Minister of Forestry a n d Natural Resources Nancy Tembo has told water boards in the country to disconnect all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) with unsettled water bills.
The minister’s remarks come at a time when government water bills have accumulated to over K30 billion due to non-payment by the MDAs despite receiving funding from Treasury annually.
The development has led to financial struggles in water boards’ operations, including in making new connections and extending their water supplies.
Speaking in Karonga after touring a Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) water plant, Tembo said Treasury has been engaged on how to offset the bills, but she urged NRWB to disconnect MDAs with unpaid bills so they can see the need to pay the bills.
Her remarks come barely two weeks after Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) disconnected power at NRWB plant in Mzuzu, a situation which left masses with dry taps.
Said Tembo: “You need to be brave as Escom was. We urge NRWB to do what needs to be done for efficiency. Let NRWB disconnect clients with unpaid bills.”
In an interview later, the minister assured the board that there will be no political or any interference if they embark on a water disconnection campaign.
She then asked water utility companies to move with speed in installing prepaid meters to sort out the problem.
NRWB board chair person James Munthali in a separate interview said the board is owed over K4 billion, which affects its operations in delivering efficient services to the region.
He said: “We have given them sufficient warnings and we have been empowered to disconnect. Now it is just a matter of how we will manage it without causing an uproar.”
In June this year, Water Services Association of Malawi said they had started installing prepaid water meters in MDAs but they were yet to cover all departments.
Last week, Rumphi District Hospital district medical officer Western Nyirenda said they were struggling to service utility bills that stood at over K117 million, out of which K100 million was for water bills.
He said even after the NRWB installed prepaid meters, they still spend about K4 million a month on water
Said Nyirenda : “ The magnitude of our problems is huge , including old infrastructure. The hospital was opened in 1970 when Rumphi had 70 000 people, but now it has grown to over 230 000, so we have challenges on space.
“We also have challenges with the sewage system and there is a lot of leakages which leads to huge bills. The funding for the hospital is not enough. As we stand, we have a debt with the water board at over K100 million and over K17 million for electricity.”
By June 2016, government MDAs owed public utility service providers—the country’s five water boards and Escom over K10 billion in unpaid bills.
The bills, coupled with intermittent power supply, lack of projects, profitability, losses to non-revenue water, water quality, inadequate water sources and aged infrastructure are stifling
operations of the boards to effectively deliver water and sanitation services