Monday, May 17, 2021

Water shortage blamed on North-South carrier pipeline bust

The recent water shortage in Gaborone and surrounding areas have been blamed on a major breakdown in the North-South Carrier pipeline somewhere around Oodi village in the outskirts of Gaborone. Last week Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) said it was working around the clock to restore the situation back to normalcy, after most parts of southern Botswana were left stranded without water for close to a week.

As it stands, WUC is living on borrowed time. The embattled Corporation is burdened by financial woes that could render it incapable of delivering on its key mandate of providing the country with clean, fresh water.

WUC Communications, Manager Matida Mmipi admitted to Sunday Standard previously that the Corporation’s cash reserves had dried up over the past few years. Mmipi said that the Corporation diverted most of its capital resources towards financing the country’s Water Sector Reforms.

Available records show that the Corporation recorded a net loss of P191.1million in 2013, compared to a loss of P541.6 million in 2012. The subsequent losses have been attributed to challenges relating to implementation of government’s Water Sector Reforms Project, which included increased expenditure on waste water treatment and distribution, rehabilitation of infrastructure inherited from District Councils as well as increased staff and training costs.

Apart from the large capital injection into the Water Sector Reforms, it has emerged that WUC’s financial woes were worsened by some clients’ failure and refusal to pay their water bills. By 2012 the Corporation was owed over P243 million in unpaid water bills by its customers who include government departments, parastatals and individual households.

At some point in 2014, the Corporation announced plans to harmonise and review its tariffs. Parallel to that, WUC executive also said it will intensify debt collection in a bid to improve the Corporation’s cash flow.

In its 2013/14 annual report, WUC also highlighted other challenges that had an adverse impact on its operations, among them vandalism of its infrastructure. With all these daunting challenges, worsened by a marked decline in rainfall amounts especially in the southern parts of the country, the future looks very bleak for WUC as the water supply situation in the country continues to decline.

As a result WUC continues to implement water-shedding, as it recently informed its customers that the greater Gaborone areas will experience water supply challenges.

“Due to this customers may experience low pressure to no water supply even outside their water rationing schedule from the 27th of January 2015. The Corporation is working around the clock to restore the situation,” read a WUC statement.

New broom, still no water

In early 2013, WUC’s top management was accused of incompetence, poor governance, dubious appointments and abuse of funds. Reports emerged that the Corporation’s middle management was disillusioned because their opinions were never taken into consideration. Fast forward to May 2014, things took a turn for the worst at WUC as it’s then Chief Executive; Godfrey Mudanga was shown the door by the Minister responsible for water supply Kitso Mokaila. Mudanga was replaced by Leornard Nxumalo in early December last year. Prior to his appointment Nxumalo was WUC’s transformation advisor.

It is not clear whether he had any input in the firing of Mudanga and other top executives who were believed to have fared badly in a performance appraisal conducted by the board. Nxumalo was given a two and half year contract by WUC Board chairman Matome Malema. He joined WUC as a transformational advisor in April 2014 after previously working for Swaziland Water Services Corporations as Strategic Services Director. It is yet to be seen how Nxumalo, whose past experience entails provision of transformation services to countries such Nigeria, Zambia and Lesotho over the past three years, will fare.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper