Water Services Association of Malawi (Wasam) executive secretary Dokani Ngwira has said the country’s water boards are failing to perform to their optimum standards due to failure by government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to settle bills.
He was speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Friday held to address the threat of coronavirus in the country.
Ngwira said the MDAs owe water boards K30 billion in water bills.
He said: “The non-payment of bills is making the water boards fail to implement a number of projects relating to water supply. Boards are struggling financially to make new water connections to their customers and extend water supply to other areas within their operating zones.”
According to Ngwira, the bill was at K23 billion by the end of 2019 after some payments were made but it has gone up due to bills accumulated in the past few months from some government departments.
“Efforts were made to install pre-paid meters to reduce unpaid water bills but we have not yet covered all departments,” he said.
He said installation of such pre-paid meters in offices costs water boards K120 000 per meter while for domestic use, it is K40 000 per meter.
“Water boards are spending a lot on the exercise but with unpaid bills, they fail to recover their monies,” Ngwira explained.
WES Network national coordinator Willies Mwandira has since appealed to government to lead by example and ensure that it honours all the bills it owes to the water boards.
He said lack of sense of urgency to settle all unpaid bills should come up with support packages for the water boards to enable them fulfill their obligations of providing potable water to Malawians during this time of Covid-19 pandemic.
In July 2019, Water Employees Trade Union (Wetum) wrote the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations to demand that government should settle the then K23.1 billion arrears of water bills within 21 day. The letter outlined that government water bills had been increasing from K20.1 billion in November 2018, to K21 billion in March 2019, before hitting
Secretary to Treasury Cliff Chiunda at the time said Treasury was looking at how best they could settle the bill in the 2019/20 fiscal year.
“But there is need that we should deal with this problem once and for all,” he said.
Ngwira said government owes Lilongwe Water Board K8.5 billion, Northern Region Water Board K4 billion, Central Region Water Board K3.9 billion, Blantyre Water Board K 4.5 billion and Southern Region Water Board K 9.1 billion in water bills.