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Water bill write-off?

Gercine Carter

Water bill  write-off?

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MILLIONS OF DOLLARS owed the Barbados Water Authority (BWA)?by delinquent customers may have to be written off.
Executive chairman of the BWA, Arni Walters, told the Midweek Nation he did not think debt collection agencies employed to recover the arrears had been able to recover “more than ten per cent” of those old arrears.
“My suspicion is that some of that debt should be written off as bad debt,” he said, and suggested the BWA’s board would have to determine exactly how much should be written off.
In January of last year, Walters reported more than $5 million could still be owed the BWA in unpaid bills going back as far as four or five years. At that time, there were about 20 disconnections per day.
Responding to a question about the current state of the arrears’ collection during an interview at his office, Walters said: “We have employed a number of debt collection agencies and gave them a number of portfolios . . . . I don’t think they have been able to collect more than ten per cent of those old arrears.”
He explained the BWA had encountered several difficulties in trying to find defaulters.
“When you go to look for some of that debt, you find that people are no longer there; old people have water running across other people’s land, and when they die they will leave a granddaughter or grandson who, in some cases, may not even live near the land, and you keep sending bills and bills.
“It means that our reconciliation of some of those accounts has to be much better.”
And he pointed out that delinquency was mainly among domestic consumers.
The BWA executive chairman said the installation of water meters, replacing the old billing method that was based on a fixed rate for water, had shown up several deficiencies. He noted customers were rushing to pay  water bills once they noticed on the billing their service was due for disconnection.
Referring to payment of water bills now, Walters said: “I think we are doing reasonably well.”
Barbados joined other countries yesterday in observing the United Nations World Water Day.