Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) Acting Chief Executive Officer ‘Mamathe Makhaola says old debts are making it difficult for the organization to fulfill its mandate.
Ms Makhaola made the statement on Thursday when responding to a question by Water Affairs Minister Ralechate ‘Mokose during a WASCO stakeholder meeting.
Among issues discussed at the meeting was WASCO’s proposal for a 13 percent tariff increase to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) for the 2016/17 financial year.
WASCO was established in 2010 and took over the functions of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
During Thursday’s discussions, WASCO officials said the company inherited a debt of about M600 million from WASA.
The officials also said the company has since been struggling to strike a balance between settling the debt and fulfilling its mandate.
The company’s water equipment and plant system had lagged behind in terms of maintenance because of the situation, and to bridge the financial gap created as a result, the company had resorted to increasing tariffs, the officials added.
In the interaction, Mr ‘Mokose asked if the funding his ministry received from the national budget on behalf of WASCO was not enough for the company to discharge its duty and implement projects without increasing tariffs.
In response, Ms Makhaola said: “We started implementing projects such as the Maseru Urban and Peri-Urban on Millenium Challenge Corporation funds which alone, were not enough so government had to step in.
“Both the Five Towns and Maseru Urban and Peri-Urban projects are internationally funded, and their agreements were signed by the Lesotho and American governments.
“However, what usually happens when the time for repaying the loans is due, the government of Lesotho expects WASCO to carry the burden alone. This financial burden then hampers our ability to carry out our mandate. So we wish to appeal to government to help us repay these loans,” she said.
However, Ms Makhaola also said although lack of finance was a major setback, WASCO was determined to deliver services efficiently to the public.
“In response to the question of our efficiency, we have prioritised fulfilling the objective of improving service quality, which was one of the mandates government entrusted us with upon our company’s establishment.
“We always try to channel our resources towards achieving this goal. Another concern raised during discussions here was regarding non-revenue water which occurs when we have spillages through burst pipes. We are happy to announce that WASCO is addressing this issue through the ongoing Maseru Urban and Peri-Urban project which seeks to replace old pipes by installing new ones. The project began this year and will be conducted over a five-year period,” she said.
On his part, Water Affairs Principal Secretary Khomoatsana Tau urged WASCO to prioritise the maintenance of its system.
“Maintenance is supposed to be at the forefront of your priorities because this company wastes a lot of money annually doing damage-control of infrastructure instead of allocating an annual budget for maintenance.
“Projects such as the Village Water Supply, whose mandate is different from District Water Supply, were created to look after maintenance but WASCO will continue to experience challenges if it does not utilise such projects,” he said.