AUDIT QUERIES FOR WATER AND SEWERAGE COMPANIES WORRYING
The National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) says it is concerned with audit queries of water and sewerage companies highlighted in the Auditor general’s report.
The Auditor General’s reports for the past five years have highlighted audit queries among others, Failure to remit Statutory Obligations to Pension Schemes and other Payables such as ZRA and ZESCO, Failure to collect Debt Trade and other Receivables within thirty (30) to ninety (90) days, Failure to follow Tender Procedures, Lack of Accurate Customer Database, Lack of Internal Audit Function and Institutions operating without strategic and Business Plans.
The latest Auditor General’s report has revealed audit queries for Nkana and Eastern water and sewerage companies.
It is against this background that NWASCO convened a stakeholders meeting on the 24th and 25th February 2011 at Ibis Gardens which saw water and sewerage companies , the Auditor General and the Accountant general’s office deliberate on common audit findings.
The meeting dubbed “financial forum” was aimed at finding practical solutions to the audit queries and fully understand the provisions of the public finance Act of 2004 and the financial regulations of 2006.
The Auditor General implored commercial utilities to incorporate its recommendations and focus on improving service delivery. However Commercial Utilities recommended that Auditor General should consider inclusion of technocrats as part of audit teams to ensure that technical issues relating to operations of water and sewerage companies are correctly portrayed in its reports. This will depict a correct picture regarding operations of utility companies in Zambia.
The utility companies also called on the Accountant Generals’ office to consider paying off government debt centrally to the utilities if service provision is to be sustained as Government bills make up to two thirds of the utility’s revenue. Currently Government owes water companies K58 billion. Utilities complained that government debt has continued to accumulate as most government departments have not prioritized payments of water and sanitation despite being funded by Ministry of Finance and National Planning.
Accountant General reiterated Government’s commitment to ensure that water bills are paid but called on utilities to come up with common strategies to reduce water wastage in Government institutions such as police camps which will result in reduced bills for the Government as opposed to the current high water bills.
Currently only four companies can meet their operation and maintenance costs which means that the rest are in dire need of resources to ensure sustained provision of service. NWASCO has since called on Government to urgently look into Government debt if the country is to improve access to quality water supply and sanitation services.