NWC owed billions by customers
THE NATIONAL Water Commission (NWC) is reporting that more than 100,000 of its customers in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) have been delinquent in settling their arrears with the company, resulting in added debt of up to $18.2 billion dollars for the already struggling primary water provider on the island.
Acting President of the NWC, Mark Barnett, during a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, said this figure is estimated based on the 470,000 registered accounts in the KMA and the moving receivables figure that varies between time periods. "We usually classify 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 180 days, and greater than 365 days. As it is, with respect to debts or receivables over 365 days, it is approximately $18.2 billion," Barnett said.
According to Barnett, the NWC has been making considerable efforts in debt collection, however they are faced with many challenges, including illegal connections to the national water supply. "We have a significant number of customers as well who were disconnected for one reason or the other and decided to continue to illegally use the services of the NWC," he said.
The NWC, he said, also encounters challenges in accessing several communities across the KMA, which has now forced them to partner with the police to tackle these criminal elements. "The NWC by itself cannot take on the law on its own. We have to rely on the agents of the State that are entrusted to do that. So our reliance will be to work with the police because I think there are mutual benefits to be gained from that level of partnership. The police can catch some of the criminals. So then, we can fearlessly enter some of these communities to conduct our business," Barnett said.
However, the water provider said it has been making some strides in its collection efforts by offering incentives to customers who pay their arrears. In fact, the NWC president said that with a number of activities scheduled to come on stream, they are estimating that they will collect $1.5 billion to $2 billion of the estimated arrears.
"We do recognise some of the challenges that are out there; however, we are making some efforts to try and use, initially, a softer approach to get customers to come in and respond. We have a three-month promotion, which we are running for persons to come in and pay up. After this period passes, the option is going to be non-existent and persons will be required to pay the full amount. We are also going to be taking it to the full extent of the law," Barnett warned.