The Executive Director of Coalition of Community Water Services (COCOWAS), John Nedjoh has hinted that, the idea of Community Water and Sanitation Agenda (CWSA) becoming a regulatory body in the rural water sector, poses a great danger in the sector and must be averted.
To him, the reform is intended to replace the decentralised service delivery approach (along with community management) with a centralised service delivery, similar to the utility management model of Ghana Water Company Limited.
He is of the view that, it is a legitimate call to have a well-thought through and more inclusive reform, which takes into account lessons learnt over the past 24 years of rural water development in Ghana, because of the need to professionalise small town pipe water services for sustainability.
He added that, with the introduction of the new reforms, cost of repair and replacements are likely to be bloated and the prices of water for the rural communities may go up of which communities will loose control over their water systems and become vulnerable.
The Executive director, therefore called on government including parliament to tread cautiously and thoroughly do due diligence on the idea in the interest of the rural population and the economy, since the new direction of CWSA to all intents and purpose lacks technical, social and commercial soundness.
He disclosed that, “We have not come across any concept note on the new path taken by CWSA. COCOWAS is however aware that since the beginning of the reforms around June/July, 2017 to date, some 155 piped water systems which hitherto were owned and managed by the communities themselves have been taken over out of a target of 200.
COCOWAS is also aware that the process has suffered some setbacks in a number of communities where the communities resisted the attempt by CWSA to take-over their piped water supply systems.
It is against this backdrop that we are surprised to learn that, a memo on the transformation of CWSA from Facilitator/Regulator of rural water supply in Ghana to a Public Utility Service Organisation is already before cabinet for subsequent referral to Parliament, when indeed there has been no word from CWSA about the status of the pilot/experimentation, not to talk of its conclusions and recommendations.
COCOWAS will respectfully ask the Chief Executive of CWSA to respond to the following questions:
1.Has the pilot for the reforms been completed?
2.If yes when did it end?
3.What were the outcomes and how have they been disseminated?
4.Have there been any stakeholder consultations and stakeholder inputs into the Memo which is currently before cabinet for subsequent referral to Parliament?
5.What will happen to the numerous communities which are not in favour of the reforms and have resisted the take-over of their piped water supply systems by CWSA?
6.Does the Memo contain a recommended institution which will assume the original mandate/role of CWSA after it (CWSA) becomes a public utility service organisation with commercial interest?”
He further intimated that, “The direction CWSA is going obviously carries some risk to rural piped water services some of which are listed below. It will serve our common good if cabinet and Parliament reflect on these and take them into account in their work on the proposed reform:
1.Funds mobilised through sale of water will be used on operational expenditure of CWSA (e.g. salaries, allowances, fuel, official vehicle running, accommodation, per diem etc.). Why burden poor rural communities with expensive bureaucratic machinery like CWSA?
2.The reform risks introducing nepotism into the recruitment of operational staff of the community water systems instead of giving the opportunity to inhabitants from the community. The phenomenon of protocol list will become part of the rural water sector of Ghana.
3.Accumulating funds through water sales from 100s of piped water systems may create a false notion on the part of CWSA that there is money to be spent.
4.Not making CWSA directly accountable to the communities in terms of the revenues mobilised through sale of water in the communities will create a favourable condition for misapplication of funds and corruption.
5.The private sector will be crowded out from participating in the management of rural water services even though they may represent a more efficient alternative.
6.With this reform, it will take a longer time to repair and maintain broken-down water facilities due to bureaucratic bottlenecks.
7.Cost of repairs and replacement are likely to be bloated and the price of water for our rural compatriots may go up.
8.Communities will lose control over their water systems and become vulnerable.
9.Poor governance and limited stakeholder participation in the management of the water services taken over by CWSA will become the norm.
At this point, one will ask whether there is the need for reforms at all.
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