By Petride Mudoola
Water at the Luzira Maximum Prison has been temporarily reconnected on condition that the outstanding bill of sh8bn, accumulated over the years, is paid in two weeks.
The Prison was disconnected last week over the hefty outstanding water bill leaving the congested detention centre under threat of poor sanitation related diseases.
The arrears had accumulated since the 2005-2006 financial year, according to the National Water and Sewerages Corporation (NW&SC) and reminders to settle them were not forthcoming.
Samuel Apedel, NW&SC spokesperson said the prison’s bill is part of a sh30bn bill owed by government bodies to the water corporation.
Police had stepped in and started delivering water to the prison as an emergency measure to avert a health catastrophe.
The Prisons also had private water suppliers deliver water. It is not yet clear how much the water delivered by the private suppliers cost the Prisons.
Apedel said though the huge outstanding bill still exists, some of the government bodies have paid their current bills.
He explained that the water corporation intends to put government ministries and departments on prepaid water meters, but they need to first pay up the arrears.
The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija told the New Vision that they are not denying the arrears but the prison’s budget cannot pay these arrears, it calls for a supplementary budget or special arrangement to settle the debts.
Byabashaija explained that the water bills shot up because Prisons department budget has consistently been cut and what they are given can hardly cater for their water needs.
With an average population of 40,426 inmates, currently, Uganda Prison Services water consumption within its 235 prison units stands at sh1.2bn per year. This excludes staff needs.
The Prison’s Chief said Prison’s department requested the Police fire brigade and private water suppliers to provide prisons with water as negotiations with ministry of Finance and National Water over the debt continue.
“I also understand the position of National Water but considering the congestion rates in prisons, disconnecting water in the detention facility is an inconvenience. Water where people are confined is very vital, disconnecting it can cause death,” Byabashaija warned.
He explained that each inmate requires a minimum of 20 litres of water for drinking, bathing and washing.