The Sunday News
Chakanyuka, Sunday News Reporter
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has handed over its debtors to debt collectors as it intensifies efforts to recover more than $134 million it is owed in unpaid water bills.
Part of the debt dates back to 2009 when the country adopted the multi-currency system. Among some of Zinwa’s biggest debtors are Government departments, local authorities and farmers. The trio owes the water authority a combined $104 million, which is about 77 percent of the total debt owed to Zinwa.
The Government departments owe $38 million, while local authorities and farmers each owe the water authority about $33 million. Other debtors include domestic users ($11 million), parastatals ($7 million) mining companies ($5,7 million) schools ($1,5 million) and industry ($988 000).
Zinwa has since engaged four debt collectors who have been allocated different catchment areas where they will be operating from. Flaintop Business Consultancy will be operating in Gwayi, Mzingwane and Sanyati catchment areas, Matsika Legal Practitioners in Save catchment area, Mavhiringidze Law Chambers in Runde catchment area and Chirenje Legal Practitioners Mazowe-Manyame catchment area.
Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga told Sunday News that engagement of debt collectors was part of a raft of measures to recover the money. She said the local authority was also considering disconnecting defaulters.
“The appointment of debt collectors is one of a wide range measures that the authority has instituted as it moves in to ensure that all those who receive service, pay for the commodity. Some of the measures we are employing include engaging our debtors, approaching the courts and as a last resort disconnecting water supply. We are however emphasising on engagement with our debtors,” she said.
Mrs Munyonga lamented the nonpayment of water bills, a development she said had resulted in a number of operational challenges.
She said the money being collected was not enough for the water authority to meet its statutory responsibilities.
“As a result Zinwa has been left to operate on a hand-to-mouth basis, a situation that has severely hamstrung its ability to timely repair and rehabilitate water supply infrastructure, pay for critical requirements such as water treatment chemicals, electricity and plant spares.
“The authority is also struggling to pay its statutory obligations such as taxes, levies, NSSA contributions, protective clothing for employees and monthly salaries. The authority therefore appeals to all those with outstanding bills to take urgent steps towards retiring their debts,” she said.
Despite Zinwa writing off debts of around $55 million in August 2013 following a Government directive the move has not helped inspire the authority’s debtors to pay up.
In January last year, Zinwa was owed about $103 million but the amount went to $115 million by the end of that year before the debt ballooned to $134 million this year as the water authority’s clients continue to default.
Mrs Munyonga said clients who had quarries regarding the status of their accounts were free to visit respective Zinwa catchment offices.She also urged owing clients to make payment plans with Zinwa to clear their debts.