Sierra Leone: Water problems continue to plague freetown

Access to water in Freetown still poses a serious challenge. Some areas have not seen pipe borne water for ages, while some areas go months without water. As for areas that fall under the distribution purview, supply remains inconsistent.

Furthermore, there are lots of broken spaghetti pipes, causing wastage of the already limited amount of water available in an outdated dam.

The problem is further compounded when some consumers refuse to pay for the services on the grounds that services are subpar and far below expectations.

“For the past 10 years people are refusing to pay for the water they are using… our capability decreases because we were unable to collect enough revenue to buy the necessary chemicals needed for the treatment of water; to mend broken pipes and other repairs,” said the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC).

However as part of the its Institutional Strengthening Program, GVWC has organized a two-day seminar for water sector stakeholders on economic regulation at the Sierra Light house hotel, Aberdeen. The meeting aims at strengthening water policy and tariff modeling.

In his statement, the GVWC Managing Director, Bankie Mansaray said the seminar is another activity on the Water Sector Reform Project under the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) Threshold Programme.

Adding that it was organized by the GVWC with technical assistance from Adam Smith International (ASI), the consultants on the Institutional Strengthening activity which is aimed at strengthening the Guma Valley Water Company’s capacity to perform core business functions and comply with emerging regulatory requirements developed under the Regulatory Strengthening Project.

“As you may be aware, the water supply situation in Freetown has proved to be very challenging over the last two decades. In fact, a greater concern has been the absence of a sector policy that provides guidelines on the management of such a vital resource. The institutional set up for efficient water resource management was also a major concern. However, in the last decade there has been considerable effort by government to address the policy, operational and institutional bottlenecks in the sector,” he explained.

In 2010, the Managing Director said, “the National Water and Sanitation Policy was developed, clearly identifying the challenges and the path to address current and emerging issues in the sector.”

Unfortunately, he noted “in spite of all the great ideas and high expectations, the successful implementation of this policy was restricted by the provisions of the existing legislations in the sector.” Pointing out that a review of these legislations was therefore necessary to provide the flexibility, required for the implementation of this policy.

He stressed that in order to improved sector performance, major legislative reforms were made by the government. “Worthy of note is the enactment of the GVWC Act 2017, which prescribed major changes in the institutional and operational context, and also an expansion of scope and responsibility.”

The MD said is expectation is to have constructive broad base discussions on a wide range of water service delivery policies and tariff options. “We will be looking at tariff setting as a very important Water management tool that often provides the framework on which policy decisions in the sector can be anchored.”

ASI Team Leader, Ken Wight explained that when the government decides to deregulate utilities – electricity and water- regulator was setup that would determine the value for money, and the cost of investment and the true cost. “So everybody now has to comply to an investment programme that would allow the programme of investment to go ahead and at the same time it has to address on behalf of the donors pro poor strategies in order to get people have access to water.”

He added “… it is proven people want access and we are now working on a very large programme in a number of areas where we are building kiosks.”

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