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Editorial: Hunt for water producer must be done in the open

As the government starts the search for independent water producers through a public tender to plug the acute shortage in Nairobi and its environs, it is crucial that the negotiated tariffs are done transparently and less burdensome on consumers.
Though the country badly requires private water producers to ease the pain of the biting rationing, the need to have tariffs that will be less burdensome to consumers and that will make our local industrialist more competitive cannot be over emphasized.
This position has in the past been overlooked in the energy sector as power brokers with deep political backing pushed for inflated tariffs that generated tidy profits to the Independent Power Producers (IPP), which were finally settled by consumers in the form of expensive power bills.
This scene should not be replayed in the water sector more so because the commodity is a basic right and not an economic asset.
Our position should not be misconstrued to mean that we are against the entry of private entrepreneurs— it could the best solution to the current water crisis gripping the country.
The country relies on state-owned service providers and non-profit making organisations to meet its water supply needs but rampant corruption, ageing supply networks and inefficiencies have rendered the systems ineffective.
This has led to perennial water shortages and rationing across most urban centres threatens the swift recovery of the economy.
This goads us to appreciate that this water menace can be addressed by an efficient private investor who has the cash and expertise to rollout mega projects.
At times, the drive to maximize profits may lock out the needy from accessing safe drinking water due to prohibitive costs and pile inflationary pressure on the working class at a time when the economy is in a most difficult position.
Over the past 12 months, inflationary pressure has averaged 25 per cent. And official statistics show that food, water and energy prices remain its key drivers.
Already, the high inflation levels has seen consumers cutback on goods and services on reduced demand for their products, leading to layoffs and a hiring freeze.
As a result, the prospects of a potential rise in utility bills now that electricity is also becoming expensive can only help stoke the galloping inflation levels and blunt the country’s competitiveness in the cut throat regional trading blocs.
This is a clear pointer that we do not need to make the bad situation worse.

Therefore, it would be advisable for ministry of water to keep the tendering process transparent and pick the operator with best technical credentials at the least cost to the country.
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