Not a single new water or sewerage connection has been made through the online system of the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (WASA), even though it officially launched its website more than 11 years ago. With the help of a WASA insider, this correspondent checked the download hit (the numbers of download of a particular item) of the “new sewerage connection” and found the download hit to be nil.
It was also found that the “Monthly Management Information System (MIS) report” on the WASA website has not been submitted for the last two years, although the water authority is supposed to upgrade the report each month. When these were pointed out to Taqsim A Khan, Managing Director of WASA, he said the online provision of having new sewerage connections started only last year.
“We have received good responses on providing new water connection through online applications. But the provision of providing new sewerage connections through online is yet to pick up. This happens mainly because of the lack of publicity of this provision,” he added.
About not posting monthly MIS reports on the website, Khan said that they are thinking of changing the structure of such reports. “The present MIS report structure is very complex. It is not possible for us to upload such complex reports
on our website on a monthly basis with the current technical manpower,” he added.
Khan also said that they are restructuring the MIS report by deleting many technical parameters that a common citizen does not need to know. “Soon, we will start uploading the MIS report with the revised structure,” he added.
In February 2008, WASA went digital by launching its website equipped with an online billing system, online complaining system and new water and a sewerage connection system through online forms. But WASA insiders said that the online system has failed miserably due to lack of publicity and ignorance of WASA technical officials.
Sources said that the water authority has not yet received any complaint through the online system in the last one year. This correspondent tried to post an online complaint but encountered technical error.
Asked about the issue, Khan avoided any direct reply, saying that the water authority alone is not responsible for the failure of WASA’s digital attempt, people’s inability to trust and use the website is another crucial factor. “The situation, however, has changed in the last one and a half years,” he added.
“We have now become fully digital after launching our real-time online billing system,” he said adding that previously the online billing system was not successful as it did not provide real-time services and people still had some doubts about technical services if they were not provided to them on real time. “Also we didn’t have a complete database of the connections and billing of our about 3.86 lakh customers”, he added.
But now, the water authority has completed the whole customer database, which helps Dhaka WASA automate its whole billing process, said Khan. “All the customers under the Dhaka WASA database have been given a unique log in ID and password. They can access the website and avail the billing facility online,” he told The Independent last week.
Khan said that from January 2012, it had made arrangements with nine banks to provide a real-time online billing system for clearing its customers’ water and sewer bills.
A total of 200 branches of these nine banks—South East Bank Ltd (29 branches), Pubali Bank Ltd (15), United Commercial Bank Ltd (24), Islami Bank Ltd (12), Mutual Trust Bank Ltd (22), Premier Bank Ltd (32), One Bank Ltd (26), Social Islamic Bank Ltd (21) and Trust Bank Ltd— (15) have the DWASA real-time online billing facilities.
Explaining the real time online billing system, Khan said if a customer goes to one of these branches of the bank, he/she can instantly paid the bills by logging into his WASA account. “The customer can also see the status (unpaid or due) of his billing account changed instantly—this is a real-time billing system,” he added.
Khan said a customer can also pay the bills through bKash or mobile phones. “Dhaka WASA has made an arrangement with the mobile operators Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi to provide a special service. If a customer gets registered with this service, he/she can pay the bills through mobile phones by sending SMS to a four-digit special number,” he added.
He also said that the water authority is working on its website to incorporate e-payment facilities through credit card. “We have heard that PayPal, the world-renowned e-payment organisation, will launch its services in Bangladesh. If it happens, then I can assure that WASA will be first of the organisation to avail its services,” he added. “Our collection of bills has already increased after the launch of the real-time on-line billing system,” he said.