The closure of the Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA) payment centres due to Government’s Stay-at-Home order has resulted in a $32 million drop in revenue for the water company in the last two weeks.
Chairman of WASA Romney Thomas made the revelation in an interview with Guardian Media yesterday.
The revelation came two days after WASA’s acting CEO Alan Poon King admitted that since the closure of WASA’s payment centres on March 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has seen a decline in its revenue of at least 44 per cent.
Last August, it was reported that WASA was owed approximately $700 million by customers.
The Government has asked the Ministry of Public Utilities not to enforce disconnection for non-payment of bills during the coronavirus crisis.
While the measure has eased up some customers who have been faced with financial difficulties and job cuts it has added pressure on the cash- strapped company.
Thomas said the closure of WASA’s payment centres has impacted on the company collecting its monthly revenue.
“ We estimate the revenue at $32 million over a two week period.”
Although WASA’s 460,000 customers have been advised to pay their bills online or use the company’s service app or online commercial banking platforms, Thomas said payments have been slow in coming.
He said the revenue was not lost but remains uncollected.
“We are looking at what we are facing currently.”
Thomas could not say what percentage of customers have opted not to pay their bills this month.
“A lot of people have not availed themselves of that opportunity to use those facilities and have not been paying.”
Should the stay at home measure continue next month, Thomas said they expect customers would continue not to pay.
“If the stay at home measure continues into next month there might be some challenge in that regard as well. With the support of the Government we will be able to withstand any shock.” Thomas made it abundantly clear that while customers have been getting a “bligh” during the pandemic, “We expect them to pay at some point in time once the situation normalises. It is not a case of the charges being forgiven. The charges will still exist.”
WASA has not offered a deferral of payment or moratorium to its customers.
Quizzed as to what effect the drop in revenue will have on WASA’s daily operations, Thomas said WASA has other forms of revenue streams coming in to cushion the blow.
The revenues are not used to pay workers but for operational expenditure.
Questioned if WASA would have to request additional funding from Government, Thomas said if things become necessary.
“If at any time we run into difficulty that avenue would be available to us. We would use that as a last resort.”
Thomas said they would go after entities that owe them to offset costs.
“There are things that we might have to defer in the time being. We are heavily dependent on government subventions as well which continues to come in. So we don’t expect a hit on our operations at this stage. We will be able to perform our services to the public and try as best as we can to increase the demand for water especially with a lot of people staying at home at this time.”
He said WASA has been very understanding with what the public has been facing during this crisis.
Faced with growing complaints from customers who have not been receiving a regular supply of pipe-borne supply, Thomas said: “we take these matters very seriously especially with an increase demand for water for sanitation purposes during the pandemic.”
He said WASA has begun to change some underground pipelines and operationalise water wells to bring some swift relief.
By the end of this week, Thomas said several areas that have been faced with water woes will see an improvement in their supply.
Thomas admitted that April’s intense heat has had a significant impact on WASA as their reservoirs levels “are very challenged right now. The rainfall for the month of April has been pretty low.”