Nakulabye tops list of thieves, crackdown targets Shs 1 billion in fines
In unprecedented move, the National Water and Sewerage Corporation in conjunction with the Police have published the names of people who steal its water.
The list of 100 customers, which was published in the local press on Nov. 19 shows that the culprits were mainly from Kampala attached to branches including Masanafu, City Centre, Kireka, Nakulabye, Nansana, Ntinda, Seeta, Bwaise, Salaama, Najjanankumbi among other areas. The culprits were netted by the Water Loss Prevention Unit (WALOPU), and were found to be engaging in acts of illegal use of water.
These include meter by-passes, meter tampering, meter reversals, illegal reconnections and meter removal. They were in some instances arrested and released on bond. But whereas some customers have responded positively by settling their or agreeing to settle their penalties, others have refused, failed or neglected to settle their obligations.
Those who fail to comply would face further criminal and civil legal debt recovery processes. Silver Mugisha, the corporation’s managing director, said they were losing billions of shillings to water thieves every year, which is why it was necessary to launch the loss recovery effort. “We are working with police because they have a mandate to work during day and night,” Mugisha said, adding the Unit would help the corporation patrol different areas. He said that the progromme would be extended to other parts across the country. Officials said they were implementing the WALOPU project in line with the provisions of the Water Act, Cap 152 and the regulations there under.
Samuel Opedel, the public relations manager, said the total number of culprits netted in past three months was 300. By Nov. 21, 107 customers had been cleared and reconnected while others were yet to report to the corporationolice. NWSC had collected some Shs 241 million out of an expected Shs 1 billion in fines.
Top theft areas:
A quick look at the list shows that residents of Nakulabye and Masanafu top the list of water thieves. The reasons are still under investigation but it was attributed mainly to the many motor vehicle washing bays whose owners prefer to steal water. Also, Nakulabye is a densely populated slum area.
When The Independent visited the Nakulabye branch office on Nov. 21, the branch manager declined to comment saying only the PRO was authorized to speak to journalists. A 20-liter jerry can of water costs Shs 200 or 300 in the area but NWSC sells a jerry-can of water at about Shs 30. Some unscrupulous people were found to be selling the water to poor people at Shs 300 per jerry can, yet they were by-passing the meters and thus stealing the water they were selling to the poor.
Launched in August, WALOPU was aimed at curbing water theft and illegal water use in Kampala Water Supply Area. In a rather embarrassing fashion, some relatively well off people were found to be stealing water. NWSC is increasingly getting concerned about the high levels of non-compliance among water consumers yet they have made the cost affordable. “We hope our partnership with Uganda Police will help to reduce theft cases and meet our targets,” an official said. The rampant thefts have also been attributed to impunity as many customers thought no one would ever find out. “We are already getting them and those we haven’t gotten should not celebrate,” he added.
NWSC currently operates in 66 towns with a plan to expand to others year-on-year. The corporation extended 460kms of water mains across the country in the first six months of this year. It will extend 908kms of water pipes and 31kms of sewer pipes across the country in FY20142015. Opedel said water losses especially coming from the consumers’ side are not good especially at this time when they are working hard to expand its water distribution network to other areas.
“We shouldn’t be spending our energy chasing the thieves,” he said, we should be spending more time working towards reaching out to those we have not yet covered. For those thinking we are joking, WALOPU will get them, the source at Nakulabye branch said. Opedel said the Corporation is not excited about arresting customers who fail to pay their water bills in time but said WALOPU is the last option for those not cooperating.
Source : The Independent