Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Water consumers seek intervention in planned tariff hike

Source: The Jakarta Post

Bambang Nurbianto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Activists of the Jakarta Water Consumers Community (Komparta) reported the city administration to the National Ombudsman Commission on Tuesday for its plan to increase the tap water tariff at regular intervals but arbitrary rates.

Komparta executive director Armstrong J.J. Sembiring said the planned increase would be effective January 2005, although a district court had ordered the administration to suspend a hike imposed in December 2003.

The administration also plans to implement a tariff increase every six months to meet the demands of PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ) and PT PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja), the two foreign partners of city water operator PD PAM Jaya.

"I hope the Commission will issue a recommendation to stop the administration's arbitrary tariff hike policy. If it goes ahead with the policy, the city will be ignoring a court verdict," said Sembiring.

The Central Jakarta District Court ruled on Jan. 29 in favor of the plaintiff, Komparta, ordering the administration to suspend a 40 percent increase in the tap water tariff it had imposed on Dec. 31, 2003, and improve its services before it imposed any further hikes.

Sembiring arrived at the ombudsman commission on Jl. Adityawarman, South Jakarta, with Suta Widhya, an individual consumer, with whom he had already filed a similar complaint with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). The two have also reported TPJ and Palyja to the city police over their poor services.

During their meeting with the commission, Suta submitted copies of letters from many water consumers who had lodged various complaints, from disrupted supply to poor water quality.

"The water supply to my house has been disrupted for nearly two years. We have water only during the day, as the water stops at 7 p.m. every day," Suta said, adding that his neighbors suffered a similar problem.

"I hope the administration will not increase the water tariff before the operators improve their services," he said.

According to ombudsman commission secretary Elisa, the commission will study Komparta's complaints before it makes any recommendations to relevant institutions, including the city administration, the City Council and tap water operators.

She said the commission had received complaints from both individuals and organizations over poor public services by various government institutions, with 200 complaints received as of October. Last year, the commission received 300 total complaints.

The National Ombudsman Commission was established under Presidential Decree No. 44/2000 and is tasked with following up on reports and information received as regards irregularities committed by state institutions.

As the existing commission has no legal power to punish errant officials or institutions, it has submitted a bill on the scope of its authority to the House of Representatives.

The bill stipulates that any state officials or institutions that ignore the commission's recommendations could receive administrative punishment, including dismissals.