Tanga — The ministry of Water is working out a plan, which will ensure that urban water utilities, are able to recover up to Sh39.6 billion in unpaid water bills from various government institutions, including the army, the ministry's permanent secretary said over the weekend.
Speaking during a tour of the Tanga Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority (Tanga Uwasa), Prof Kitila Mkumbo said the rising water bills in government institutions was a cause for concern and that they were already working on a strategy to stop the trend.
Key in the plan is an ongoing discussion with the ministry of Finance and Planning, which will finally come up with ways of settling the debts.
"We are negotiating with the Treasury on the possibility of paying the respective authorities directly to avoid any further delay or accumulation of debts by government institutions," he said.
In Tanga, for instance, government institutions owe the Tanga Uwasa over Sh2 billion in cumulative debts, which the regional utility said was hampering their efforts to implement development projects, including rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, the Tanga Uwasa managing director, Mr Geoffrey Hilly, said.
According to the law, Mr Hilly said the authorities were supposed to set aside 30 per cent of their earnings for development projects.
He said Grade A authorities such as Tanga, Moshi, Iringa and Arusha were operating independently with the government providing capital funds for big projects only.
"We have been directed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to address the problem in the next budget," he said.
Prof Mkumbo said despite several achievements in supplying water to Tanga residents, it was still facing the challenge of a sewerage system, which currently does not serve a bigger section of the city.
"There is a critical need for expanding the network and rehabilitating the existing one," he said, adding that part of the funds would also be used to rehabilitate and expand the water supply network.
Prof Mkumbo said the authority ought to build more water storage tanks to cope with an increasing population.
He said under new arrangements that would merge operations of smaller authorities, Tanga Authority would be responsible for managing water supply operations of Mkinga, Kasera, Muheza and Pangani.
Meanwhile, the ministry will open tenders for consultancy services for $500 million (Sh1.3 trillion) major water supply projects for 28 Mainland towns, which will include the three Tanga towns of Muheza, Pangani and Korogwe, this month.
The money is a loan from the Exim Bank of India.