Thursday, April 01, 2010

$36m water arrears

Reijeli Kikau

Fiji Times - Thursday, April 01, 2010
CONSUMERS owe $36million in water rates, something the Water Authority of Fiji intends to crack down on immediately.
Action to be taken includes disconnection of water meters and legal action.
Authority spokesman Joe Cava said the arrears accumulated over the years because there was no strict collection measure put in place for defaulters, who continued to enjoy water services. He said some households owed as much as $6000.
"Some of those owing huge sums are senior civil servants including some who worked and still work in PWD," he said.
He said these huge bills could be attributed to years of leakage which customers never bothered to fix.
Mr Cava said after the corporatisation of the water authority, the amount owed stopped rising because stringent measures were put in place to tackle defaulters.
He said they are now in the process of recovering those arrears through disconnection and legal means.
The defaulters include government ministries, civil servants, companies and households.
"Those accounts with arrears are being disconnected right now so those with outstanding arrears should pay up," he said.
"Accounts in arrears are disconnected to ensure that they settle their arrears first before we reconnect their meters. Unlike previously where those disconnected immediately re-connect illegally after our technicians leave the location, this time we are doing random return visits to ensure that those disconnected do not re-connect illegally,"he said.
He said customers must be aware that it was an offence to tamper with WAF machines,pipes and infrastructure.
Mr Cava said that enforcement during the Public Works Department days was so slack to the point of non-existent but all this has changed with the corporatisation of the department.
"Under the WAF Promulgation 2007 those found guilty of tampering with our system including connecting illegally are liable to pay very stiff penalties and jail terms," he said.
He said defaulters have been visiting their office in numbers to pay their arrears or arrange for payments for those owing more than $1000 since January 1.
Mr Cava said defaulters whose arrears are less than $500 are expected to pay the whole amount before reconnecting their meters but those who owe more than $500 are allowed arrangement of payments based on a case to case basis.
"These defaulters have to pay half of the amount they owe before a written agreement is signed by the defaulter and our officers on the arrangement of payment for the balance of their arrears.-
"Those that try to beat the system and play up with their arranged payment will face immediate disconnection, making their written agreement null and void and they are expected to pay the balance there and then," he said.

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