IRC, CWSA and partners convene side event at CSOs-led WASH conference to share project updates.
Published on: 21/12/2022
Elmina, Ghana - IRC, in collaboration with the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Safe Water Network (SWN), and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) convened a side event at the Mole XXIII WASH Conference to share the framework and progress of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation-funded Rural Water Utilitisation Project (R-WUP) to leverage partnerships for a professionalised public utility in Ghana.
The side session attracted 50 participants drawn from over 20 organisations including ministries, departments and agencies, parliamentary select committee on WASH, development partners, international and local non-governmental organisations, private sector, academia, community-based organisations, and the media among others.
The R-WUP team of IRC, CWSA, SWN, and WSUP used the occasion to provide broad project overview and updates to the multiple stakeholders. A facilitated panel discussion led by the partners – CWSA Western Regional Director, Henry Asangba (1st from right), IRC Ghana Programme Manager, Veronica Ayi-Bonte (2nd from right), SWN Project Coordinator, Mohammed Ali Ibrahim (3rd from right) and WSUP Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Anthony Addai (4th from right), offered an opportunity for a lively interactive session around the rural water reforms, on-going and intended initiatives and how the partnership can collaborate with other stakeholders in aligning efforts towards defining processes for establishing the enabling environment framework for the reforms.
The discussion points centred mainly on the scope of the utilitisation process covering both CWSA and safe water enterprises; Investment programmes for more access and higher levels of service; and the role of districts in the reform process. The lead discussants and participants delved deep into the reforms processes and called for, i) the scope of the utilitisation process to be expanded to cover safe water enterprises as formalised service providers with needed policy and legal backing; ii) large-scale investment programmes for new schemes and to rehabilitate existing ones to achieve more access and higher levels of service; and iii) districts role in the reform should be clearly defined for proper alignment and support for the process going forward.
Some specific concerns and suggestions that came up during the deliberations include the following:
Addressing some of the issues raised, the CWSA Western Regional Director stated that CWSA has initiated policy and legal processes to become a utility and discussions are underway on how water service delivery in the rural and small-town subsector will be regulated. He said, “Capacity is key and the complexity at the district level requires professional management. There are serious illegal connections that need attention and professionalism to uncover, resolve and make the systems work. Partnerships like the R-WUP is key to helping us deal with the problem. This is a change for all of us and change is not easy but necessary if we have to achieve our national water targets sustainably.”
He expressed appreciation for the project and the opportunity to work with the partners to facilitate the transition to a utility. ”We will continue to collaborate to strengthen our systems for success within the Western region, and to eventually scale nationwide. We are learning from the partners and they are also learning from our processes,” Ing. Asanbga added.
Veronica Ayi-Bonte (in photo on the left) of IRC responded to the question of value addition of the R-WUP project, “The partnership brings on board experiences and lessons from partners in Ghana and from the African continent with respect to utility strengthening, managing safe water enterprises and supporting sector reforms and dialogue.” She added that the project is expected to improve CWSA staff knowledge and adoption of the utility reform process; increase operational efficiency and safe water access to at least 11,500 people with new or improved access to safely managed water services in rural and small towns; and improve coordination - clarity on models and partnerships for the rural water sub-sector.
Anthony Addai (in photo on the right) used WSUP's utility strengthening and diagnostic frameworks to explain how WSUP is supporting CWSA to increase operational efficiency including non-revenue water and billing and collection efficiency of the water supply systems in the Western region.
Mohammed Ali (in photo on the left) of Safe Water Network revealed that the use of smart prepared meters were being shared with CWSA to address a number of the challenges including commercial losses and also promoting household water connections, among others.
The R-WUP partnership was commended for the progress updates and stakeholders agreed that a compelling case had been made at the session – "the current state of affairs in the reform process calls for a knowledge oriented approach through partnerships that look at innovation, modelling and ways of addressing operational efficiencies whilst exploring the potential for scaling," summed up a participant.
Vida Duti, IRC Ghana country director (in photo below) stated in her closing remarks, “The COM model has been applied for over 20 years, while first time access increased, many of these systems have not been managed sustainably. Maybe the objective of ownership was obtained but capacity was clearly left behind. The question is what can we do differently? With the SDGs the required service levels have being upgraded and enhanced; and we cannot keep fixing and re-fixing – when are we going reach everyone?"
“CWSA has taken over systems that need to be fixed in a big way with needed resources. This takes time – the process of reform has been triggered and the system needs to be sanitised. Private sector interest is coming into the system - should it be a reform for only CWSA or for all partners with clarity of roles? Can CWSA handle all the systems or do they need to have partnership with others? These are key reflection points that are relevant for the reforms conversation; and we have a responsibility to support CWSA to succeed in this process of becoming utility.” She thanked all stakeholders including the honourable members of parliament for the vibrant discussions and opting to participate in the utility session.
CWSA initiated a policy reform in 2017, to expand its mandate to include the management of piped water systems in rural areas, and thus in effect become a rural utility. Four years into the reform agenda, CWSA recognises that it needs to evolve to become the provider of safe water to residents served by the about 1200 pipe water systems in Ghana.
The "Rural Water Utilisation Project" (R-WUP), Ghana, funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation aims to support the Community Water and Sanitation Agency in its growth as a professionalised public utility in Ghana and playing a stronger regulatory role within the sector in the context of rural water reforms in Ghana.
The project would support CWSA to establish an effective rural and small-town water utility model/ approach in the Western region, with strengthened capacity at the national level, which can be replicated across the country. The core implementing partners working on the project are IRC, Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Safe Water Network (SWN), and Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).