Civic groups oppose water tariffs hike

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Director of CPA who is also a social activist, Mr Lehlohonolo Chefa

Director of CPA who is also a social activist, Mr Lehlohonolo Chefa

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 Center (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.”

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