The Eastern Water and Sanitation Company is owed over K800, 000 in unpaid water bills by both institutional and domestic customers.
ZANIS reports that Eastern Water Acting Managing Director, Aaron Mulinda, has disclosed that of the K800 000 unpaid water bills, 70 percent is owed by domestic users while 30 percent is owned by institutions, including government departments.
According to Mr Mulinda, the company in the district has under collected by K6 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the province.
The failure to collect revenue from water bills is as a result of the company continuing to implement a no-water-disconnection directive by Government in the midst of COVID-19.
“From the time Covid-19 started, we no longer disconnect water supply because we want you to continue having access to clean water. If we disconnect the water you won’t have sanity. That is why we have become a little bit lenient with water disconnections because we want to safe guard the lives of our customers,” Mr Mulinda said.
The Acting Director of Eastern Water lamented that some customers have, however, taken this for a paying holiday which should not be the case.
However, he explained that there is no payment holiday for water bills as what the company was giving is a preventive measure against COVID-19, a gesture which he said has been abused.
Mr Mulinda noted that despite the huge unpaid water bills, the company has continued to supply Nyimba residents with clean and safe water under a cushion measure from Government and UNICEF.
“Supply of quality water has remained stable. We received support from Government to procure chemicals to ensure continued supply of water. UNICEF has also come on board to help us continue supplying clean safe water for the next 6 months,” he said.
He revealed that other aspects of operations, such as meeting its statutory payments have been affected due to non-collection of revenue from water bills.
“Our ability to pay statutory obligations such as ZRA, NAPSA, retirees, debt repayments and our revenue base have suffered because of the money owed to the company. We are unable to venture into infrastructure investments or extend our services to other unserved areas,” he lamented.
The manager has since appealed to all customers to pay their bills on time and in full in order for the company to continue supplying water and extend to un-serviced areas within the district.
“Our water pump system runs on a prepaid meter. We have to put electricity units for the system to run. If you do not pay and if the units finish, will we have a black out. If we do not buy chemicals to purify the water, we will have a black out. Our earnest appeal is that please pay your bills on time and in full,” he appealed.
And to address the problem of water bills defaulters, the company has engaged an external debt collector to collect unsettled bills on its behalf.
“We have engaged an external debt collector. It’s a legal firm. They are going to take all customers owing to the court. To those that are not paying the bills, the bailiffs will pounce on them soon,” Mr Mulinda warned.
The first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Zambia as early as March this year, and the cumulative cases currently stand at 14, 175 with and 111 deaths as of 21st September, 2020.
Government in April direct water utility companied in the country not to disconnect water supply to customers with unpaid bills in order to give access to clean water to all citizens in order to help reduce the spread of the virus.