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Zinwa urged to sue debtors


Parliament yesterday ordered the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) to hand over debtors owing the water utility $88 million in unpaid bills.

The move that could expose senior government officials and Cabinet ministers, most of whom own farms acquired under the land reform programme, follows disclosure that farmers owe Zinwa over $88 million in unpaid water charges.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts, Webber Chinyadza (MDC-T), urged Zinwa to bring the list to the committee after Zinwa chairperson Never Mhlanga disclosed that they were owed $88 million, mainly by farmers.

Recently the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy revealed that Zesa was owed millions of dollars in electricity bills by Cabinet ministers and MPs.

Zinwa was asked to appear before the committee to apprise it on delays in implementing dam construction projects, incompetence of contractors, failure to monitor projects and the 2004 to 2009 audit report by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

“At the end of 2011, our debtors owed us $88 million and we need to look at our clients, who themselves are not viable to pay the outstanding amounts,” said Mhlanga.

“If people we bill, especially farmers, pay their bills, Zinwa will be very viable because technically we are insolvent,” he said.

But Chinyadza said the list should be made available to force those farmers to pay after being exposed.

Zinwa told the committee the water authority in turn owed $55 million mainly to State institutions.

“Our creditors include Zimra, NSSA and Zesa because of our inability to collect debts from our debtors and we have situations where Zesa switches us off. For example, at Msengezi High School, we were switched off by Zesa and we cannot supply water to that school,” said Mhlanga.

Highfield West MP Simon Hove said there were inaccuracies in Zinwa’s billing system as it largely relied on estimates.

He said in 2011, $43 million worth of water was sold to consumers, but Zinwa only managed to collect $27 million from debtors.

As a result, Mhlanga said, Zinwa had embarked on other activities to keep them viable such as fisheries, a water-bottling business in Mutare, contracting dams to National Parks and other projects.

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