Phnom Penh’s much-maligned waste-collection firm Cintri yesterday used a meeting with City Hall to ask for help in collecting between $10 million and $20 million in unpaid fees it says it’s owed by residents in the capital.
Speaking after the meeting – which was held to discuss the company’s performance – Cintri manager Ith Chenda said the municipality should push customers to pay and help find a solution, complaining many simply ignored the waste-management charge.
“According to the agreement, the company will collect, transport and clean, while the authority has the responsibility to encourage people to pay the fee,” Chenda said.
Chenda said the figure, which fluctuated regularly, included debt from the beginning of the firm’s service in September 2003 and comprises between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals and corporations – the latter, he said, were “most responsible” for the arrears.
“Some of them have not paid for 157 months, meaning from the beginning of our service,” Chenda said, saying staff constantly reminded residents about their debt.
“We cannot force them to pay.”
He added that the company was not considering legal action against households, but had pursued some companies in the courts.
The issue, born of vague contracts which do not stipulate which agency is ultimately responsible for collecting payment, according to an expert, is one of many challenges in a tumultuous relationship between authorities and the city’s sole garbage collector.
After years of threatening to cancel its contract over poor services, City Hall officials in July extended the firm’s contracts for four districts and gave it four new districts to service.
Coming after a review of the firm, the decision appeared to reflect improvements in Cintri’s performance, with Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong even vowing the city would cover losses the company incurred from households not paying, provided the “service is good and the capital is trash free”.
Reached yesterday, City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada would not confirm the figure, saying “what the company says is up to them”.
Chanyada noted that some citizens, disputing their bill, refused to pay, but said the only solution the municipality could provide was to facilitate negotiations between customers and the company.
Daun Penh District Governor Kuoch Chamroeun also said it was not authorities’ responsibility to collect the cash.
“It is not our duty,” he said. Fees for garbage collection are tacked on to residents’ power bills, which are collected by state-run energy utility Electricite du Cambodge. Larger commercial operations, however, have direct contracts with Cintri.
EdC chief Keo Ratanak could not be reached yesterday. However, an employee who answered the agency’s phone said the group was not responsible for collecting waste-management fees listed on their bills.
“For waste, it depends on the customer; if they want to pay or not it is up to them; if they want to pay, we will accept it,” they said.
Phnom Penh-based waste-management consultant Jon Morales said that the problem was that contracts between the company and authorities did not stipulate exactly who was responsible for collecting unpaid fees.
“The contracts are just really, really vague in every direction,” Morales said, adding Cintri had long complained about unpaid fees. “There are no real enforcement mechanisms.”
Morales also added that Cintri’s calculation of the unpaid fees may also be off, as the company had been known to include areas that it didn’t service.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton