Private Water Suppliers Kick Against Gov’t Free Water Directive

The Water and Sanitation Minister The Water and Sanitation Minister

The Association of Small Towns Water Supply Systems-Ghana, has served notice its members, would not heed to President Akufo-Addo's directive to supply free water to the general public, as part of government's arrangement to ease the suffering of citizens, amidst the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Association, it is unable to oblige the President's request delivered by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta during last month's mid-year budget review, because government, has failed to pay huge debts owed members of the Association.

It said, they have desperately sought a meeting with the Water and Sanitation Minister, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, but she has refused to meet with them.

"The Association wishes to state categorically that until government pays the bills submitted fully for the first three months ending June 2020, WSMTs [Water and Sanitation Management Teams (WSMTs)] will not be able to continue with the free water to consumers".

This means that, members of the public, who depend on members of the Association for potable water, will have to purchase their water.

In a strongly worded statement signed by its President and Secretary sighted by The Herald, members of the Association, including the Water and Sanitation Management Team and Private Water Providers under the Community Ownership and Management (COM) concept, disclosed that government has failed to pay its debt owed them after they supplied the first free water package between April to June.

It argued, it will be impossible for these companies to continue to offer their service to Ghanaiansespecially when their systems are on electricity prepaid metering.

They queried how they were going to continue to fund their operations when government which they are working for, is playing adamant.

"Asking the water systems to continue the free water for three more months' whiles most of the water systems are on electricity prepaid metering, how can they produce water without money. In addition, the water systems pay staff salaries, vendors' commissions and maintain the water systems from proceeds of water sales which maybe the government is not aware of", the statement said.

Members decried government in its quest to give these freebies to Ghanaians failed to consult them, adding that effort by the leadership to draw it attention to the obvious disregard, was ignored by the sector Minister.

"The WSMTs were NOT consulted, yet it directed and instructed all Small Water Systems to comply with the directive by the president. The leadership of the Association sought audience with the sector Minister but was denied without reason", it said.

The Association maintains it will honour the President directive only, when government settles the three months water, it members supplied to Ghanaians.

The notice from the private water providers, comes barely two week after the Finance Minister, announced the second phase of government's free water and electricity supply to Ghanaians.

Meanwhile, the recently announced free water and electricity announced on July 23, 2020, has been ridiculed as an attempt by the government to indirectly buy votes as the December 2020 polls draw nearer.

The reliefs first announced in April 2020 by President Akufo-Addo during the COVID-19 induced lockdown of Accra, Kumasi, Tema and Kasoa, was ostensibly to beat down the repercussion of the lockdown.

But the Association, says after it played it part of the bargain, government has refused to pay them their moneys informing their current position that until it settles what has been supplied, it will not go ahead with the recent directive by the Finance Minister.

"Further to this, members of the press, the government is yet to pay the water bills for the free water we provided for the months of April, May and June".

The Association of Small Towns Water Supply Systems-Ghana is also surprised that government did not know the difference between privately-owned and community-owned operated systems and water systems being managed by Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA).

The group was disappointed government yielded to a strategy by the agencysimply because it is struggling for recognition from the government.

Until recently, government from 2000, was responsible for the payment of water bills of all state institutions however, from 2007, all the way to 2012, successive governments failed to pay the outstanding institutional water bills submitted by the Small Towns Water Systems to date, after several requests and appeals.

It is as a result of this, that the Association is serving notice it will no longer offer it services to government with regards to the free water directive, until it pays it debt to the Association's members.