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Negotiations launched to recover Sh1.2b water debts in coastal counties

COAST
By Patrick Beja | June 23rd 2015

Coast Water Services Board (CWSB) has said it has embarked on dialogue with county governments and water companies to recover Sh1.2 billion arrears accrued in past water bills.

The six coastal counties have refused to pay these debts saying they cannot be held accountable for debts incurred by defunct municipal and local authorities.

CWSB board officials have been insistent that the pending amounts be paid saying the water body relies on these amounts to service infrastructural loans and operational costs.

Chief Executive James Thubu Monday told The Standard they require Sh500 million to service loans which have been due for the last two years.

"We have initiated talks with the county governments and the water companies in order to recover the Sh1.2 billion in arrears so as to service our infrastructure development loans," he said.

Meetings plan

Mr Thubu said board officials held meetings with Taita Taveta County Executives, assembly members and Taita Taveta Water and Sewerage Company urging them to clear their outstanding water bills.

He said board officials plan to meet county government officials in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu over the arrears when the next financial year begins in July.

CSWB hopes to recover Sh608 million from Mombasa Water and Sanitation Company, Sh141 million from Malindi Water and Sewerage Company, Sh188 million from Kilifi-Mariakani Water and Sewerage company, Sh142 million from Kwale Water and Sewerage Company and Sh121 million from Taita Taveta Water and Sewerage company.

Thubu said he is optimistic dialogue will make it possible for parties involved to resolve the issue amicably and avoid water disconnections.

Last month, the board decided to give the water companies a one-month grace period to settle the debts or embark on disconnection of bulk water supply to the public water companies in the coastal counties.

Governors Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Amason Kingi (Kilifi), John Mruttu (Taita Taveta), Salim Mvurya (Kwale) and Hussein Dado of Tana River had said CWSB has no authority to disconnect water supply to any county.

"CWSB has no authority to disconnect water supply to any county over debts owned by the defunct councils and municipalities. All debts before March 27, 2013 have to be reviewed by the Transition Authority and have to undergo a proper forensic audit," the governors said in a joint statement.

Thubu had said the board was dealing directly with the water companies because they are independent entities with board of directors and hence cannot hide under county governments.

He said an independent consultant hired by the Government and World Bank last year came up with the contested water bills after consulting all water and sewerage companies at the Coast.

"It is the water companies which owe the board. They are independent and can sued so they should not hide behind the county governments. Let them take full responsibility and settle their bills.," he said.

He pledged to engage both the water service providers and the governors since it is "not in our best interest to disconnect bulk water supply and cause suffering to consumers".

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