Water Board Admits Overcharging Customers

By Zenak Matekenya

Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) has admitted that it is over charging its customers on the water that it supplies.

The admission follows complaints that were recently raised by some affected customers at the water board’s head office, at Kawiluwilu House in Mzuzu.

One of the complainants from Katoto Township, Juliet Banda said she gets an average water billing of K5 000 per month and that she was shocked to receive a water bill amounting to K24, 000 for the month of September.

“I stay alone, I go to work in the morning and come back in the evening. I have never left a tap running, nor do I have any leakage at home,” she said.

In response to a questionnaire by Malawi News Agency, NRWB public relations manager, Edward Nyirenda, said the overbilling emanated from the migration to a new billing system.

“The main issue is that we have migrated to a new billing system with the aim of improving the billing system.

But as is the case with new systems, challenges have been observed which we are working tirelessly to resolve.

The main challenges include high bills for some customers as well as some customers being credited with amounts which they did not pay. Most of these have now been resolved,” he said.

He added that the new billing system has also resulted in failure to show deductions of previous payments made by customers, inflating their bills in the process.

The PR Manager further said the water board was apologetic to affected customers and that it was working to resolve the issues.

He dismissed alleged dubious transactions with customers who were vocal and that were engaged in private by the water board’s management before leaving Kawiluwilu House in a cool mood.

“It was part of the engagement process and it was not selective. A group of customers wanted to meet management on the same.

“We obliged and extended the same to all available customers. Some refused as they didn’t have serious issues.

“The customers wanted an explanation from management on the challenges with the bills. The latter explained as we do on a daily basis. They understood, [there was] nothing sinister as alleged. You can verify with the customers themselves,” Nyirenda said.

On the new billing system, Nyirenda said the board is procuring 15 000 prepaid metres in phases under the Malawi NRWB Water Efficiency Project which is financed by the European Investment Bank.

“In the first phase, we are expecting 8 000 metres, 5 000 metres from the project and 3 000 metres from the water board’s own resources before end of November, 2019.

“We expect installation to start in December 2019. 5 000 will be installed in Mzuzu while the 3000 will be installed in our other [water] schemes. Take note that Mzuzu constitutes half of our total customer base,” he said.-MANA