Water Supply to Prisons, Police Restored

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In short
Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine noted that the challenge has always been with a budget deficit which affects their consistent payment of bills. He says although they always budget for water at 6.2 billion in a year, government only releases 1.2 billion yearly which puts them in a dilemma.

National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) on Wednesday night restored water supply to Luzira prisons even as negotiations of clearing the outstanding bill is ongoing.

It also restored water to Uganda Police Force, the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) and Mulago National Referral Hospital. Water supply in these areas was cut off on Friday last week over accumulated bills.

Uganda Prisons and Mulago hospital each owe NWSC UGX 5 billion shillings. Police is yet to clear a UGX 6 billion shillings debt. UPDF has an outstanding debt of UGX 10 billion shillings with the water body.

The Uganda Prisons spokesperson Frank Baine explained that the institution struggles to pay its water bill on time because of budget deficits. Baine says that prisons requests from government UGX 6.2 billion shillings per year to meet its water bill. Government, however, only releases UGX 1.2 billion yearly for water to the prisons service.

He refutes the claim that money to pay the water bill is diverted.

National Water and sewerage cooperation spokesperson Sam Apedel stated that the decision to reconnect the affected Government agencies arose from a communication from the Ministry of Finance on Wednesday. MOF said it is committed to paying the bill for Uganda police, Uganda prisons, the UPDF and Mulago Hospital.

The institutions have been given one month credit subject to a further disconnection in case they do not comply.

However Baine says although negotiations are still ongoing, their hands are tied since this year's budget might be slimmer following a directive by President Museveni.

"President Museveni has directed a further 10% decrease on the budget across all the ministries which will again affect us further. This is because the number of prisoners keeps on increasing so we cannot say we are reducing the quantity of food we cook," he says.

Uganda prisons has 51,800 prisoners depending on the water from the national grid.

A visit in Luzira while the water was disconnected discovered that prisoners had been forced to forgo bathing for a week. Many prisoners reportedly refused to work in the different areas, stating that they would get dirty and have no water to shower. Residents were walking long distances to fetch water from wells.

The prison was using water tanks to supply to the three prisons of Murchison Bay, Upper Prison and remand. Recruits from the training school and residents of the barracks bought water from Kisenyi a nearby suburb.

Some of the residents in Luzira said people were running out of options following the water crisis.

Irene Ayaa says, "For those who have water tanks in their homes, they were all dry, while those who only fetch in jerrycans and don't store suffered the most, they had to carry water from long distances."


About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.