Governor Wanga seeks to rescue loss making Homa Bay water firm

When Homa Bay County Water and Sanitation Company received water distribution equipment from Belgium on April 29, 2021. [James Omoro, Standard]

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga has initiated a raft of measures to turn around the loss-making Homa Bay County Water and Sanitation Company. 

Ms Wanga said she has pushed for increase of water tariffs to shore up revenues, installation of water ATMS and identification surveys in all operational areas to block illegal connections.

The governor was speaking in Nairobi yesterday, when she appeared before the Senate County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee that is investigating the water firm’s Sh23 million loss for the 2018/19 financial year. 

Wanga promised to complete collection of current bills and negotiate with regulatory bodies for waivers on levies. 

"The issue of water is a critical one and we understand that it is either we work for the people or they send us home. We want to have a utility company that works for the people,” she said. 
Homa Bay County Water and Sanitation Company Managing Director Dan Oketch told the committee that they are banking on external resource mobilisation on last mile connectivity to ensure pipeline extensions.

"The company has secured some funds from Netherlands and USAID with an aim to improve on last mile connectivity. The funding will increase our area of coverage from 55 to 80 per cent by 2024,” said Mr Oketch. 

Committee chair Godfrey Osotsi however put the governor to task over why the company -despite reports from the Auditor General's office - had over the years failed to curb financial hemorrhage and reduce non-revenue water. 

"According to the Audit report, the company is almost insolvent and we need to know what actions your administration is putting in place to remedy this," said Mr Osotsi. 

The watchdog committee chair was making reference to the Auditor General report for the financial year ended June 2021, which highlighted that the firm had also suffered a loss of Sh7 million for the period under review. The report also showed that the company produced 1,004,646 cubic meters of water out of which only 552,670 cubic meters was billed to customers.

This means that the county went above the allowable loss of 25 per cent non-revenue water in accordance to Water Services Regulatory Board (Wasreb), after it emerged that 45 per cent of the water produced -representing 451,975 cubic meters- was non-revenue water. 

Auditor General Nancy Gathungu stated in the report that this represented a Sh19.4 millions loss for the company.

Oketch however, said the company has reduced the non-revenue water from 65 to 45 per cent in the last two years. 

"I think this is a commendable move and with time we will be able to reduce the same to below 20 per cent," he said.

The governor told the committee in terms of revenue collection they managed Sh4 million in a month but her administration was keen on shoring up the same to 11 million to sustain operations.

At the same time, Wanga said her administration had entered into payment plan with workers to remit Sh61.2 million in statutory deductions which had been pending. Notably, Sh4.8 million was owed to had National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and Sh3.2 million to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Consequently, the committee gave the governor 60 days to turn around the water company.