Unbilled water and revenue leaks continue to weigh down utility firm Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC), costing it millions in losses, the Auditor General revealed last week. In his 2019/2020 report, Obadiah Biraro, faulted WASAC weaknesses on a host of issues, including lack of internal revenue control that led to huge losses over the past four years. For instance, he said that persistent high loss of revenue from sales of water due to high volumes of non-billable water. The numbers In 2020, WASAC produced 52,399,573 cubic metres of water but only 30,781,422 cubic metres (58.74 per cent) was billed. This means that 41.26 per cent of the water produced was unbilled. However, although it was determined that 2,085,175 cubic meters was normal water loss, the total loss made was Rwf23 billion. Some of the reasons behind the loss are attributed to 329 active customers that were not billed during the whole year of 2020, a total of 12, 786 active customers unjustifiably billed and 102, 809 customers billed for rental meters not consumption amounting to approximately Rwf45 million. Like in previous years, Biraro blamed this on loopholes in how the company is managed and termed most of the issues as ‘avoidable’. “I can attribute this to staff capacity gaps, indifference, consistent poor performance, inadequate or no supervision. As a result, this company is at risk,” he said. Statistics released by Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) on water and sanitation revealed that over 44 per cent of water supplied by WASAC within different networks is lost. At the time, the water losses were attributed to leakages, illegal connections, road construction, metering inaccuracies, meter bursts, meter blocks, natural disasters and stealing water by moving meters. Marie Claire Muhoracyeye is a resident of Cyeru Village, Kanombe Sector. She says that although water is being rationed, she sometimes goes up to a week with a dry tap. As a result, she is forced to buy water which depending on the season can go up to Rwf200 per twenty litre jerrican. “There are tenants who won’t live in my area because the issue of poor water supply has been ongoing for years. Having to pay for water almost every day is hard on us, especially during these pandemic times,” she said. Although the utility provider had a plan to reduce average loss of water from 38 per cent to 25 per cent by 2019, that did not come to fruition due to huge financial investment capital that was required. Finding solutions However, in a telephone interview, WASAC’s Director of Urban Water and Sanitation Services, Méthode Rutagungira explained that unbilled water falls in two categories. “There is water that must be unbilled because it is necessary when we are doing our everyday work of maintaining pipes but then there is also unbilled water that can be reduced or completely avoided and we are working on doing that,” he explained. He explained that with the $400 million funding from the African Development Bank, most issues around water would be fixed. “We have started the process to replace old water pipelines with new ones but we are also setting up brand new ones. The work has already kicked off in Kigali City and another six secondary cities. This is a three year project in which we hope to tie up all these loose ends,” he said. In the meantime, he called for the local community’s active support and participation in mitigating issues around water loss by calling for interventions wherever they see leakages. In June 2020, while responding to water infrastructure-related issues that were identified by lawmakers, the Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete said that there are some non-functional rural water supply systems as well as public taps. He indicated that of 1017 rural water supply systems in the country, 423 are fully functional representing about 41.6 per cent; 474 accounting for 46 per cent of them are partially functional, while 121 of them representing 11.9 per cent are non-functional. Although Rwanda’s target is 100 per cent universal access to clean water by 2024 from 87 per cent, currently, Gatete said that out of 16,435 public water taps, 9,959 are non-functional.