KOTA KINABALU: A pro-consumers NGO in Sabah has urged Education Minister Maszlee Malik to intervene in the plight of residents at a lodging for teachers in Bukit Padang who have been without water for the past three weeks.
The Sabah Water Department was forced to disconnect the water supply at the Education Institute Quarters (KIPS) here following the education office’s failure to settle RM700,000 in arrears.
The Consumers Front of Sabah (CFOS) said the majority of the 200 people affected by the move are principals and teachers at government schools.
“This has caused great hassle and suffering to the affected residents, who have had to collect and transport water in containers from nearby mosques and petrol stations, and carry them back to their four-story walk-up apartments twice a day,” said CFOS secretary-general Hashima Hasbullah Yahya.
She said the residents and CFOS were appealing to Maszlee as they had exhausted all other avenues, including approaching the state education department and the Public Complaints Bureau.
She claimed numerous attempts to contact the officer in charge of the complaint had failed, while their emails were also ignored.
Hashima said CFOS had learnt that numerous discussions with the education department had taken place since the water department realised that the former had stopped paying for water in bulk since 2017.
She said CFOS’ investigations also revealed an official letter of instruction from former state education director Maimunah Suhaibul, dated Sept 20, 2018, requiring each apartment unit to pay RM30 a month besides a deposit of RM100 each to pay for the accumulated arrears.
But she claimed the amount was increased to RM230 and above in the following months without any official instruction.
“The amount varies with each block. Some were asked to pay up to RM300 a month, and many were not given proof of payment, causing some to stop making payments altogether.”
Hashima also said the water department should have issued reminders to ensure prompt payment instead of “waiting for the unpaid bill to skyrocket”.
She added that the water pipes had been leaking, with no action by the authorities despite being informed of the problem.
In a statement, the education department said steps are being taken to resolve the issue.
“The education ministry has channelled allocations to the state works department to repair the piping system with immediate effect.
“The state education department will also improve the collection and payment system for the KIPS residents,” it said.
It also said the water department would supply water to the residents at an affordable rate.