Residents of Murang’a continue to suffer following the tug of war between the county government and the water companies over the payment of bills.
Governor Mwangi wa Iria issued an executive order urging residents not to pay water bills until his administration announces a new account to deposit the water revenue.
On the other hand, the water companies have continued to disconnect water meters of those who have failed to meet the deadlines to settle their bills.
Justifying his action, the county boss said he had not contracted the water companies to collect revenue on behalf of the county. Ordinary citizens have been caught up in this increasingly bitter feud.
Martin Mwaura's water was disconnected after he failed to pay Sh4,200 monthly bill to Murang’a Water and Sanitation Company (Muwasco).
According to Mr Mwaura, he usually pays Sh1,500 monthly but the company could not give him a satisfactory answer as to why it had suddenly tripled the amount.
He said he sought assistance of the county government following the governor’s orders and the newly employed plumbers swiftly reconnected his water.
However, Muwasco returned and carted away the meter and a water pipe belonging to the landlord, but this time urged him to pay Sh707 instead of Sh4,200.
“This tells you that the company's bill was erroneous in the first place," he said. "What criteria did they use to lower the charges and yet they had not analysed the meter? They also slapped me with a fine of Sh30,000 for ‘illegally reconnecting water’ which I did not do,” Mr Mwaura said.
He added that the seven day’s notice he was given to pay the fine have elapsed and is now waiting for the company's next course of action.
Nominated MCA Habire Chege is, on the other hand, forced to rely on neighbours to get water after his meter was disconnected by Muwasco for failing to pay his bill. The MCA said he has been forced to incur an extra cost of paying someone to fetch water from a neighbour as well as splitting the bill.
"The governor is in charge of water since it is a devolved function but a few individuals have exposed us to suffering," he said. "We will not be cowed by the gimmicks of the water companies."
Francis Kamau said he is now forced to fetch water from the river since Muwasco disconnected his water.
“I now get water from Migingo near Murang’a town which is approximately three kilometres from Mjini where I live,” he said.
Patrick Kamau told the Sunday Nation that he now fetches water from a borehole after Muwasco carted away his meter and a pipe after failing to settle his Sh300 water bill.
The water company then sent him a letter demanding that he pays Sh34,900 to get back the meter and for the self-reconnection penalty.
“I was not able to pay Sh300 in time where do they expect me to get Sh34,000? This is punishing me," he complained.
But Murang’a water company claims few individuals have followed Mr Iria’s directives saying 82 per cent of their consumers have settled their bills.
“Consumers have paid their bills in large numbers and we are not affected by the governor’s directives,” the company's managing director, Eng Daniel Nganga said through a statement from the company’s public relations officer, Mr Jacob Mbuthia.
But a section of Mjini residents and some parts of Mukuyu have no access to water after it was disconnected.
More than 10 plumbers employed by the county government to reconnect water in homes where the companies have disconnected have been arrested and charged in Murang’a Law Courts with illegal connection and have been slapped with bonds of Sh500,000 each.
The water and irrigation executive Paul Macharia was arrested two weeks ago and charged with robbery with violence and released on a cash bail of Sh200,000.