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Tanga agency acts tough against water bill debtors

6th February 2013
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Every  month, when Jackson Mamba receives his water bill, he doubts correctness of the amount appearing therein, having been convinced that the ever escalating amounts shown on the bills are mostly inflated.

In most cases, Mamba avails the bill to his wife – Anita- who, as would be expected, strongly supports her husband.  “No, this is too much,” Anita would complain, “why should the bill go up so high when we are only four in the house?”

The housewife would then advise her husband to go and see the water authorities for a solution. The woman always says the heavy bill the family receives every month is caused by metre readers who, according to her, deliberately record false readings.

“It is their habit. They shift other people’s bills and dump them to ours,” Anita would shout.

 On visiting the water institution’s office, Mamba would   b e offered transport to where he lived. After a thorough inspection of the water metre, as well as   the entire infrastructure within the household, the technicians detect a water leakage in the toilet.

It was at this place where water was drizzling through a tiny hole, a situation which made Mamba  believe that the unusually high bills were not connected with the tricks of the metre readers as constantly   asserted by his wife.

This unnoticed  or perhaps ignored  phenomenon was the one which constantly  raised  Mamba’s     water consumption  graph- recording upward trend,  causing the  water user  to constantly fail to pay for water use , hence, accumulating the bills- giving room for water disconnection.

It is water users like Mamba who have now forced the Tanga Urban Water and Sewerage Authority (Tanga UWASA) to come up with a sustainable solution – one of imposing an unusually heavy penalty to clients who fail to settle their monthly water bills promptly.

Under the recent water tariff revision approved by the Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Authority (EWURA), water users whose service is disconnected for late payment of water bills, faces a mandatory 10,000/-  irrespective of the amount of debt involved.

According to Tanga UWASA, some water users have a tendency of rushing for settling their water bills only where a notice has been issued- either through the media or by public address system.

“The aim of imposing  the new tariff is to encourage timely payment of water bills,” says Eng. Joshua Mgeyekwa, UWASA Managing Director.

“We want water users to cultivate a tradition of prompt settling  of  water bills because experience has shown that when bills are accumulated, it becomes extremely hard to settle them,” says Eng. Mgeyekwa.

  “If water consumers settle their bills promptly, they enable us to run our institution according our budget,” he explains.

He says accumulated debts had been inhibitors to his institution’s resolve to provide efficient water services to water consumers.

According to the revised tariff, the penalty due for water bill defaulters in the 2012/2013 financial year, will be 10,000/- plus 1,800/- VAT for domestic consumers. Institutions pay 14,000/- while the penalty for commercial users is 15,000/-.

The penalty for industries is 20,000/-.  Eng. Mgeyekwa says the new penalty is uniform for all water bodies in the country, adding that already the rate in practice is in Arusha and Mbeya.

Penalties may still be the old ones in some water bodies in the country. But as it seems, any institution requesting for water tariff review will from now onwards, peg its rate at 10,000/- , according to Eng. Mgeyekwa.

The new tariff has meanwhile created mixed feelings among water users – with some of them suggesting a pre-payment of water service.

“If such is the case, the authority had better introduced a pre-service facility to avoid embarrassment in cases where there may be delay in settlement of bills, says to Anthony Kayugwa, a city resident.

Dunstan Mdee, on his part says while he commends the imposition of the penalty, it would be logical for the authority to give clients sufficient time to pay up their bills before resorting to eventual disconnection of water service.

“Tanga UWASA should issue a short notice of say one week after delivering water bills in order to give its clients-small or big ,time to marshal themselves for settling of the bills,” according to the water user, who also happens to be a member of Tanga Region SUMATRA Consultative Council (SUMATRA CC).

But some clients say the water body should not be blamed for elevating the penalty massively.  “In most households, water is wasted unduly – a situation which raises water bills considerably,” says Abdallah Kiluvia, a senior official in the Tanga City Council.

“It is for each of us (members of families) to educate each other on how to use water in a rational manner, avoiding leakages within the household network as much as possible,” says Kiluvia.

“Senior members should, particularly, be overseers of use of water in households to avoid having to pay huge bills,” asserts Kiluvia.

 Mgeyekwa  was  agreeable, however,   to a suggestion that  pre-service payment, a mode where water consumers would pay before.

“Pre-service water metres, are an alternative.  But the gadgets are very expensive, presently costing about 300,000/- per unit.”

He, however, said provision of the gadgets is one of the services on the institution’s drawing board. “ “We shall be forced to resort to this arrangement in the same way our counterparts in Dodoma and Moshi are doing because at times we find it difficult to access to some households –either to  do metre reading,deliver bills or going there for water disconnection,” he said.

“Adding that in some households, barriers are provided and kept locked throughout the day –a situation which hinders us[Tanga UWASA]to keep accurate record of consumption of water in particular areas.”

Other areas considered for the pre-service facility, he said, are commercial users and industries whose water consumption is normally high.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN