The Samoa Water Authority’s (S.W.A.) plan to write-off $2.6 million in outstanding water bills has been rejected by the Parliamentary Infrastructure Sector Committee.
The position of the Committee was highlighted in a report that it compiled based on the Annual Report of the Samoa Water Authority for the financial years 2016-2017.
Coming under the “recommendations” section of the Committee’s report, the Committee recommended that the Government direct the Authority to enforce the collection of aging debts before considering a write-off.
“The Committee conveyed that they did not agree with the (Samoa Water Authority) Board’s decision to write-off of $2.6 million during the financial year under review,” the report reads.
“This is due to it not only being a hefty amount, but also most businesses and individuals are still in the country. It is in the opinion of the Committee, that this be of priority so as to ensure that it will not affect the cash flow for the Authority later on.”
The Committee also asked that the Government direct the Authority to review its current policies in relation to the writing-off of old debts and consider putting in place extensions to time and revocation of the current mandate of 12 months.
“The Committee stated that the standard timeframe of 12 months is a loophole which can be exploited and result in the loss of revenue for the Revenue.”
Attempts by Samoa Observer to contact the Samoa Water Authority Chief Executive Officer Seugamali’i Jammie Saena were unsuccessful as the C.E.O. is currently on duty travel.
When this newspaper contacted the Assistant Chief Executive Officer and Acting C.E.O., Tafeamaalii Philip Kerslake, he declined to comment.
“I’m sorry but it is best to leave it to Seugamali’i as I am not aware of the issue, so no comment,” he said.
According to the Financial Year 2015-2016 Report, significant emphasis has been placed on collections and revisiting accounts that were marked for disconnection. This was due to the lack of response as well as the metering of customers that were charged on flat rate but continued to receive treated water supply.
“These efforts have resulted in the increase of revenue by 6 percent compared to last year and collections have increased by 23percent.
“Further service improvements is expected as more customers will be on treated supply in the following year from the new Treatment Plants to be completed in October.
“Expenses on the other hand, although reduced by 1% compared to last year the drive to improve services and collect water arrears resulted in the increase in net loss by $158,526.
“A lot of effort still remains in improving collections but prioritising works, to control expenditure and still provide reliable water supply to the majority of our customers.
“Furthermore financial indicators for Budget Support were met during the financial year in compliance with donor funds under the Water Sector to ensure inflow of funds for the planned improvements of water systems,” stated the annual report.