By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The Public Accounts Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has tasked the National Water & Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) to expedite investigations into inflated water bills.
The recommendation is contained in a report by the committee on the Auditor General’s report of the corporation for the financial year ended 30 June 2022.
According to the chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi, the committee received complaints from the public that NWSC estimates their bills and charges exorbitantly without proper justification.
He added that said the corporation’s accounting officer told the committee that they have not detected any wrongdoing on their part, and that some of the high bills could be as a result of water leaks.
“Complaints of inflated water bills affect the willingness of the public to pay, and taint the image of the corporation. The committee recommends that NWSC expedites the investigation of public complaints, sorts them out with immediacy and provides a report on the same to Parliament with six months,” Ssenyonyi said.
Hon. Michael Timuzigu (NRM, Kajara County) proposed that NWSC, a public utility company 100 per cent owned by government, incorporates the digital component of billing to solve the challenge of inflated water bills.
“The issue of having bills which cannot be trusted by customers was the same problem with Umeme until they introduced the system of Yaka which is digital. NWSC should do the same since it does not compete with any other entity,” Timuzigu said.
The committee report also revealed that over 21 government agencies are in arrears of Shs212 billion owed to NWSC, for water for commercial, domestic and industrial purposes.
The money owed to the corporation further grew by Shs39 billion in Financial Year 2022/2023, yet it has to pay VAT on accrual basis, which severely affects the cash flow.
“The accounting officers for all MDAs with arrears should settle them within six months from the date of the adoption of this report. The Ministry of Finance should ring-fence funds to pay for utilities of MDAs to avoid accumulation of arrears,” said Ssenyonyi.
NWSC was also tasked to put into place measures to deter a reoccurrence of financial data loss that occurred on 18 August 2022, where its information technology equipment was hacked into, leading to interruption of work.
According to the report, there was no up-to-date backup system, where data for the last two months of Financial Year 2021/2022 went missing yet it was needed at the time of audit.
“There was high suspicion that the matter was internally generated and appropriate human resource action was undertaken. The contracts of two staff members suspected of being behind the hacking were terminated,” reads the report in part.
Ssenyonyi told the House that also NWSC occupies land with expired leases, has land titles that are yet to be transferred into the corporation’s name, and that some land hosting its infrastructure is still owned by other sister government agencies.
It was recommended that efforts be expedited to title all NWSC land, and a land management committee be established composed of senior management of the corporation.
Speaking to the report, Hon. Naome Kibaaju (NRM, Sheema County North) commended NWSC for improving access to safe drinking water in communities across the country.
The House was chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa.