Tunisia, Egypt inspire Ghana workers

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From the Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra):

Tunisia, Egypt Type of Agitations Echo at GWCL

2 February 2011

Workers of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) are at loggerheads with Aqua Vitens Rand Limited (AVRL), a South African company which entered into a management contract with the government in 2005 to manage and operate the country’s urban water systems, over alleged non-performance, insisting the company packs bag and baggage.

The reason for the workers agitation is that AVRL, as the operator, is the sole collector of revenue from customers, and operates a revenue collection account, in which all amounts received from customers and any other revenue is lodged.

The company only pays money quarterly into a GWCL account, after payment of operating expenses, and the expenses are not known to the Water Company. Worst of all, AVRL has the the exclusive right to access the money without the involvement of the management of the GWCL, as per the management contract.

A Chronicle source, who spoke to this reporter yesterday, alleged that the work of the GWCL had been reduced to only supervising AVRL in the performance of its obligations under the management contract, making the it look like a toothless bulldog.

According to the source, even though the GWCL is supposed to supervise AVRL in the performance of its work, the operator was not answerable to the water company.

It was also gathered that the overall objective of the contract, signed on 22 November 2005, was to restore the GWCL to a sound financial footing, and make a significant improvement in the commercial operations of the company, a purpose which has been defied since the fortunes of the GWCL keep dwindling.

A visit to the offices of AVRL on Tuesday afternoon to find out from the Communications Department about the future of the company, and what the situation was currently, since the five-year contract expires in May, clearly shows that activities at the once busy office are virtually at a halt, with staff members idling.

The Chronicle was told Mr. Stanley Martey, External Communications Manager of the company, was absent together with his deputy, and that all officials in the Communications Department were not available.

When The Chronicle asked if there was someone available who could comment on the issue, the paper was told there was no one.

The Chief Manager in charge of Public Relations of the GWCL, when contacted on phone yesterday, said he was out of the country, and was too busy at that time to make any comment.

Meanwhile, the main entrance of the AVRL office has a big banner, laced with red bands, with an inscription “AVRL must go for non-performance,” depicting the seriousness of the workers.

It will be recalled that in December 2004, the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Water Resources Works and Housing, invited interested firms to submit bids on a five-year management contract, which included the operating and maintenance of 80 urban water systems located throughout the country.

In 2005, the bidding process was completed, and on behalf of the government, the GWCL signed a management contract on 22 November 2005 with Vitens Rand BV of Netherlands, a consortium of Vitens International BV of the Netherlands and Rand Water Services of South Africa.

Commencement date of the management contract was 6 June 2006, for a 5-year period.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Water Resources Works and Housing, Alban Bagbin, according to a Joy FM report, has stated that the government would announce by the end of this year, whether to continue or sever its relationship with AVRL.

According to the report, the Minister said an independent body had been set up to assess the performance of Aqua Vitens, and that it was due to submit its report, which would form the basis of the government’s decision.

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