Wednesday, September 23, 2020

WUC headed for showdown with rural customers

The Water Utilities Corporation might find itself at loggerheads with customers that they inherited from the Department of Water Affairs during the water sector reforms project, if plans to accelerate collection of owed water tariffs are anything to go by. WUC Chief Executive Officer Godfrey Mudanga last week revealed that the corporation has embarked on a project to bring billing up to date for all affected areas.

“Thereafter WUC will embark on an intensified revenue collection drive. It is necessary that WUC intensifies revenue collection as this is the revenue that funds the corporation’s operations,” said Mudanga.

WUC has not been able to bill most of the clients in the affected areas because of incompatibilities between its billing system and those of the DWA and local authorities, resulting in delays in the delivery of water bills. As a result, many of the clients stayed for up to four months without paying their water bills.

Information reaching The Telegraph indicates that the DWA and local authorities did not keep proper records and files on their clients, such that data migration became a headache. However, the situation has since been resolved, and most of the clients were billed last month.

“Migration of customer information to the WUC system is complete for customers who were taken over up to Phase II of the reforms. Customers in these villages will now be able to pay their bills at any WUC offices,” said Mudanga.

He urged customers to make individual payment agreements with WUC, as they might not be able to settle bills that have accumulated over an extended period of time.

“Such terms will be agreed on individual and need basis for each customer,” he said.

WUC has also partnered with other organizations to facilitate speedy payment of bills. Customers can now pay their water bills at Botswana Post, or through use cell phone and internet banking.

WUC‘s takeover of water supply in rural areas has caused a lot of consternation among clients. There were concerns that the corporation’s tariffs will be higher than those that were charged by DWA, since WUC would be looking to maximize profits.

Rural water consumers lobbied for a government subsidized tariff, as fears emerged that WUC will charge higher tariffs that are informed by its operating costs. The charges that were levied by DWA were very low because they were not set according to the cost of drawing the water from the source.

WUC also charges VAT on new connections and monthly bills, which could mean higher costs for users migrating from the DWA and local authorities.

However, government was expected to fight on WUC’s side, as it has in the past received millions in VAT from WUC. WUC paid government P53 million in March 2009 and P62 million in Mach 2010 as VAT payments.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Masisi creates his own “deep state”?

The government enclave is discussing a new law that will expand the president’s overreach and make it easier for the Directorate of...