The National, Friday November 20th, 2015
EDA Ranu chief executive officer Henry Mokono expressed grave concerns two months ago about the falling water level at the Sirinumu Dam.
It had fallen to below 50 per cent of the full spill level and Mokono warned Port Moresby residents and business houses that the State-owned utility may be forced to cut water pressure to the city.
The CEO appealed to the general public to help in conserving water by changing their water consumption habits so that water can last the during of the current El Nino weather conditions. He also appealed to manufacturing industries to adopt aggressive water-saving programmes.
While the management and emergency staff of Eda Ranu may have had sleepless nights over the critical water situation, it seems that most people have not been overly concerned.
Despite the unexpected return of rain this month, many residents continue to misuse the precious liquid by using hoses to wash their vehicles and water their lawns and gardens, which indicates that they are not seriously taking notice of Eda Ranu’s stern warnings.
To add insult to injury, Eda Ranu is owed a whopping K53 million in unpaid water and sewerage bills, half of which is owed by State agencies.
Mokono revealed to The National this week that this amount was the highest to Eda Ranu and it would start cutting off water supply to defaulters from next week. This could mean a very dry Christmas-New Year period for many consumers who do not pay up in time or refuse to settle their bills.
It is part of the water utility’s debt-recovering exercise, similar to the one carried out last year in which it managed to recover K11 million.
State agencies owe about K26 million of which the Police Department owes almost K12 million, Defence Force about K9 million and the Correctional Services around K3.4 million. The balance of about K27 million is owed by commercial and residential properties.
Mokono has urged all defaulters, including the State agencies, to pay their bills promptly to avoid disconnection and legal action. “We tried every strategy in the book to recover what’s owed to us but every time we have hit a brick wall. We can pull the plug and shut everybody’s water supply but we don’t want to do that. Despite awareness, people still continue with illegal connections and it’s costing us a lot of money to send people out and conduct the exercise.”
It is totally unacceptable for residential, commercial and State properties in the National Capital District to use water supplied by Eda Ranu without paying for it because it costs millions of kina to provide this service.
The simple fact is that water is not free and property owners must pay their bills on time and not allow them to accumulate.
While private and commercial property owners have to earn money to pay their water bills, it is disgrace that State agencies such as the three disciplinary forces cannot efficiently manage their finances to be able to pay their bills to Eda Ranu.
The Government must ensure that line departments and agencies operate within their budget allocations and according to their budget allocations.
Public funds must not be wasted or spent unnecessarily on overheads such as outstanding water and electricity bills.
Unlike government departments, State-owned enterprises such as Eda Ranu must strive to return a dividend for the shareholder, which is the Government.
Therefore, it is imperative that they forcefully collect monies that are owed to them by stopping services provided to their customers and taking legal action to recover the outstanding debts.
Eda Ranu has faced many challenges since its inception, the biggest being the fact that more than 90 million litres of precious water – more than half the quantity supplied to the city of Port Moresby – is unaccounted for.
In other words, water which has cost money to treat and reticulate has ended up earning nil return for the state-owned entity.
Meanwhile, Eda Ranu goes on supplying the city and makes an income from only half the water it supplies.
It supplies the capital city with 170 million litres of water per day but 95 million litres or 56 per cent of that is going to waste.
And there is as yet no quick and easy means to stop the water running down the drain.