By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
The National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) says a review of the investigations into a few random accounts has indicated that some big water consumers have been tampering with meters to suppress consumption.
Officials say the development which is being carefully reviewed touches big water consumers including top government agencies, especially in Kampala that use underhand tricks like magnates to reverse actual meter readings.
“For every 100 units of water we put in the system in Kampala, only 60 percent is returned for billing, meaning 40 is lost in the system,” NWSC Managing Director Dr. Silver Mugisha said at the weekend.
An internal NWSC audit conducted after a police inquiry discovered that seven random accounts had suppressed meter readings. It blamed billing employees for trying to reverse the fraud using unconventional methods, hence facing disciplinary proceedings.
NWSC, in the audit seen by The Homeland Newspaper also reasoned that they did not establish any conspiracy among the staff to defraud or engage in deliberate abuse of office.
While speaking to journalists at the weekend, Dr. Mugisha revealed that the problem was a double-edged sword for the affected staff — while they acted in good faith to correct the situation, they had used unconventional methods which was not acceptable and played in the hands of the unscrupulous customers tampering with meters.
Dr. Mugisha said the water utility body has since ordered ultrasonic meters to clamp down on the tampering.
The development allows the NWSC to establish the water billing system that is being hampered by hidden magnets.
“We have also ordered for real-time automatic reading devices to put on meters to give us information in real-time. If you try to tamper with it, we will know,” Dr. Mugisha said.
According to the NWSC billing data, each cubic meter of water (1,000 litres) costs sh1,060 at the public standpipe.
For the domestic customer, each cubic metre goes for sh3,727. For institutions or government entities, each cubic meter costs sh3,771.
NWSC sells each cubic meter to commercial properties that use less than 1,500 cubic meters per month for sh4,473.
Commercial premises that use more than 1,500 cubic meters per month buy each cubic meter at sh3,573.
For industrialists that use less than 1,000 cubic meters per month, NWSC charges sh4,473 per cubic meter, while industrialists that use more than 1000 cubic meters per month are charged sh2,500.
NWSC officials indicate that there’s no reason why consumers should steal water reasoning that at UGX. 100 for a 20-liter jerrycan for commercial consumers and UGX. 84 for the same charged to institutions, the charges are affordable.
Additionally, domestic users are charged UGX.83, while water users at public standpipes are charged UGX.25 — all per 20-liter jerrycan.