Unpaid water bills and leaks weigh down on utility firm

Monday June 1 2020

Members of the public fetch water from a burst

Members of the public fetch water from a burst pipe. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Unpaid bills, water and revenue leaks are weighing down on utility firm, Water and Sanitation Corporation, Auditor General has revealed.

The 2019 Auditor General report faulted Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) for weaknesses in internal revenue control that led to huge losses over the past four years.

It is estimated that in 2018, WASAC lost 17,766,998 cubic metres of water that would have been sold between Rwf5.7 billion and Rwf15.04 billion.

“This cost become an outright loss to the company,” the auditor general said, adding that WASAC spent Rwf4.9 billion to produce the water it sold to customers who made no payment.

The audit indicated that WASAC did not bill 2,244 customers during the year ended June 30 2018 while 2,169 customers were billed only for one month.

It has emerged that WASAC’s unbilled water volume combined with leakages linked to poorly maintained old water networks, illegal connections and meters bursts, among other factors, left annual losses way above the acceptable levels at 39 per cent.

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Missed target

The company’s earlier set target to reduce the non-revenue water levels to at least 31 per cent in the 2018/2019 fiscal year did not materialize.

The total volume of water lost by company is more than enough to take Kigali city, with daily water demand of 143,668 cubic metres, for more than four months, while it denies taxpayers revenue to finance supply projects to suburbs exposed to unpredictable rationing schedules.

A look at findings of previous audits of the institution by the auditor general’s office show that water losses kept on the rise from Rwf2.6 billion in 2017.

Annual water losses at the time stood at three million cubic metres as the company supplied 40.2 million out of 43.2 million cubic metres it produced.

Official statistics show that the company reduced level of unbilled water by 3 per cent from 42 per cent in 2015, but auditors termed the pace “not satisfactory against accepted normal loss to facilitate WASAC to become a self-sustaining utility company.”

In an interview with Rwanda Today, James Mwijukye, WASAC director of commercial services "did not wish to go into details the auditor general’s report findings since he had not read it."

He however, said the 15-day grace period between time of billing and the time of payment by customers made audits count all pending bills as at June 30th as losses, definitely exacerbating already high water loss levels.

“Many big water consumers billed in June pay us using their next financial year budget. I have not seen those figures so I’m not in position to give a proper context,” he said.

Disclaimer opinion

The water utility company, the sole State institution with disclaimer opinion in last year’s audit has equally been put on the spot for failing to optimize water plants’ installed capacity at expense of residents in areas of Kigali namely Masaka, Kanombe, Kabeza and Busanza, going twice a week or sometimes, two weeks without water.

The audit for instance noted that over a period of 10 months from January to October 2019, water production capacity of Nzove water treatment plants, the biggest serving Kigali, averaged between 41 per cent to 49 per cent of installed water production capacity.

WASAC management attributed the lower water production to insufficient water forwarding infrastructures used to distribute water to consumers, a claim the audit dismissed after finding that the capacity of existing water forwarding infrastructures were not optimally used.

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