Debts hamper wasco progress

Debts hamper wasco progress

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

THE Water and Sewerage Company (Wasco) says it is saddled by huge debts that have hampered its service delivery and operations.

The debts are in the form of what customers owe for water supply and what the company owes to the government. Wasco owes the government M611 million and is owed a couple of millions by customers.

Wasco’s acting chief executive’ Mamathe Makhaola made the revelation at a stakeholders’ meeting last Friday where she implored the government to help the company repay its debt. Makhaola told Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ’Mokose that the M611 million loan was inherited from the time when it was still WASA, a government department.

The debt, Makhaola said, is now threatening to defeat the motive behind transforming the department into a company.

The reasoning for the transformation was that the company would be autonomous and will not be hamstrung by government bureaucracy.

Hopes were high that the new company would be able to source its own funding for projects and improve service delivery.

Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ’Mokose

Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ’Mokose

Makhaola hinted that although there has been significant improvement since the transformation the new company is now being held back by the debt.

She said the Five Towns Project is being partly sponsored with borrowed funds which government should help to repay.

“Because these loans are big amounts we would love for the government to commit itself to pay a certain percentage and the donor a certain percent,” Makhaola said.

“We request that these debts should be government’s debts and not the company’s.”

She also gave the impression that the government is hesitant to support the company financially.

While this appeared not to be the crux of her presentation the minister seized on it and insisted the government is committed to supporting Wasco.

“Recently, a couple of weeks ago, I brought before Parliament the needs of the water authority (Wasco) when the budget was discussed,” ’Mokose said.

“The Five Towns’ Water Supply Project, which started last year, and the urban and peri-urban water supply which include the Maseru waste water project are being funded by the government”.

Some of the people who attended the meeting said they were not convinced that Wasco is living up to its mandate. Others asked if the company was fully utilising its budget to improve its services.

In response Makhaola said the biggest problem remained that of poor revenue collection and money to maintain ageing infrastructure likes pipes.

“As a company we have plans to replace those old pipes with new ones to avoid losing more money on leaking pipes.”

Khomoatsana Tau, the Water Affairs Principal Secretary, weighed in with a call on the water company to maintain its pipes.

“If we do not maintain our infrastructure then we will pretty soon run out of water completely,” Tau said.

Mokose said some areas in Mohale’s Hoek and Butha-Buthe have not had water for a long time but the customers keep receiving huge bills.

The Minister recalled one family showing him a water bill of M35 000 despite not having water.

“This family said it was not clear what the charges were for because when they turned their taps on only air would come out and there is no water most of the time,” ’Mokose said.

A committee member from Butha-Buthe told the meeting that there is no proper source of water in the district’s main town and therefore WASCO cannot build a reservoir.

The committee member said a source they had had dried up.

“We request that WASCO should help us identify the best places to make borehole taps for the water supply,” he said.

“People from the villages of Ha-Kamoho and Lipelaneng have even resorted to fetching water from springs that are not protected and are posing health risks to the people,” he said.

A representative from Peka in Leribe said the water charges do not reflect what WASCO says they should be.

“It is said, 1000 litres is M4.51 but that is not true. It is more than that,” he said.

He further said they wrote to WASCO in 2013 complaining about dirty water and requested that the person in charge of WASCO in Teya-teyaneng should either be transferred to another office or demoted.

Wasco, he said, has not responded.

The proposed increase in tariffs was also among issues discussed with stakeholders saying it is common that the company keeps on increasing prices while its services are deteriorating.

WASCO has proposed a 13 percent increase on volumetric water and sewerage service tariffs.

 

WASCO BOX

Since last September Water and Sewarage Company (Wasco) has been having meetings in the districts as part of its Corporate Stakeholder Engagement Plan. Below are some of the concerns the company received:

Teya-teyaneng

  • Water bills for schools remain high even when schools are closed.
  • Wasco’s customer service has improved.
  • There are people who still use water from unprotected wells.

Peka

  • Rose Clinic has been slapped with a M11 000 bill and has since been disconnected.
  • Peka Local Court paid M80 000 for water but Wasco’s statements do not reflect the amount.

Roma

  • There is growing need for more sewer lines.
  • Water from Metolong Dam should also be supplied to villages of Boinyatso, Maliele and surrounding areas.

Mafeteng

  • Bills continue to increase even when there is no water.
  • Wasco staff has allowed the pipes to continue leaking for years.
  • Water has been disconnected at the town’s main market for two years.

Mapoteng

  • There are cases of vandalism to water infrastructure and therefore education campaigns should be held frequently.
  • When there is no water, Wasco should put in place measures for temporary supply especially if water shortage takes a week or longer.
  • Wasco should start looking for other water sources for Mapoteng.

Maseru

  • Where there is a water cut the people at Wasco’s customer service department don’t have answers.
  • Wasco should buy space in the media to communicate with the community.

Butha-Buthe

  • Wasco was applauded for reliable water supply in Mabuthile and Phahameng.
  • There are sewage overflows everywhere in town.
  • The Lipelaneng River is green as a result of water from the sewage pond.

Hotse

  • Pipes are laid on the surface and are therefore exposed to damage.
  • Tšifa-li-mali community is not connected to water pipes despite that water mains are not far.

Mokhotlong

  • Wasco should start looking for other sources of water because the current ones might not produce enough during droughts.

Morija

  • The elevated tank should be installed to assist the existing reservoir.
  • There should be water network in Letlapeng, Thaba-Chitja and parts of Phahameng.

Mohale’s Hoek

  • People should stop giving metre readers money to pay for them because the money never reaches Wasco.
  • There should be pre-paid metres.

Quthing

  • Wasco should educate the community about metre reading and billing.

Qacha’s Nek

  • Sewage is spilling near Farmer Training Centre
  • Motse-mocha does not have water on weekends and people are rarely informed.
  • Community leaders should be involved in water supply projects.

Thaba-Tseka

  • Conservancy tanks leak.
  • Sewage ponds should not be close to residential areas.
  • Water sources are quickly diminishing.

Maputsoe

  • Wasco continues to issue bills but there is no water.
  • Where there are boreholes like in Kholokoe, Wasco should think of constructing a tank to supply the area.

Semonkong

  • There is need for more standpipes as people travel a long distance to draw water at the five existing ones.
  • Wasco should educate the community about the billing process.
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