Civic groups op­pose wa­ter tar­iffs hike

Lesotho Times - - News - By ’Marafaele Mohloboli

CIVIL so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have vowed to op­pose the Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Com­pany’s (WASCO) pro­posal to in­crease ur­ban wa­ter and sew­er­age ser­vice tar­iffs by 13 per­cent.

WASCO an­nounced the pro­posed tar­iff in­creases last month and in­vited stake­hold­ers to air their views dur­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions be­fore the Le­sotho Elec­tric­ity and Wa­ter Au­thor­ity (LEWA) can make a fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tion.

LEWA is the reg­u­la­tory body of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies. Ac­cord­ing to WASCO, the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions would be held in Thaba-tseka to­mor­row, Tey­ateya­neng on 19 Fe­bru­ary 2016 and in Maseru on 26 Fe­bru­ary.

Among the rea­sons WASCO cited for the pro­posed in­creases is the need for the up­keep and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of key in­fra­struc­ture to im­prove per­for­mance, pro­vi­sion of standby ca­pac­ity in se­lected ar­eas for sus­tain­abil­ity of sup­ply and aug­men­ta­tion of key per­son­nel in se­lected op­er­a­tional ar­eas.

The 13 per­cent hike, WASCO said, was needed for the com­pany to meet its rev­enue re­quire­ment of M242.9 mil­lion for the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year.

“The ba­sis for the pro­posed ad­just­ment of the WASCO vol­u­met­ric tar­iff hinges on the need for the Com­pany to meet its ser­vice de­liv­ery com­mit­ments that in­clude pro­vi­sion of qual­ity and re­li­able potable wa­ter and safe ef­flu­ent dis­posal ser­vices,” read part of the pro­posal.

“The ef­fect of in­fla­tion­ary pres­sure on (the) ac­qui­si­tion of req­ui­site ma­te­ri­als for im­ple­men­ta­tion of house con­nec­tions, main­te­nance of retic­u­la­tion in­fra­struc­ture re­sults in an ever grow­ing ex­pen­di­ture bur­den on WASCO which is not backed up by com­men­su­rate rev­enue.”

How­ever, Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (CPA) Di­rec­tor, Lehlo­honolo Chefa, said the pro­posed tar­iffs were “un­jus­ti­fi­able”.

“We will sub­mit our po­si­tion that WASCO can­not jus­tify a tar­iff in­crease. In­stead, the com­pany has to work on im­prov­ing its own in­ef­fi­cien­cies,” he said. “There is a lot of wa­ter wastage and burst sewer pipes are left to trickle in the streets yet we are still ex­pected to pay.

“We are go­ing to present a de­tailed sub­mis­sion in op­po­si­tion of this 13 per­cent wa­ter tar­iff hike.”

Mr Chefa said the govern­ment was also at fault for “not hon­our­ing its obli­ga­tions to WASCO”.

“The govern­ment should en­sure that all its min­istries, agen­cies, and paras­tatals pay their wa­ter bills,” he said.

“It is to­tally un­ac­cept­able for the gen­eral pub­lic to sub­sidise govern­ment agen­cies con­sid­er­ing that they also re­ceive our money through taxes.

“Worst of all, some peo­ple are re­quired to pay WASCO bills even though they can’t ac­cess its wa­ter.”

Mr Chefa said the govern­ment, and not ratepay­ers, should bankroll WASCO’S ex­pan­sion pro­gramme.

“The govern­ment should fi­nance the ex­pan­sion of WASCO ser­vices and not over­bur­den cus­tomers,” he said.

“WASCO is in­cur­ring high ex­pan­sion costs be­cause of poor ur­ban plan­ning on the part of govern­ment. We will not over­come that chal­lenge as long un­planned ur­ban­i­sa­tion con­tin­ues.”

Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre (TRC) Wa­ter and Dams Mon­i­tor­ing Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer, Hlalele Hlalele, echoed the sen­ti­ments, say­ing the pro­posed in­crease was un­fair on con­sumers.

“Most Ba­sotho are still to ac­cess potable wa­ter, yet it is their right. In­creas­ing the cost will not make that process any eas­ier,” he said.

“Th­ese pro­posed tar­iffs are not fair on con­sumers. WASCO should get se­ri­ous and work on im­prov­ing its in­ef­fi­cien­cies rather than de­priv­ing peo­ple of their rights and ac­cess to wa­ter.”

Also see the Big In­ter­view on Page

18.

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