The parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has ordered Makerere University to pay an accumulated water bill of Shs 1.2 billion instead of deducting staff salaries to clear the bill. According to the directorate of estates and works, the bill accumulated from March 2014 – March 2019.
Last month, the directorate wrote to staff residing at the university notifying them that their salaries would be deducted to clear the bill.
Subsequently, Charles Barugahare, the university secretary tasked the directorate to carry out computations for the cumulative water bills per tenant together with what has been deducted from staff to date.
However, the affected staff went up in arms citing gross errors and inconsistencies in the water recovery schedule. A total of 556 staff are affected where 275 senior university staff are required to pay about Shs 533 million, 285 junior staff are supposed to pay Shs 387 million while the 36 organizations renting university housing units both within the university and outside are required to pay Shs 105 million.
“Management would like to inform you that 50% of your outstanding bill will be deducted from your salary effective from May 2019 and the balance will be deducted from the salary of June 2019,” Barugahare said.
At an emergency joint staff associations executive meeting with the affected staff held last week at the Makerere Senior Staff Club, the staff disputed the bill, saying it was marred with anomalies and was not supported with water meter numbers, monthly water meter reading dates, number of units consumed, rate per unit and total bill.
In a May 30th letter to the university secretary, staff called for the stay execution of the directive to recover the money until validated water bills and the money that the bursars office has been deducting from their salaries are reconciled with the water bills.
“Deductions must be agreed upon by the tenants and the university,” staff leaders Dr Edward Nector Mwavu the academic staff leader, Bennet Magara for administrative staff and Bruce Twesigye the leader of the junior staff say.
They also want the university management to direct the director estates and works to provide individual staff with full information on a monthly basis regarding their water bills. According to records obtained by this publication, the university demands up to a total of Shs 14m from retired university staff who still occupy university houses.
Makerere has since 2014 been running a bulk water meter from National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) against which the university water bill is paid. But following the directive by PAC to Makerere to discard the bulk-billing system and install meters to allow individual staff pay for their costs directly to NWSC, the university was expected to recover the money from staff tenants in the university houses to allow a new system.
Staff, however, say out of 700 houses, only 270 houses have water meters leaving 430 housing units without water meters. The majority water meters are faulty while some houses share meters.
Eng Christina Kakeeto, the estates director disclosed that for houses without bills, there is a basis used to estimate the bills.
“Estates and works department prepares water bills on a monthly basis between 14th-16th of every month and these bills are sent to the department of finance for recovery from staff salaries. At some point, Makerere did not follow-up and the internal bill accumulated,” Kakeeto told staff.
This publication has also learnt that these bills are neither given to tenants nor are they circulated for tenants to know how much they are supposed to pay.