• Two parties started fighting in 2017 over the management of the water sector.
• Wasreb has now asked companies to change their institutional framework.
The persistent wrangles between Murang's water companies and the county government could soon be a thing of the past.
Water Services Regulatory Board chief executive officer Robert Gakubia in a letter dated July 1 wrote to water firms countrywide asking them to change their structures and handover their assets to the devolved units.
The water firms have been told to change their shareholding and will now be owned by county governments as required by the Constitution.
The companies were asked to create space in their institutional structures to have Class B shareholding for citizens to enhance public participation in the governance of the water service providers.
They will also be required to change their structures so that they are able to raise revenue and get loans through equity release and be held accountable through annual general meetings.
“The least complicated method to have this done is to have the business and operations of the company acquired by a company wholly owned by the respective county government,” the letter read in part.
“Please ensure this process starts and the relevant resolutions are made starting with the board level and culminating in the annual general meeting as the case may be."
The letter also tells the water companies that oversight will be the mandate of the Chief Executive Committee for Water as provided for by the Water Act 2016.
This is expected to bring to an end the acrimonious relationship between water companies and the Murang’a county government.
Their wrangles started in 2017 when the companies defied Governor Mwangi wa Iria’s demands to have water tariffs reduced. Wa Iria said the charges were punitive. He said many residents had complained to him after their water was disconnected over high bills.
The governor convened a stakeholders’ meeting in Murang’a town that was to discuss the issue and the companies’ attempt to block it in court failed.
Wa Iria sacked Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company chairman Peter Munga and appointed an interim chair in a gazette notice. Munga moved to the Labour and Employment Court but lost the case.
Soon afterwards, three residents filed a petition in the High Court in Murang’a seeking or have Munga’s degazettment as a chairman revoked.
In August last year, Murang’a lacked water for days after the town’s supply was allegedly disconnected by water firms’ employees over the wrangles.
Water executive Paul Macharia has now said the companies have no choice but to comply with Wasreb’s instructions.
Macharia said the county government has disapproved recent attempts by the companies’ to increase water charges.
The county government on June 24 obtained court orders barring Murang’a South Water and Sanitation Company from increasing tarriffs.
The company wanted to increase charges from 70 cents per 20 litre jerrycan to Sh 1 due to the increased cost of production according to the company's managing director Mary Nyaga.
(Edited by P. Wanambisi)