The Zimbabwe National Water Authorities (ZINWA) is owed $48 million in unpaid bills by government institutions a development threatening to cripple operations of the water authority.

The Ministry of Defence appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water and Climate to answer charges of failing to settle a ZINWA debt which has accumulated to $19 million over the past two years.

Responding to questions by the committee on why the Defence Ministry has accrued such a big debt, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Mr Martin Rushwaya said all payments for water bills of defence forces are handled by Treasury through a parastatal’s set-off system.

Further probed on why the bill has ballooned to $19 million, the Director for Finance in the Ministry of Defence, Denson Muvandi noted the problem started during the dollarisation era as Treasury was faced with foreign currency challenges.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio on Environment, Water and Climate, Cde Wonder Mashange said it is unfortunate that Treasury is heavily burdened, adding the situation at ZINWA require a holistic approach as the parastatal is now failing to hire engineer and pay its workers.

A prominent businessman Bill Rautenback also appeared before the same committee and pledged to settle the balance of about US$2 million he is owing to ZINWA.