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Penang water operator says all states affected, as Gerakan points to consumers complaining of bills being at least doubled

Penang water operator says all states affected, as Gerakan points to consumers complaining of bills being at least doubled

GEORGE TOWN, April 26 — Penang Gerakan has today claimed that some water consumers whose bi-monthly water bills often costed less than RM10 got a shock this month when their bills more than doubled.

Its chairman Oh Tong Keong cited the case of a consumer’s water bill, which he said used to be RM7.70 at every bill cycle has now gone up to RM17.36 under the new rates with the same water usage.

“For a household that used to pay around RM47 every bi-monthly, the bill went up to RM126 under the new rates for around the same water usage,” he told the press here.

He said such a sudden hike in water tariff rates will burden consumers, especially the low income groups and those with large families.

The Gerakan deputy chairman said there was no reason for Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) to hike up the tariff rates to such unreasonably high rates when it was making profits every year.

“Last year, they announced a profit of RM77 million for the year 2022 so it is not as if they are losing money when charging the old rates of 22 sen or that they need to increase the tariff rates to cover costs,” he said.

He said the water supply operator reported profits annually and yet did not invest in building more dams for a state that relied heavily on taking water from the Sungai Muda river.

“During the former Gerakan chief ministers’ tenure, the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu built the Mengkuang Dam, and during Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon’s tenure, he built the Teluk Bahang Dam, [then Pakatan Harapan] took over the state administration for 15 years, they didn’t build any new infrastructure, no new dams but they increased the rates,” he said.

He said when Gerakan helmed the state administration between 1969 to 2008, the water tariff rate had remained at 22 sen.

“Now, they have hiked it up to 62 sen for the first 20 cubic meters, which is an increase of 182 per cent,” he said.Under the new rates, the first 20 cubic meters is at 62 sen (up 182 per cent from 22 sen), from 20 cubic metres to 35 cubic metres the rate is at RM1.17 (up 154 per cent from 46 sen) and for the third band of more than 35 cubic metres, the rate is RM2.07 (up 204 per cent from 68 sen).

Penang Gerakan complaints bureau chief Andrew Ooi said he had received more than 50 complaints from water consumers on the new tariff rates, many of whom were slapped with double or triple increase in their total bills.”

According to feedback, the water charges of many families have increased as much as 100 per cent and some even claim to be more than 150 per cent which is unbearable,” he said.

Ooi said his own water bill went from RM6.60 in the December bill last year to RM111.40 in the February bill for a higher water usage when he was living alone at home and did not increase his water consumption.

He said he emailed and called PBAPP numerous times over the sudden hike in bill but did not get a response.

“I finally visited the PBAPP counter in Bayan Baru and they said they will check for me and later, they reduced the bill to around RM7 without explaining why the bill they sent me was over RM100,” he said.

He advised consumers to visit the PBAPP service counters if they feel there is a mistake in their bills.

He also said PBAPP should adjust its bands in which the first band should be up to 50 cubic metres, second between 50 and 100 cubic metres and the third band to over 100 cubic metres.

“Since they are billing consumers bi-monthly, it only make sense to changing the bands for water consumption calculation,” he said.

Meanwhile, PBAPP issued a statement in response to these complaints by stating that the billing is in accordance to the federal government regulations.

PBAPP chief executive officer K. Pathmanathan said the federal government’s water rate regulations to revise water rates was not only for Penang but also for 10 other states include Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.

He said Penang’s domestic water rate for the first 35 cubic metres per month is still the second lowest in the country.

“Penang’s average domestic rates for the first 35 cubic metres per month is RM0.86 per cubic metre. PBAPP data shows that the majority of Penang domestic consumers (77.3 per cent) are billed for 35 cubic metre or less per month in 2023,” he said.

He said in comparison, the average national domestic rate is RM1 per cubic metre.

He also said there is no difference to the rates whether the charges are billed monthly or bi-monthly.

“Nevertheless, PBAPP’s bi-monthly water bills are calculated exactly in accordance to Federal regulations, in regard to the “cubic metres per month” basis,” he said.