EDITORIAL: Is NAWEC fit for purpose or simply ripping off consumers?
The National Water and Electricity Corporation (NAWEC) have come under fire for slamming consumers with ridiculous water bills. Recently, the company has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, with social media posts of over-billing by consumers. Not only do people express dissatisfaction with being charged expensive sums for utility bills, their services are being disconnected with little warning. In a recent open letter to the Managing Director of the company, Baba Galleh Jallow decried receiving two bills within a space of a month totalling nearly thirteen thousand Dalasis (D13K). This begs the question: Is NAWEC ripping off consumers or is their billing system fit for purpose? One thing is clear though, there are thousands of powerless customers of NAWEC who are suffering from the ridiculous water bills they continue to receive from the company for water they may have never consumed. One NAWEC customer revealed that in a span of three years, he has had countless water bills in thousands of Dalasis at a time, some of which are said to be arrears which were actually paid previously but do not reflect on the subsequent bills the company issued. It appears water bills always seems to be prepared without taking into account, recent payments by consumers.
Photo: NAWEC's public service announcement warning of massive disconnections if bills are not paid
There seems to be an issue with NAWEC water billing system that it works at least two months in arrears at all times! An enquiry by this medium sent to NAWEC through their Facebook page with the following questions: Good morning, We are writing a story about the water billing system of Nawec where consumers are receiving very high water bills within a short period of time and are often threatened with disconnection if they don’t pay. What do you have to say about these allegations? Is the Nawec water billing system adequate to correctly bill consumers or are there staff who are not doing their jobs properly and as such consumers are being sent incorrect bills? This is the response we received: “We appreciate that you are making findings before publishing your story which could be a step in the right direction but we on this media platform urge you to visit Nawec headquarters and speak to the personnel concern. Thank you” Further asked to point this medium to the right personnel at the NAWEC headquarters, the name and telephone number of the Communications Officer was given to us and a subsequent question was sent to him via WhatsApp following an unanswered voice call. Here is the Communications Officer’s response: “Its true that sometimes the bills submitted do not reflect the actual reading and consumption pattern of consumers but we do advise that whoever is doubtful of the charges on the bill given to them can come to the head office. The Billing Department staff are always at hand to probe into the billing system, get into your account and know what really went wrong and accordingly will rectify it. NAWEC is sorry if any of our customers is faced with such an oversight scenario and urges all those affected to come forward and bring along two months paid bills and the current one that is affected. Thank you. Pierre Sylva (PRO)” We deserve a better NAWEC The National Water and Electricity Company(NAWEC) is no stranger to complaints of incompetence and failure to deliver to its customers. For well over two decades under a brutal dictatorship, it’s been reliably unreliable and predictably incompetent in delivering on its core proposition of providing affordable electricity and water to The Gambian populace. Despite adornment of it’s website and annual reports with grand plans; the national utility company has failed to translate its visions into reality leaving many in a state of immense disappointment and despair. The new government under President Adama Barrow must continue to build capacities and competencies in the area of power generation to promote economic growth and innovation. No country can grow without sufficient and stable electricity to power economic activities much needed for jobs and innovation to spur development. The allegations of bribery and financial misappropriation at NAWEC and shady award of contracts are most worrying to Gunjuronline. We unreservedly condemn bribery and corruption in any way, shape or form. The New Gambia needs patriots who will work hard and sacrifice their sweat and blood for our children and those yet unborn. The cancer of corruption seems to have eaten so deeply into our society it has reached alarming proportions.
Finally, it goes without saying that NAWEC’s customers have seen marked improvement in service delivery recently, especially in the electricity distribution sector where, for the first time in over two decades, parts of the country enjoyed uninterrupted power supply. It is also worth noting that communication between the utility company and consumers have improved and we hope that this trend will continue.