The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government enacted a law in 2014 to establish the Water & Sanitation Services Company in (WSSP) Peshawar. Initially, the company was assigned the responsibility of managing only the urban areas of Peshawar. However, a promise was made to extend its jurisdiction to cover all areas of the city and grant it autonomy within a span of five years. Regrettably, even after a decade, this commitment remains unfulfilled.
Since its inception, the WSSP has faced persistent challenges, with ongoing attempts to liquidate it. Unfortunately, no significant steps were been taken by the then PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) government to safeguard the company. As a result, the company finds itself in a difficult and isolated situation.
Currently, the WSSP stands as the largest company in KP, employing over 4,600 individuals. However, it is struggling to sustain its daily operations due to a severe lack of funds, pushing it dangerously close to bankruptcy.
The employees of the company have resorted to striking four times in the current fiscal year to demand their rightful salaries. This ongoing issue has had dire consequences, particularly for the Christian employees who were unable to receive their wages during the Easter period in April.
Fitr, their salaries remained unpaid. It wasn't until May 18, following the employee strike, that the April salaries were finally disbursed. Regrettably, the employees have once again called for a strike on June 2, this time demanding payment for the month of May.
Financial Crisis Imperils Sanitation Company
The financial situation of the Sanitation Company of Peshawar highlights the challenges it faces in managing its budget. With a budget exceeding 4 billion 20 crore rupees, the company requires more than 34 crore rupees each month to cover its expenses. Among these costs, approximately 10 crore rupees are allocated for monthly electricity expenses, while 20 crore rupees are dedicated to employee salaries. Additionally, over two crore rupees are needed for fuel expenses and other office-related expenditures.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government provides an annual grant of RS. 2.70 billion to the company, while the remaining funds are generated through the Sanitation Company's own resources and from TMAs (Town Municipal Administrations). Out of the 34 crores encompassing the company's monthly expenses, the provincial government allocates 10 crores rupees for electricity bills and releases 20 crores rupees for employee salaries. The company manages to collect approximately 4 crore rupees per month from its own resources, although this amount may vary.
Unfortunately, due to the financial crisis faced by the provincial government, the monthly allocation of 20 crore rupees for salaries to the company is often delayed. When the government fails to provide the necessary grant, the company is unable to fulfill its salary obligations, resulting in employee strikes. This situation directly impacts the citizens of Peshawar, as it hampers the smooth functioning of sanitation services in the city.
TMAs' Refusal to Pay Sanitation Company Wages
The Water and Sanitation Services Company Peshawar (WSSP) has a workforce of over two and a half thousand employees, with some of them transferred from the TMAs (Town Municipal Administrations) of Peshawar, while others were recruited directly by the company. The salaries of employees who were originally from TMAs are supposed to be transferred from the TMAs to the company. However, according to the company management, the TMAs have outright refused to make the payment.
As of last year, the outstanding amount owed by the Sanitation Company to the TMAs of Peshawar exceeded 1 billion 38 crores 40 rupees. Among the specific areas, Town One is responsible for 862.8 million 80 thousand rupees, Town Three is responsible for Rs. 244.58 million, the University Town Committee is responsible for 171.98 million, Town Four is responsible for 92.7 million, and Town Two owes 14.28 million rupees.
The company had directly approached the local council board to address this payment issue, but unfortunately, they did not receive a positive response. The reluctance of the TMAs to fulfill their financial obligations further complicates the financial situation of the Sanitation Company and adds to its ongoing challenges.
Challenges Faced by the Company
Initially, the Peshawar Sanitation Services Company was assigned the responsibility of managing 45 Union Councils in Peshawar, which included areas like Peshawar City, University Road, and Hayatabad. However, due to strained relations with the Peshawar Development Authority (PDA), the company had to withdraw from two surplus union councils, namely Hayatabad, University Town, and Regi.
Currently, the company's headquarters are located in Hayatabad. However, in the area where the head office is situated, the PDA is responsible for water supply and garbage collection, and the company itself is unable to carry out these tasks there.
Furthermore, the company was recently assigned an additional 22 union councils. Out of the total 65 union councils, the company directly serves 43 of them. However, for the 22 newly assigned union councils, the company has outsourced the work to contractors, who now handle the operations on behalf of the company. This approach of outsourcing has been implemented to ensure the continued provision of sanitation services in those areas.
Facing Uncertain Future
The future of the Sanitation Company Peshawar is filled with challenges as it has been grappling with survival since its establishment. The company has faced opposition from all political parties, largely due to its association with the PTI. Additionally, the company's management's attempts to assign work to employees have created discontent among government employees. Apart from civil servants, Mayor Peshawar, and PTI, other political parties are advocating for the company's liquidation. The governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also expressed similar sentiments.
In response to the dire circumstances, the company's employees have initiated a series of strikes. Their primary demand is the dismissal of officers and the liquidation of the company. The caretaker provincial government shares the inclination to liquidate the company. However, due to the Peshawar High Court's injunction on the liquidation of MTI (Medical and Teaching Institutions), the caretaker government's desire has not been fulfilled.
Presently, the caretaker government has begun removing PTI workers from the company's board. The chairman of the board, Rizwan Bangash, was a PTI candidate for Peshawar Mayor. Other board members, including Humira Gilani, Gul Badshah, Asif Khan, and Gulzada, are also affiliated with PTI. These recent developments have added to the complexities surrounding the company's future.