Source: ZINWA has failed: Parliament | The Financial Gazette May 4, 2017
A PARLIAMENTARY portfolio committee has deduced that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has failed in its mandate and therefore should cede the provision of potable water and sewer reticulation to local authorities, numbering 92.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, led by Mutasa South legislator, Irene Zindi, has been looking into issues of corruption, poor service delivery and mismanagement of ratepayers’ funds, among other alleged malpractices by councils.
The committee was not amused by how ZINWA is managing water reticulation and charging councils what they consider to be high tariffs.
Currently, ZINWA is battling to recover US$146 million owed by the local authorities in unpaid water charges.
During its investigations, the committee heard how ZINWA was indiscriminately cutting off supplies to the local authorities to force them to pay their arrears.
This exposed their residents to health hazards as they were forced to turn to unsafe water sources.
“The issue of ZINWA managing the water and sewer reticulation, but failing to maintain the system should be looked into,” notes the report by the committee.
“The ideal situation is to have all local authorities manage the sewer and water reticulation system. ZINWA should supply raw water to local authorities at a reasonable price so that local authorities are able to supply to residents at a cheaper price,” the report further notes.
The portfolio committee visited Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Hwange, Lupane, Umguza, Binga, Gwanda, Beitbridge, Chiredzi and Masvingo councils.
While some local authorities such as Harare, Mutare and Gweru are in control of their water and sewer reticulation systems, a number of towns and cities are still dependent on ZINWA.
Residents frequently complain of persistent water cuts with Harare residents unhappy with the quality of the tap water supplied by the city fathers.
During the tour, residents and council officials accused ZINWA of collecting millions of dollars from the local councils, while its service was deplorable and water charges were exorbitant; leaving both the town councils and ratepayers reeling in massive debts.
During its visit to Hwange, the MPs heard how ZINWA had refused to hand over treatment and sewer plants to the local board despite the fact that the infrastructure there belongs to the council.
“The major challenge is that ZINWA is still running the water infrastructure which belongs to council. The committee was informed that Hwange Local Board approached ZINWA in September 2010 in an effort to take over water reticulation, but they refused. The water and sewer plants have been down for the past eight years and it is difficult to treat sewer when there is no water. The local board’s raw sewage is disposed into the stream which is a health hazard,” says the portfolio committee report.
“The non-functional sewer plants resulted in pollution of water bodies and EMA (the Environmental Management Agency) fines Hwange Council US$3 000 per quarter. They (Hwange Council) argued that ZINWA was supposed to be fined since it controls water and sewer treatment plants,” the MPs noted.
It was the same situation in Gwanda where council raised concerns over how it was purchasing “very expensive” treated water from ZINWA at a cost of US$0,81 per cubic metre, forcing the city fathers to charge residents US$0,83 per cubic metre.
Town authorities in Gwanda alleged that ZINWA was not willing to hand over the water treatment plant, resulting in the council owing the authority US$9 million.
Failure by Gwanda to pay the arrears have prompted ZINWA to cut off water supplies, resulting in key government institutions such as the main hospital, schools and prison going without the resource.
In Beitbridge, the committee received disturbing reports of how ZINWA was rationing water supplies to residents, despite the availability of adequate supplies to support the town from the nearby Limpopo River.
There were persistent water cuts in the border town in an attempt by ZINWA to force council to pay monthly installments of US$70 000 to retire a US$12 million debt.
“Beitbridge town has an excellent supply of water from the Limpopo River. A water treatment plant was completed 10 years ago, but has not been commissioned because there is US$1,6 million which has to be paid (first) to the contractor. The committee was informed that the plant is already depleting before it is used,” said the committee’s report.
However, a determined ZINWA is not bowing down to any pressure to hand over water supplies to local authorities after it recently took the Chiredzi Town Council to court in a bid to recover a debt it is owed by the council.
“(Chiredzi) council was not happy that ZINWA supplies water citing that the water was expensive. ZINWA provides 15 mega litres of water a day and charges for that whether the water has been consumed or not. A lot of water was lost through leakages, resulting in revenue lost. The committee was informed that half of the water distributed cannot be accounted for,” the report noted.
The Minister of Environment, Water and Climate, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, on Monday indicated that ZINWA would continue supplying water to the local authorities.
The minister said the parastatal would also soon roll-out bulk prepaid smart water meters for all local authorities to enforce the payment of the US$146 million it is owed.
She said this was a government policy decision endorsed by Cabinet last month.
“Government has made a policy decision that ZINWA installs prepaid meters for all its water. Both local authorities and residents will need to use what they can afford and to that end, a national roll-out of prepaid meters is in progress,” said Muchinguri-Kashiri adding that government is aware of the need to provide safety nets for the socially disadvantaged, the vulnerable and the need to provide some water for primary use since water is a basic human right.
On ZINWA’s high charges, the minister said better service delivery was only guaranteed when users pay for the service in the spirit of “user pays principle”.
“Without paying for water, there will be no resources for procurement of water treatment chemicals, electricity to pump the water as well as critical spares needed to maintain the water supply infrastructure,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.