Water Service Association of Malawi (Wasama) has revealed that government departments and agencies owed the country’s water boards over K30 billion in unpaid water bills by December 2019.
Wasama Executive Secretary, Dokani Ngwira, made the revelation in Lilongwe on Tuesday when he made a presentation during a stakeholders’ interaction with the media organised by Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (Wesnet).
Ngwira said failure by the government departments and agencies as well as individuals to square their water bills with the water boards is affecting operations of the institutions.
“Cash collection from the government institutions on the present bills and arrears was way below standard as it ranged from 17 percent at Central Region Water Board to 37 percent at Lilongwe Water Board against a set standard of 95 percent.
“Cash collection ration from the private customers ranged from 57 percent at Southern Region Water Board to 93 percent at Central Region Water Board,” Ngwira said.
He said the water boards are putting in place strategies to improve cash collection efficiencies, including installing prepaid metres and intensifying cash collection and disconnection of accounts.
Meanwhile, Ngwira said institutions have been advised to intensify installation of prepaid meters for utilities as a way of inculcating a culture of prudent use of the utilities.
“Another measure is the maintenance of broken pipes to reduce non-revenue water lost due to leakages,” he said.
Ngwira added that water boards lost about K13 billion last year due to non-revenue water losses.
He said among measures being implemented by water boards to reduce non-revenue water losses include establishing dedicated units focusing on economic and physical losses, replacing and lowering old pipes as well as developing and implementing leakage detection programmes.
Treasury spokesperson, Davis Sado, said the Ministry of Finance is aware of the matter and that there has been engagement between the water utility companies and Treasury on the same.
“Already, some resources had been allocated as part of the repayment plan but due to fiscal pressure on the budget, mounted by some factors like financing of the fresh election and other commitments, the only plausible way to handle that is through a phased payment approach,” Sado said.
He said going forward, Treasury is providing ring-fenced resources calculated out of current bills when disbursing funding to ministries, departments and agencies to enable institutions directly pay for public utilities and avoid accruing further arrears.
Malawi has Blantyre, Lilongwe, Northern Region, Southern Region and Central Region water boards.
The five water boards serve 3,123,461 people against a total population of 3,763,546 in their respective areas.