MORE than 25,000 Fiji households, businesses and places of worship who owed about $14million in bills to the Water Authority of Fiji received a government waiver yesterday.
Through the waiver government is going to forgive the unpaid bills, a decision that benefits about 100,000 Fijians throughout the country.
In a statement, Attorney-General and Minister for Public Enterprise Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said it recoginsed that some customers simply could not afford to pay their outstanding bills and many of these arrears had built up over the years.
He said settling them was beyond the means of many ordinary people.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said many people were worried about how they would meet their obligation and this decision meant that they could now rest easy.
"We are prepared to forgo this revenue because we are mindful that making ends meet is a challenge for many Fijian families, schools and places of worship. The Bainimarama government is responding to their needs," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said government was prepared to write off these bills and make a clean start as part of its determination to deliver services to Fijians.
The waiver applies to 25,529 accounts with the following partial breakdown: 22,345 domestic account customers or ordinary households and 954 schools and religious organisations.
Customers have a three-month window from October 1 to December 31 to make contact with the WAF to discuss their cases.
Each account is going to be investigated individually and the debt forgiven on a case-by-case basis.
Meanwhile, according to WAF, plumbing leakages are the main reason why some customers have incurred high bills and fell behind in their payments.
More than 20,000 accounts suffered from plumbing leakages, with total losses of $6.3m.
The WAF is urging its customers to make sure they make the necessary repairs and minimise water losses.