Debt-ridden Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) has engaged debt collectors to pursue people and entities with unpaid water bills as it attempts to reduce its ballooning debt book, the CEO of the parastatal, Gaselemogwe Senai, told a press conference recently.
Senai said WUC is grappling with debt in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic which necessitated that they connect everyone, including those disconnected for arrears.
“Our debt level rose to unprecedented levels, moving from P800 million in early 2020 to over P1.3 billion to-date due to non-payment of bills,” he said. “It is true that we have customers who have not paid their water bills for years, coupled with inaccessible water meters.”
Senai said they have started discussions on the need to manage water accounts that will continue until customers take responsibility to manage their accounts in homes and industry. However, the utility has engaged debt collectors to help with outstanding arrears and stem the tide of rising water debt.
“Our efforts to engage debt collectors did not bear fruit in the past as we incurred expenses in associated costs,” Senai said. “(For that reason), all costs associated with debt collections will be borne by owing customers. Our efforts to sensitise water users to manage water accounts saw us embarking on a ‘Keep it Flowing’ campaign, which is aimed at increasing water account management awareness and educating customers on different ways to pay water bills, among others. A month’s notice was given for customers to make payment arrangements and for those whose accounts are inactive to reapply.”
He emphasised that the notice was issued to avoid water supply disconnections and resulting inconveniences. “Bagaetsho, payment of water bills by all, WUC staff included, will enable the Corporation not only to stay afloat but also to provide sustainable water and wastewater services to the nation.”
Senai iterated that the outbreak of COVID-19 in Botswana had compelled WUC to open taps, resulting in worsening debt and arrears. “This increased water abstracted for consumption purposes by over 10 percent,” he said. “Such increases in abstraction resulted in increased operating costs owing to increased usage of chemicals, power consumption and fleet costs.” Senai encouraged customers to make payments on self-service platforms like *186#, the WUC website (www.wuc.bw), banks and Orange Money in order to avoid queues at WUC revenue offices.