change.

“But that had to be postponed due to Covid-19. I will, however, continue to work on the seminar that will be held in the format of a webinar in the near future,” he added.

To promote inclusivity, Charles said Span also organised a dialogue between Petaling Jaya residents with Air Selangor, to listen to and resolve their water woes.

“In Klang, the residents in Bandar Botanik and Ambang Botanik have always been consulted as authorities sought to solve their sewerage system issue that they have grappled with over the past decade,” he added. – Malaysiakini