The Bulawayo City Council (BCC) says the replacement of about 18 000 water meters is likely to delay as the contractor is yet to acquaint themselves with the demands of the project.
The local authority is said to be losing thousands of dollars in revenue due to the outdated water meters as the council is forced to produce estimated water bills instead of actual consumption figures.
In order to mitigate these challenges the local authority tried unsuccessfully to introduce pre-paid water meters to bolster revenue collection and plug water leakages but residents rejected them.
Now the council has engaged an unnamed foreign company to replace the obsolete water meters.
According to the latest council minutes, the undisclosed foreign company meant to install the meters hit a stumbling block after it emerged that its data collectors were not properly trained to undertake the exercise.
“There were about 18 000 properties earmarked for installation of new meters, but the challenge was the delay in implementing the project.
“The contractor being foreign should have been informed about the Bulawayo challenges. The contractor had to operate according to the terms and reference of the contract.
“It was observed that data collectors had not been trained properly. It was a requirement that these be trained and be local. The contractor had been afforded the time to iron out such issues.” read the minutes.
The local authority also raised the issue of the contractor hiring local labour.
“In meetings held with the contractor employment of local labourers had been encouraged.”
According to the minutes, Deputy Director for Engineering Services Engineer Sikhumbuzo Ncube said new technology will be used on these new meters.
“The Deputy Director also pointed out that modern technology was now being used in meter reading. Meter reading staff is now using mobile meter readers.
“The gadget recorded the readings from a distance and there was no need to enter the resident’s property. One had to just drive past the properties and the gadget would automatically pick up the readings.”
Contacted for comment, Bulawayo Residents Association (BURA) chairperson Winos Dube said residents were negatively affected by estimates on meter readings and implored council to swiftly replace the dysfunctional meters.
“Most residents are seriously affected by estimates as they usually pay for what they did not consume. If Council contracted someone without capacity, why then don’t they look for someone else,” said Dube.