Water Utilities’ ‘Operation Tswala Pompo’ in full swing

12th February 2018
T'Operation Tswala Pompo' in full swing Source:The Midweek Sun


 

Corporation owed over P850 000 000

Government Ministries to be disconnected as well

The Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) began disconnecting taps of all customers whose bills are in arrears last week. Spokesperson Khumo Mugibelo did not readily have the confirmed numbers of disconnected taps at the time of going to print late Tuesday, but he stated that the disconnections had started and were ongoing. “WUC is owed over P850 000 000 and we have now embarked on a debt collection drive that will see all taps disconnected until all the debt is cleared,” he said. So serious is WUC that they are even disconnecting taps that have an outstanding balance of as little as P10.

Mugibelo explained that according to WUC Act, even those owing one month should be disconnected and with that, all are being disconnected regardless of amount owed and period. He said the Corporation is owed over half a million pula mainly in urban areas and revealed that 40 percent of those, are government departments and ministries. “We will be cracking the whip because it is from these water sales revenue that the Corporation finances its operations and ensures the highest possible standards of drinking water.

The government often cited insufficient funds in their budgets as one of the reasons for not paying the water bill,” Mugibelo said. Meanwhile, some Batswana have even resorted to buying water or drinking from boreholes and rivers. Others argue that they have never had a single drop of water flow in their homesteads since installing taps in their homes. Worse still, they are often left dumbfounded when WUC slaps them with high water bills demanding pay despite the lack of water. Some claim that the bills can reach as high as P6 000 in one month, even when their taps barely drip water. This past weekend Molepolole residents took their frustrations to the streets and handed a petition to WUC saying “enough is enough, we need water.” They said it has been close to seven years without water flow in their village. The situation is so bad that Molepolole residents buy water on a daily basis. Despite the lack of water, residents say they receive high bills from WUC every now and again. Additionally, Batswana query WUC’s high water charges which don’t reflect the actual meter readings but are calculated on estimations.

In response, Mugibelo said they estimate in cases where they cannot access people’s homes. He said they estimate based on a customer’s last three months bill, however they always go back for the actual readings. He admitted that they often receive complaints of high water bills but it has always been a challenge to confirm the allegations. He said customers that stay in areas that receive intermittent water supply are fond of creating bulk storage for themselves and inadvertently end up with high bills because of the steep tariff. He went on to explain that other customers when they find no water flow they leave taps open resulting in loss of water when the water is restored, subsequently resulting in high bills. He advised that customers should exercise due care and diligence when experiencing no water by always ensuring that water taps are fully closed before leaving their property.

Meanwhile, in his 2018 budget speech proposal delivered this past Monday, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo said the largest portion of the proposed development budget went to the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. The funding is expected to assist improve availability of water as well as wastewater and sludge management. Matambo said the water projects account for 77 percent of the ministry’s allocation. In particular, WUC has been allocated funding of close to P600 million. Nevertheless, Matambo noted that there has been unsatisfactory performance by some of the state-owned enterprises, WUC included. In 2017, WUC made a net loss of over P130 million from a net profit of over a P 100 million in 2016. He attributed this loss to misalignment between the levels of tariffs charged relative to the mandate of the institution. To address this, the current water tariffs charged by WUC will gradually be aligned with the water treatment and distribution expenses.




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