TO better enhance the water industry in the country, the National Water Commission will determine the benchmark for water companies in the pricing, quality and performance of processed water, said Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik.
He told a press conference after officiating at Asian Strategic Leadership Institute's (Asli) Malaysian Business and Investment Summit 2004 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the launching of the benchmark for water tariff would be announced soon.
Lim said the Water Commission would include a body called Suara Air (Voice of Water) for consumers to voice out their concerns about issues such as water tariff and services.
Suara Air would give consumers a say on the pricing of water and also provide a venue to monitor (water-based) companies in carrying out their responsibilities to the public, Lim said.
He also said his ministry was planning for water companies to have a holistic approach in delivering treated water to consumers.
There is something wrong with the current system where the state governments are losing a large amount of money and water companies are receiving huge profits, he said.
The main factor for losses suffered by state governments is attributed to non-revenue water (NWR), where water used is not billed, primarily because of water theft, underground leakages, burst pipes, inaccurate metering and fire fighting.
He said the ministry was planning to include in its future contracts with water companies, requiring them to also deal with NRW.
According to Lim, in some states the case of NRW is 20% of total revenue while in others it is 60%.
If you just privatise the water treatment and not deal with NRW, then its unsustainable business (for the state), he said.
The ministry was looking into why some water-based companies were more efficient than others in providing treated water to customers and would use the best price offered to the consumers as the benchmark, he said.
For future contracts, the ministry will also include a clause in the water commission contract that will enable the government to take away the commission if the company does not perform at the standards agreed upon.
Lim said the government would not bail out water companies should they register losses.
On privatisation of the water industry, he said the country was going ahead with the programme, but a benchmark must first be established to ensure that the consumers were well protected. Bernama