By Robert Tapfumaneyi
SIX Urban Local Authorities are not effectively managing their sewer systems resulting in increased blockages which hampered service delivery to consumers, a report by Auditor General (AG) Mlidred Chiri has noted.
The report, tilted Management of Sewage Systems by the Urban Local Authorities under the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, also said over half a million residents were infected by water borne diseases in six local authorities between January 2013 and June 2017.
The six local authorities are Bulawayo, Harare, Masvingo and Mutare as well as Chitungwiza and Masvingo municipalities.
“Failure to manage sewer systems has deadly consequences as evidenced by the death of 560 people and infection of 590 753 from water borne diseases in 2013,” the AG report said.
“Poor sanitation also impacted negatively on the country’s economy costing US$194 million annually which is equivalent to 1.3% of our annual Gross Domestic Product.
“This translates to an average of US$16.4 per capita annually.”
The report further said all the six local authorities had systems in place for the management of sewer, but these were not being maintained on a regular basis.
“There was evident lack of proper planning, scoping, inspection, maintenance and evaluation of sewer projects leading to increased rates of sewer blockages,” says the report.
“In a number of cases, there was a correlation between population size and frequency of sewer blockages.
“The bigger the population size, the bigger the number of sewer blockages, resultantly Harare experienced more blockages, followed by Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Mutare, Masvingo and Marondera.”
The report also said that Urban local authorities were taking long time to attend to sewer blockages contrary to the Urban Local Authorities Service Level Benchmarking Standards which stipulates that they must take between 8 and 24 hours to attend to sewer blockages.
“In most cases, local authorities took 2-3 days to attend to these due to non-availability of vehicles and delays in the procurement of materials,” the AG said.
“Bulawayo and Mutare City Council and Chitungwiza Municipality were taking time to procure materials, the delays ranged from 2 to 347 days.
“In the case of Bulawayo, the rate of repair within 24 hrs was 94/1% in 2013 but had drastically dropped the rate to 30% by 2017.
“What exacerbated this situation in some instances was lack of manpower to do the work.
“For example, Bulawayo has not increased the number of plumbers since 2015 and the whole of Masvingo was being manned by one sewer Rodding Team.”