Story: Caroline Boateng and Cara Fanning
Essential Services Platform (Platform) today reminded President John Evans Atta Mills of his promise to abrogate the contract of Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL) and asked him to fulfil that promise.
They said during one of the presidential debates prior to the December 7, 2008 election, President Mills categorically stated that he did not believe in the private sector providing water.
His sentiments, it said, was later reiterated by Ms Hannah Tetteh during an open forum held with the political parties.
Essential Services Platform brings together coalitions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in water, sanitation, health, and education.
At a press conference key leaders of the Platform said the demand to abrogate the contract was because AVRL had not achieved targets set by the management contract under which they operated.
From a technical audit report of AVRL, an October 2008 report by AVRL and a World Bank Sixth Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC) report of May 2008, the platform listed several challenges of the water sector.
Key was the fact that AVRL lacked the capacity to test for pesticides, lead, mercury and arsenic in water supply.
The Platform said delays in replacing old pipelines were a major source of the contamination of the water supplies in La which affected mostly the poor or disconnected, who were forced to use the contaminated water, as AVRL’s own report indicated.
It also argued that what clean water was provided was not enough as “only three pumps are available” at the Kpong pumping station, and the three pumps subject to extra routine maintenance because of problems with their electric motors.
Conditions at Weija station were worse, it said quoting the AVRL report which admitted to faulty technology at both the Kpong and Weija pumping stations.
Importantly, it also highlighted the fact that AVRL was using second hand water meters from Holland, which had to be repaired and set to the Ghanaian specifications and that so far only 5,417 of the 40,000 water meters were currently being worked on.
The Platform also criticises the disbursement of only $38.22 million of the $103 million provided by the World Bank for the Urban Water Project.
It was particularly concerned as the indicators for investment in water facilities in the rural water supply have shown a decline recently, according to the World Bank, and the intention of this money was to replace old pipelines and machinery in order to improve water production.
The “rapid accumulation of solid waste” in drains, alleyways, and road sides was also labelled a “health hazard” and a possible contributor to the cholera outbreak which has infected 1,034 people between August 2008 and January 2009 and taken the lives of 8 people.
It also brought to light the severe lack of improved toilet facilities and the connecting of toilets to drains.
The platform highlighted transportation of patients during referrals from one health facility to another and said that ambulance services had to be made a key service under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
On education, it said raging debate on the number of years for senior high school students was misguided.
What was important was the provision of extra teachers and building their capacity to take care of pupils regardless of the number of years spent in schools.
That would involve motivating teachers posted to towns and villages outside major cities in the country.
Other demands made were for the government to increase its investments in the essential services, such as, education, health, water and sanitation and for the NHIS to bear the cost of anti-retroviral drugs in fulfilment of pledges in the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) manifesto.
DAILY GRAPHIC, SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2009, 9G 18