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NMS announces app to fight cartels, boost water supply

By Josphat Thiong’o | January 29th 2021

NMS Director-General Mohammed Badi.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) is developing an app that will ensure only registered bowsers supply water to residents, another step in the ongoing efforts to weed out cartels.

The app, which the NMS is developing in collaboration with the Ministry of Water, will work the same way digital taxi apps, such as Uber, do.

Once a user has downloaded it on their phones and turns on the location service, the app will show them the bowsers available in their area from which they can buy water.

The information of each of the water bowsers and their owners will also be provided on the app.

Venders will be required to draw water only from certified boreholes, a requirement meant to ensure safety of the product.

The app will also indicate the amount one is supposed to pay for the amount of water ordered, a shift from the current situation where cartels collude to manipulate the prices.

The app is meant to further make it difficult for cartels that have invaded the lucrative water sector to operate and save city residents from water shortages and the exorbitant prices they are sometime forced to pay to access the commodity.

“Once you have decided the amount of water you need, the app will show you the water bowsers available in your area and where they collect water from. It will also show the amount of money one should pay for the supply,” NMS Director General Mohammed Badi said yesterday during an interview with Spice FM.

President Uhuru Kenyatta flags off Nairobi Metropolitan Services branded water bowsers and ambulances last year. The vehicles will serve city residents, especially those in informal settlements. Uhuru was accompanied by NMS Director General Mohammed Badi. [File]

Major General Badi said the Water Ministry has already registered all water bowsers in the city and that the development of the app is in advanced stage. Also registered are all exhaust trucks in the city.

He said they opted for the app after numerous complaints from residents who have had to grapple with crippling water shortages and pay through the nose when they buy it from vendors. 

Badi lamented that some vendors collect water from unspecified sources free of charge or steal it from the  government’s supply lines, through illegal connections, and sell it expensively. 

This has been strengthened further by a recent Auditor General’s report, on the financial statements of Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) Ltd, which stated that the agency loses up to Sh1 billion annually due to non-revenue water (unaccounted for supply) occasioned by water leakages, illegal connections and a faulty billing system.

Badi said infiltration by cartels in the water business is not only raising the costs but also exposes residents to health risks given sources of their water may be contaminated.

“Nobody knew the number of water bowsers in Nairobi until this process started. We demanded that all water bowsers get registered afresh or lose licenses. During the registration, they were required to give their sources of water and areas they supply,” he said.

He added: “Before, some of them would to collect water free of charge and sell it to citizens at high. The app will now enable you to order for a water bowsers just like Uber with your safety assured.”

The app is the latest arsenal the NMS and NCWSC is implementing to fight cartels in the ongoing process to reform the sector. In June last year, NCWSC introduced stringent measures to streamline operations of water bowsers and exhaust trucks.

Bowsers have to undergo inspection. Exhausters too must be inspected painted brown.

The main idea is to first automate the water bowsers business. This way the water regulatory authorities will be able to lock out unapproved water suppliers and whose source of water is questionable. It will also help to ensure a uniform price of water regardless of one’s location.

The water bowsers would supply water within city estates at between Sh3,000 to Sh5,000 per truck. However, rate goes up when they are delivering in the Central Business District or in upmarket areas.

In the new measures, owners of water bowsers are required provide a certificate showing their source of water is certified by a government laboratory otherwise, they will not operate. 

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