Chattogram WASA meter procurement: Why will customers pay?

The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the Chattogram WASA have many similarities. First, the government could find no third suitable person for these two agencies. As a result, one person has been the managing director of Dhaka WASA since 2009 and another person has become the managing director of Chattogram WASA since 2011. The standard of customer services dropped at these two agencies as much as the salary and privileges of both MDs have increased.

According to a Prothom Alo report published on 15 February, the Chattogram WASA procured 90,000 water meters in three phases throughout the last five years at a cost of nearly Tk 270 million. The last ones were purchased two years ago, and the authorities have already installed those across the city.

When things are perfectly fine, the port city water supply authorities have developed an apprehension that the meters can be engineered externally to produce distorted bills. Hence, they have undertaken a new project worth Tk 2 billion to procure another 90,000 meters and remove the previous ones.

The Chattogram WASA engineers argued that the meters are mechanical and require officials to visit the spots and verify the meter readings manually. Hence, they are purchasing digital meters to ensure an automatic billing process. Experts, however, described the decision to replace the existing meters within just five years as a complete waste of public money and blamed Chattogram WASA’s flawed planning for the situation.

The Chattogram WASA supplies water to 78,542 residences and 7,767 commercial establishments. It then charged each of the clients nearly Tk 4,000 for the mechanical meter, and the cost of the new ones will also be passed on to the clients. The Chattogram WASA argues that once the digital meters are installed there will be no need for meter readings manually, but while procuring mechanical meters, they had said ‘better quality’ meters are being purchased and those will give accurate bills.

SM Nazar Hossain, vice president of the Consumers' Association Bangladesh (CAB), told Prothom Alo that the Chattogram WASA is set to shift the cost burden to the clients for the second time. On the condition of anonymity, five clients and a board member of Chattogram WASA alleged that the authorities carry out the purchases whimsically without any certain plan. Now, they are planning to purchase another 90,000 meters, while the installation of 3,000 previously purchased meters is yet to be completed. Why would they think these water meters are faulty and bills can be distorted two years after procuring them? Why did the WASA officials not think about it before?

Customers will be charged for the price of water meters like they paid before. Customers have no objection to paying the meter price, but why would they pay twice?

Why would the authorities not think about the faulty meters before? There are skilled engineers, as well as a highly skilled and experienced managing director, and what were they doing? We say that reduce Tk 2,000 from the prices fixed for new meters. Customers will not pay the price of the Chattogram WASA’s mistakes. We draw the attention of the ministry concerned and demand everyone responsible for bringing the faulty meters must be held accountable.