Tuesday, November 18, 2008

(NYASATIMES MALAWI) Lilongwe Water Board: Utility provider on death bed?

Lilongwe Water Board: Utility provider on death bed?
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Nyakuchenya Ganda 18 November, 2008 02:25:00

Recent shocking confessions by Lilongwe Water board’s Publicist that Lilongwe residents had been drinking un-chlorinated water for two weeks are a source of concern regarding the way our utility providers should perform.

Like all poorly informed messengers, the Publicist was obviously out of his element when he inarticulately tried to justify the shambled status of his paymaster by veering even further into the wilderness with impotent assertions that only bathed him in huge gales of ridicule.

Do not get me wrong folks. This is not a Mutharika problem. It dates all the way back to the virgin years of our independence when water and electricity supplies were put on the back burner in favor of the disgusting pursuits of “crocodile” politics.

A lot of money was invested in training human demolition experts like Robbie Liabunya, Francis Mphepo and Mr. B.B. Mtumodzi to hone their “liquidation skills” instead of investing in the public utility sector.

It is a matter of universal acquaintance that our general utility providers play a momentous role in this country. However, judging from these outrageous revelations, we may be inclined to wonder as to whether the leadership of these public utilities is enthusiastically aware of their contributions and responsibility to the now endangered consumers
Given the failure of our public utility bulldogs to hang on to proficient, specialized staff and modern working technologies, public utility bodies in Malawi are unable to realize that their potholed approach to business and service delivery can not afford them the sanctuary that may assist them in doing profitable business continuously.

The point worth noting is that abandoned cost recuperation has acknowledged considerable concentration as an impediment to rivalry in the public utility industry. Therefore, addressing revenue issues with taxpayer subvention and partisan handling of government-confessed utilities tilts against or annihilates up-and-coming entities that would like to participate in the public utility sector.

Thus, in the absence of specialized competition the quality of service rendered is of below par grade to the point of failing to chlorinate water in the Capital City of the sovereign state of Malawi! Who really wants to see our president suffering from Cholera?

This is why government needs to open the market to create a competitive environment to encourage new investors to provide gung ho service to the endangered clients, while at the same time allowing the sleeping Executives welter in dormancy in the private toilets of their plush or obscenely lavish offices.

In the non-existence of the effort to assist clients in compliance with the statutes and regulations applicable to public service corporations, much of the compliance work for utility clients, which involves identification and resolution of problem areas before they rise to the level of complaint proceedings or adversarial hearings is not tackled in time either.

In addition to providing water and electricity to the public, our public utility providers should also endeavor to protect our water supply from tremendous pressures to develop watershed lands in the environs of the water and power sources, to conserve water to protect against drought and to meet the demands of our growing population. This is not even the usual Technicolor hallucination. It is a basic requirement.

Our utility suppliers should have addressed these basics long time ago. Nevertheless, one of the reasons why this could not happen is that all the three governments used these organizations as cows whose resources they could milk to extinction.

Is it not a waste of resources that semiliterate political appointees and sometimes corrupt sickly Chiefs are generally the people entrusted with chairing the boards of these entities, while relatable professionals are left bemusedly watching the massive abuses of office from the side walks?

You really do not need to be a PhD holder to realize how futile this approach is.

The water supply drought and black outs in our major cities are a very big embarrassment and a source of corruption and diseases.

On one hand consumers inevitably resort to using unhealthy water sources in the face of the droughts as reported by Lilongwe Water board and on the other the providers take advantage of the technical problems to solicit illegal payments from consumers in exchange for the water and power supply.

Obviously, the macrocosms of water are the rivers. To watch the rivers as they flow through the river basins is to witness not only the hydrology of the rivers, but the politics and economics that they drive.

In that context all the water users along the drainage are potential fatalities of what happens in the rivers either directly or indirectly.

So far, our Water Boards and Electricity Provider have failed to become national leaders for quality, infrastructure management, and planning. Much of the pristine land in our beautiful country is facing a bleak future in that the government is not doing enough to protect it by enforcing environmental policies that will curtail any abusive use by the public.

Just a note to take home: public utilities have many obligations to the consumers in their areas of service.

Their duties include: the duties to serve—that is public utilities are beholden to make available service on realistic provisions to anyone who pays for that service—as they have the duty to offer harmless and satisfactory service to all customers.



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