THE cash-strapped Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) is battling to recover over M171 million owed by customers.
So desperate is the water utility that it has given the defaulting customers, who include government ministries and businesses, an 18 August 2021 deadline to pay up. Failure to do so will result in the disconnection of water supplies.
“WASCO wishes to inform all its customers with outstanding bills to pay within the stipulated grace period which commences from 6 August 2021 to 18 August 2021 to avoid the disconnection of services,” the water utility said in a weekend statement.
“Customers are advised to pay at any pay points and agents. Thereafter, they should report to WASCO’s debt collection office for removal from the disconnection list or for negotiations.”
In a subsequent interview with the Sunday Express, WASCO’s public relations manager, Lineo Moqasa, said it was crucial for customers to heed the call to pay up as the company was in financial dire straits due to the huge amounts it was owed.
Ms Moqasa said the massive debt had accrued due to non-payment by customers over the years. She said apart from government ministries and businesses, others who had defaulted included schools, churches and households.
She said WASCO was now struggling to deliver services to customers due to the financial constraints caused by the payment delays.
She said although customers were normally given 10 days to settle their monthly bills before being disconnected, the water utility had resolved to be considerate hence the grace period of up to 18 August 2021.
She said those who would have been disconnected would have to settle their bills in full and further pay a M150 reconnection fee.
“We are appealing to our customers to respond to this call to settle their debts because our operations are suffering due to cash flow challenges stemming from the M171 million debt owed by customers.
“We are unable to repair our aging infrastructure and that is why there are leakages on our pipes all around. There are also new customers whom we are unable to connect due to the financial constraints.
“Water is an important resource. People regard water as a right that should be availed free of charge. But the truth is that WASCO incurs a lot of expenses to treat the water, pump it and make it available to the customers. This requires a lot of money hence our plea for the outstanding bills to be settled,” Ms Moqasa said.
She said their poor financial situation had been exacerbated by the Lesotho Water and Electricity Authority (LEWA)’s failure to allow them to increase tariffs for the previous 2020/21 financial year.
She said they were still operating on the 2019/20 tariffs. They were yet to submit their proposals for increments for the current financial year, she added.