THE Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) has committed to introduce a smart metering system to curb the high default rate among its customers which has cost it millions of maloti.
The utility company, which has been mostly employing a post-paid metering system has over the years struggled to convince its customers to pay their bills after usage, with the value of the company’s debt book estimated at around M116 million for the 2016/17 financial year.
Under the smart metering system, which allows for both pre and post-paid metering modes, water users will be able to purchase water units before usage as is the case with the electricity units purchase mechanism.
This means that customers will be in a position to know exactly how much water they have purchased and will be able to trace its usage, unlike in the post-paid system where many customers often complain of bills that do not correspond with water usage.
WASCO’s Customer Relationship Manager, Kopano Ramatla, said the smart system will be implemented in the prepaid mode for four customer categories in Maseru, namely, government, businesses, schools and churches later this month for an initial three month period before being rolled out to the rest of the country.
“This was brought about by the challenge of non- payments from our post-paid customers, with the majority of them falling in the bulk consumers category,” Mr Ramatla said in an interview with Lesotho Times on Tuesday.
“We opted to initiate the prepaid smart system among bulk consumers like government departments, businesses, schools and churches because this is where we encountered most problems in collecting payments.”
He said while the post-paid system would still be functional under the smart system, WASCO would use its discretion to decide which customers would remain in the postpaid mode on the basis of the customers’ payment behaviour.
He said the company was in unhealthy financial position as a result of revenue losses from defaulting customers, adding, WASCO had to borrow approximately M10 million from the World Bank to implement the smart metering project.
Mr Ramatla said the smart system was user friendly and facilitated self-monitoring in water consumption. He said the meter also provides real time information regarding water consumption, leakages and any other faults alarms.
“For customers, the system will allow them to be in control of their own budgets. Also, water supply will not be cut off unexpectedly as customers can track usage of the units they purchased.”
The system also brings flexible purchase hours through mobile money platforms and encourages efficient use of water as it continuously provides customers with useful information on water consumption.
Training for all stakeholders will be conducted ahead of the introduction of the smart system.