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April 16, 2021
County Focus News Water Conservation

Iria, Munga plunge into murky water

protest against disconnection of water supply

Aprotracted dispute over water tariffs between the county government and a service provider seems set to continue.
Consumers have borne the brunt of the feud between
the county government and the Murang’a Water and
Sanitation Company (Muwasco), which goes back to
2013, when Mwangi wa Iria was elected governor.
Peter Munga, the former Equity Bank chairman,
serves as the chairman of Muwasco.
Mr Iria’s decision to oust Mr Munga from Muwasco
is believed to have sowed seeds of discord that have
germinated into the current dispute.
But the more pertinent question during the past five
years has been just how much Murang’a residents
should pay for water, and the level of control the
county has over water firms.
The governor seems to have been buoyed by a ruling
by Justice Hatari Waweru which said the county could
take over water provision from companies because
it was a devolved function.
The ruling was made in a case where five water and
sanitation providers – Muwasco, Gatanga, Murang’a
South, Gatamathi and Kahuti – were seeking to overturn Iria’s decision to dissolve their management
boards.
But what has put Muwasco in hot water are hiked
water tariffs.
For three years, Muwasco has tried to increase water
charges. In 2014, the company recalled the November
bills after a public uproar.
In its defence, Muwasco said the new tariffs were
necessary so it could pay a loan it had taken from
the African Development Bank (AfDB) to construct
the Kiwambeu water treatment plant.
Increase tariffs
A fresh bid to increase tariffs flopped in 2015 before
the company finally got its way in 2016.
In the new charges, consumers who used less than
six cubic metres of water a month would pay Sh330
up from Sh200.
Consumers protested at the 65 per cent increment
and the county got into the dispute, with Iria ordering the tariffs to be rescinded.
The governor said the hands-off approach by the
county had given the water companies too much
operational leeway.
“The county government has been in the dark as
companies have acquired huge loans from the
African Development Bank, among others, that do
not tally with the number of connections,” Iria noted.

Munga, on the other hand, insisted that reforms contained in the Water Act were meant to cushion consumers from inefficiency, adding that water provision had greatly improved since the introduction of
the semi-autonomous water firms in the counties.
“I’m talking from a point of knowledge since I have
been in the water sector since the 1980s. In fact, I was
among the people who formulated the policy on efficient water management. As a result of the reforms,
we were able to get a lot of donors,” he said.
Munga argued that if well managed, the water sector
could attract interest from other African nations,
which could then outsource its management in their
own countries.
“When we were carrying out reforms, we were
looking forward to having professionally run firms
which could win tenders in other countries to
manage their water. This has happened before where
KPLC had a three-year tender to maintain power
lines in Liberia.”
He added: “During my time in the water ministry, I
was able to get hands-on experience in Italy, France
and England on how water is managed. That is what
we wanted replicated in Kenya.”
But the governor said he was determined to ensure
residents got water at affordable tariffs.
“I deal directly with the people who voted for me and
that is why I’m fighting for them. Our main objective is to make the lives of Murang’a people better
because water is life. We must ensure that provision
of water is streamlined and prioritised.”
Iria also scuttled Muwasco’s plan to establish the
Murang’a Water Institute, saying it did not add value
and that water technology skills could be acquired
in county-funded polytechnics.
According to Munga, the institution would serve as
a springboard to reforms that would create an adept
workforce.
“The water institute is one of a kind and is meant
to ensure that skilled labour is obtained locally and
people get employment. I’m sure this is something
other counties would embrace without hesitation.”
Skilled labour
Muwasco MD Daniel Ng’ang’a described the dispute
as retrogressive.
“We are wholly owned by the county government
but we would be going back 15 years, when water
was provided by departments in municipalities.
County governments have many functions and for
us to achieve the goal of water provision to all, water should be provided by agents such as Muwasco,”
he said.

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