ENERGY and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) has indefinitely put ice on a proposal for increased water and sewerage charges, which was to take place this month.
EWURA's Acting Director General Eng Godfrey Chibulunje told reporters in Dodoma that the authority has resolved to suspend water rate increases for 2021 after repeated accusation of inflated water bills revealed against national and regional water utilities.
According to Eng Chibulunje, 75 per cent of complaints filed by water consumers based on unrealistic water bills while 15 per cent were on delayed water connection.
"EWURA is entitled to review and approve water rates for all national and regional water utilities. Following increasing claims of impractical water bills charged by water utilities we hereby suspend new prices that were expected to begin this month," Eng Chibulunje said.
He said the regulator approved the new price during the 2017/18 assessment. Ewura had agreed with the utilities for a continued water rate increases in 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21. "This isn't a new price... it's a price that was endorsed three years ago and was to take effect this year," he explained.
This means customers will experience no water price increase in 2021. Subject to EWURA Act Cap 414, 2019 and the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (water tariff application and rate-setting rules) of 2020 the authority approves price hike or decrease in a range of three years.
It considers the submitted application for water rate changes from the water utility, a review of public opinion, utility's business plan, depreciation of infrastructures, lifeline tariff as well as operational and maintenance costs.
It is illegal for water utilities to hike the rates without approvals from the regulator. Eng Chibulunje said the decision by Ewura could be challenged at the Fair Competition Tribunal.
Water authorities which will be affected by the fresh decision includes Arusha, Dodoma, Iringa, Mbeya, Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Moshi, Mtwara, Musoma, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Songea, Tabora, Tanga, Bukoba, Kigoma, Singida, Lindi, Sumbawanga, Geita, Njombe and Kashwasa.
The Ewura statement detailed a list of over 100 district, town and national water and sewerage authorities which will be affected as Biharamulo, Chamwino, Chato and Gairo.
"We are suspending the new changes to allow an in-depth investigation into the general public's complaints," he emphasized.
He announced that the authority is also working on adopting a more advanced technology that will help in water bill readings. Currently the readings are conducted manually and Ewura believes the traditional means of recording and signing water bill readings do not match with the digital world.
"Technology is advancing and it's high time for utilities to utilise these technologies," he said. It was not identified when the new technology will be launched but the authority insisted efforts are being applied to ensure the technology is rolled out across the country.