By Edmund Mingle
Tuesday, 04 March 2008
THE National Coalition Against Priva-tisation of Water yesterday called for the immediate abrogation of the management contract between the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) and Aqua Vi-tens Rand Limited (AVRL) saying AVRL does not have the solution to the "worsening water situation across the country.
"Ever since AVRL took over the operations of GWCL, consumers have not seen any improvement in performance," Alhassan Adam, Southern Sector Coordinator of the coalition, said at a news conference in Accra yesterday.
However, AVRL has, refuted the coalitions’ claims, saying the company has met all of its obligations under the management contract.
AVRL Public Affairs Manager, Stanley Martey, told the Times that the company has used its technical expertise to improve the operations of GWCL particularly in water production, billing and revenue collection.
Although he admitted that the supply was not meeting the increasing demand, he said that gap could only be addressed by expanding the water treatment plants across the country, something that is not the mandate of AVRL.
Mr Adam said for months, the coalition declared an anti-AVRL campaign to put pressure on the government to cancel the contract and improve the water delivery system. Water pressure in the mains for most urban areas have been lower than the pressure levels at the time AVRL took over from the GWCL.
The GWCL and AVRL signed a management contract on June 6, 2006, under which AVRL would take over the operations segment of GWCL to produce and distribute water as well as manage revenue mobilisation.
Schedule Four of the contract enjoined AVRL to, "within six months from the commencement date, produce and maintain water quality, pressure and flow rates at all discharge points from treatment plants and throughout the distribution networks that meet all relevant standards determined by the Ghana Standards Board and consumer charter requirements."
"This has led to rationing of water by AVRL and the situation has gone beyond the 30 days period allowed in the management contract," he said to justify the need for an abrogation of the contract. Mr. Adam quoted Clause 9.2 of the contract which entitles GWCL to commence termination processes in the situation where "the operator fails to perform any of its obligations under this management contract in material respects and such failure continues for thirty days, after written notice from the grantor to the operator requesting that such failure be cured, or the operator fails to provide the services to standard level causing directly a widespread danger to the health of the public in the service area."
Water rationing and cut-offs, which he said were not the solution to the water crisis, have become rampant in the urban areas, adding that there are fears the situation would lead to an outbreak of an epidemic.
He described the performance of AVRL, three years into the five year contract, as a failure, saying "AVRL has nothing to offer than recycled excuses and the story of dry season being the hindrance to the provision of potable water to Ghanaians."
He said the fact that AVRL is still using the staff of GWCL for its operations, contrary to expectation that they would bring in "experts" to revamp the water sector, indicates that "AVRL is taking the country for a ride."
Mr. Adam said the coalition believes that GWCL has the ability to perform if it is given the financial support for the necessary investment in infrastructure development.
"Instead of paying AVRL 10 million euros, this amount could be used to replace the overaged infrastructure of GWCL," he stated.
As part of its campaign, he said the coalition will be picketing the head office of AVRL from March 11, and organise mass workplace, community and school meetings against the company.
He urged religious groups, professional bodies, trade unions and civil society groups to join the campaign to prevent a "looming disaster from occurring."
The coalition also criticised the newly launched National Water Policy, saying it attempts to entrench privatisation of the water sector, which poses a danger to the country.
Mr. Adam said the policy’s objective "to promote private sector participation in investment and management of urban water supply as a means of mobilising investment and improving overall efficiency" is not good enough since it can give the private sector a chance to exploit the water sector to the disadvantage of the poor.