Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) is owed P800 million in consumer debt and is resuming its debt collection campaign to recover the huge arrears following the end of the state of public emergency, the parastatal has said.
As part of efforts to contain the Coronavirus, President Mokgweetsi Masisi ordered the corporation to stop water disconnections under the State of Emergency (SoE). WUC was on a massive disconnection exercise, closing taps of defaulting customers.
According to the parastatal’s Director of Customer Care, Goitseone Tshiamiso, government departments and large businesses were coming forward to pay even during SoE. “We have seen from the debt composition that the domestic customers’ portion of the debt has gone from around 54 percent to 67 percent as at last week,” Tshiamiso explained. “Most of them are in urban centres.”
He said people in rural areas are more consistent in their debt payment patterns than people in towns and cities in spite of their better infrastructure of both self-service and physical channels of paying. “As at last week, we were sitting at around P1.2 billion of debt, 67 percent of which is of domestic customers.”
Tshiamiso took the opportunity of the interview to appeal to customers to come forward and make payment arrangements to avoid the inconvenience of disconnection. “Whatever amount you have, let’s sit down and talk,” he said.
He disclosed that 40 000 consumers were reconnected during the SOE, including those disconnected due to non-payment and those who had been inactive.
In a communique, the parastatal says a grace period of one month from 1st October 2021 to 31st October 2021 will be granted to allow debtors to make payment arrangements and re-apply for services.
WUC has always stressed that the high debt impedes its ability to carry out its mandate. However, customers say the parastatal is notorious for an unreliable meter system and inconsistent charges.
Asked about prospect of introducing prepaid meters to quell these concerns, Tshiamiso responded: “You need to know as a customer how much you consume on a monthly basis. We have a tariff guide that has been approved at cabinet level that we have made public so that you are also able to calculate that component as a customer. Yes, there are instances where what you have been billed is not what you expected.”
“That could be caused by either an estimated reading when we did not have access to your premises, a water leakage or a comparative analysis where a customer compares their bill to someone else’s. Water consumption varies from one area to another.”
However, he said accounts may be reconciled upon a client’s request. In the past, the government has said that WUC had no plans to introduce prepaid meters.