Published on: 04/12/2013
A team from Sunyani West District (SWD), Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) Brong Ahafo regional office and the Triple-S project, paid a working visit to some selected communities in the Sunyani West District in September, to find out more about the payment options being practiced and its influence on access and sustainability of service delivery.
The main payment options in use in Sunyani West are:
Pay-as-you fetch: Pay-as-you-fetch is a system where water users pay a set amount for the quantity of water they fetch immediately after fetching. The set tariff is arrived at by the community, normally through a community meeting. It is always pegged quite low to ensure that the water is affordable and accessible to all. The motive behind the selling of the water therefore is not to make profit but to make some funds available for the running of the facility and also be able to carry out routine maintenance and repair works on the facility anytime there is a breakdown. There is always a vendor who sells and collects the money. He/She renders account to the WSMT and is paid on a commission basis. These monies are kept in an account and as and when there is the need, the required amount will be withdrawn and used for the purpose.
Monthly payment/Contribution:This is the type of payment done at the end of the month. Here users do not pay for the water they fetch immediately after fetching. There is however a monthly payment or contribution that each household is required to pay at the end of each month for their water usage.The amount to be paid is usually agreed on by the community in community meetings. A member of the management team usually, the secretary, is appointed to collect the money. It is then kept in the WSMT account and withdrawals are made when necessary.
Adhoc:This system of payment, as the name suggests, is on an adhoc basis. That is how payments for water usage is made are not fixed. There are different types that fall under this description. Firstly, there is one where the community contributes upon the breakdown of the facility. The amount to be paid is arrived at based on the total cost of rehabilitating the facility. The second is the situation where upon the breakdown of a facility, members of the community will engage in an activity to generate some funds to pay for the rehabilitation. The third is the barter system. With this system, households who do not have money will contribute some foodstuff. The foodstuff is sold to generate some money.
The Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), recommends the ‘you-as-you-fetch’ system among other ‘sustainable’ payment systems. The Agency however dislikes the adhoc system because they are not sustainable and does not encourage preventive maintenance.
The Sunyani West District has a number of communities that operate the monthly and adhoc systems of payment with a few practicing the pay as you fetch.
At Kwatire, Wisdom School, Forty-One year old Mr. Benjamin Kwesi Yussif is the chairman of the WSMT. He stated that they have been practicing pay-as-you-fetch system, since the facility was constructed in 2010. He said the pay as you fetch was good and enabled the WSMT to make some savings for maintenance and repairs. According to him, WSMT had an account balance of GHC 900.00 ($450) as of the time of visit. This money is to be used for carrying out routine maintenance of the facility.
Mr. Yussif stated that the community had two boreholes fitted with handpump. According to him, the facility with a WSMT in charge of its management hardly experienced facility breakdown because of the availability of funds to undertake regular preventive maintenance. However, the other facility in the community which was being managed by a different WSMT, operates the adhoc system so sometimes, due to the non-payment on the part of users the facility breakdown very often and sometimes takes a long time to repair. Anytime this happens they move to fetch from our end and also want to fetch for free but we do not allow them and they will quarrel with the vendor at the facility. Also because there is no vendor at that facility, who will also help keep the surroundings of the facility clean, the place is always dirty’.
The second community the team visited was Abronye. The community practiced the adhoc system. As a result, there was no vendor or care taker at the facility. A member of the WSMT in the community, Elizabeth Adoko, stated that they do not sell the water so do not have money readily available in the WSMT account for repair works. However, whenever there is a breakdown they do contribution to repair. She said the reason for adopting the adhoc payment was that they live in a very rural community where the only occupation is farming. Sometimes people do not have any money at all on them so if it was sold those people would not be able to buy, they will thereby resort to unapproved sources.
She however said, the problem with the current arrangement has been the difficulty with payment of contributions whenever the facility breaks down and needs repairs. This results in facilities being down for a long time.
At Bridgeso, the last community the team visited, Braimah Somey who was the Chairman for the WSMT. The Bridgeso community is a small community with a number of satellite communities who all depend of the facility for their drinking water Mr. Braimah said they also practice the adhoc system but the problem has been with payment. He laments that people are normally unwilling to pay when the facility breaksdown and they are expected to contribute to repair it. He said this has always resulted in heated exchanges and arguments. “He said the one who collects the money is always insulted so he decided not to follow up again”. The WSMT therefore does not have any account anywhere to fall on that in case there is a breakdown. He wished the payment system will be changed into a pay-as-you-fetch system so that all the troubles associated with the current situation will be over.
The payment system option that is chosen by a community for the use of water from their facilities could affect the sustainability of service delivery from those facilities. However, even though a community cannot be forced to adopt a particular payment option, it will be best to adopt the options that will make it possible for funds to be readily available for regular preventive maintenance activities to prevent a complete breakdown of the facility, or even if there is a breakdown there will be funds available to ensure early repair of facility to prevent a long downtime to ensure sustainable delivery of service.