Yesterday [Thursday] I heard a man calling at my gate. When I looked out on my veranda I saw a GWI water meter reader. I invited him in and he read my meter. About five minutes later he came back and told me he had got instructions from his boss to disconnect my water. I asked him for what reason and he told me that I owed GWI money but he could not tell me the amount, but his boss was coming and he would tell me.
I asked him to show me his disconnection list, and when I looked at it I did not see my lot number or my name. His boss came who looked like a supervisor, and I showed him the my last paid bill, which was dated December 2010. I told him that I had not received any water bill in the mail since then and I had never owed bills to GPL, GWI or GT&T. He called GWI and told me I owed about seventeen thousand dollars.
I asked him why for months no bill had been sent to me and other residents living in this community. He replied that we ought to go in to the GWI office to pay for water even if we didn’t have bills – which I can understand. What I don’t understand is why GWI failed to send residents bills and failed to go around with their loudspeakers on their trucks to remind residents to pay their bills, but are disconnecting water from residents at their whim and pleasure after they themselves have failed residents by not sending out bills.
As my conversation continued with the GWI boss, I told him my wife would drive down to GWI and pay the bill. He agreed and gave my wife a letter which he signed. He said in one hour he would pass back to check if the bill had been paid. He never came but I showed the bill to one of his workers whom I saw walking on the road.
My concerns are many: the meter reader just came to me with my lot number but my name was not on the list. I was not even shown the list with my lot number that he claimed was there but which another worker had. I also noted that more than one house in my area has the same lot number. So how will the meter readers and GWI workers know whose line to disconnect without a proper name on the list?
I also discovered that two more houses in my area had the same lot number as mine. About twenty minutes later one of my church members called me and told me that GWI had disconnected his water on the basis of a name which was not his name although the lot number was similar. His wife went to their office to query the problem but was told she had to pay a six thousand dollar reconnection fee.
Why should they pay reconnection fees for someone else’s pipeline, since their name was not on that disconnection list but only a lot number that is the same as that on two other houses in the area? What I observed is the poor ethics of these GWI workers; they cannot investigate things properly, and are working in ignorance. In the morning lots of poor residents’ children won’t have water to bathe with before going to school since their pipelines have been disconnected. I also observe that many of GWI’s staff don’t wear a badge, but they are still very good at intimidating people. The guy who came to disconnect my line didn’t wear a badge, although his boss had one. Without a badge how will residents know that these guys are from GWI?
I personally think the water meter system is a waste of time because wicked residents will tamper with the meter from time to time. They won’t be at home when the meter readers are around, and the meter is also a hindrance for a proper water flow. I think that residents should be asked to pay their water bills quarterly; that would be easier. It would ease up the long lines of queries at GWI’S office and make things easier for residents. Failure to pay bills then will lead to disconnection. GWI won’t have to spend thousands to print bills and mail them, and then residents do not receive them at times because of the incompetence of the post office. GWI always claimed they were sending out bills, but a check with the post office in my community revealed that no GWI bills had come to them for my community in months.
I would be more than delighted if the Minister of Water and the CEO from GWI would look into these issues I have raised here. I am still very much concerned that in this age of advanced technology we are only getting water 2-3 days per week on the East Coast for just a few hours. Residents need water every day. We still have to survive on the mercy of the rains.
Rev Gideon Cecil