Graft at utility firm causing water shortage

Tuesday October 3 2017

Residents of Gatsata in Kigali queue for water at a stream on September 28, 2017. Photo by Cyril Ndegeya

Residents of Gatsata in Kigali queue for water at a stream on September 28, 2017. The Water and Sanitation Corporation was supposed to meet the water demands for residents by July. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

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The continuing water shortage in Kigali, and other parts of the country has been linked to mismanagement at Rwanda’s water utility company. Corruption and fraud have been cited as hampering service delivery.

Members of Parliament’s Public Account Committee (PAC) say that despite huge investment and reforms introduced at the institution over the past four years, Water and Sanitation Corporation (Wasac) continues to lag behind in meeting its mandate.

In a damning indictment of Wasac’s management, the 2016 Auditor-General’s report said that the water utility firm mismanaged billions of francs worth of resources and assets. This saw investments in maintenance and operations of water networks stall. In addition, other planned water infrastructure projects suffered.

Members of PAC who questioned Wasac officials recently over the audit findings, say the company wasted billions of francs by single-sourcing contractors for unplanned activities at the expense of more than 150 urgent projects that were budgeted for.

Water delivery issues

MP Theoneste Karenzi, the vice chairperson of PAC said funds were spent on activities such as refurbishment of branch premises and hiring recruitment consultancies to the detriment of more important priorities.

Solving these issues would have helped resolve key water delivery issues such as plants operating below their capacity, and rehabilitation of pump stations and water networks.

“There were managers who had vested interests in the awarded tenders,” said Mr Karenzi.

Cited tenders include those that led to the recent arrest of former Wasac chief executive officer James Sano who is currently facing allegations of flouting the procurement law in awarding tenders worth over Rwf400 million ($472,880).

It is estimated that Wasac mismanaged Rwf4.7 billion ($5.5m) worth of dormant materials and about Rwf3.9 billion ($4.6m) of unsupported expenditure, according to the Auditor-General Obadia Biraro.

Mr Biraro said the motives and confusion surrounding the use of these funds suggests potential embezzlement of money by the managers.

As a result, the company, which was expected to meet and exceed water demand in Kigali by July this year is far behind the target, months later.

About $7.4 million was spent on upgrading the Nzove water treatment plant and its subsequent rehabilitation phase.

Demand for water

Details have emerged that phase two of the upgrade of the plant hasn’t yet kicked off. The upgrade was expected to boost Nzove water treatment plant’s supply capacity to 145,000 cubic metres per day from an initial 90,000 cubic metres.
“Nzove water treatment plant is currently operating at 60 per cent capacity. One wonders if this is a result of the malpractices that have plagued Wasac,” said MP Theodomir Niyonsenga.
Kigali’s total water demand stood at about 110,000 cubic metres per day as at last year. But, with its population rising to the 2,000,000 mark, demand for water tends to be more than the supply, which presents a serious challenge for the government.

Available data shows Wasac currently produces water amounting to 43.2 million cubic metres, but only supplies 40.2 million. This results in a loss of three million cubic metres, which costs Rwf2.6 billion ($3m).

According to the Auditor-General, who puts total loss at Rwf8.6 billion ($10.1m), the situation denies taxpayers revenue to finance projects needed to enhance service delivery.

This has seen Kigali residents and those from other parts of the country, who are served by Wasac, suffer serious water woes and unpredictable rationing schedules.

In the absence of investments in rain-water harvesting facilities, the situation gets worse due to growing demand for water for agricultural and industrial use.

Water shortage has become worse over the years, and remains a serious challenge for residents in Nyamirambo, Gisozi, Rebero and Gikondo, parts of the emerging provincial urban centres namely Bishenyi in Kamonyi and Shyorongi in Rulindo among others.

Omar Munyaneza, chairman of Wasac’s board said strategies were in place to implement the recommendations made in the audit report.

They include making sure that water projects are completed within the set time, address flaws in water tenders as well as reversing losses arising from high volume of unbilled water.