|Ing. Kwaku Godwin Dovlo, MD, GWCL|
Ghana government’s directive to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and their auxiliary institutions to now pay their own utility bills effective January 2014, has finally come into full force this August 1 in the Northern Region.
Public Relations Officer of state-run Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) in charge of the Northern Region, Nicholas Nii-Abbey told Savannahnews, that over three hundred (300) auxiliary public institutions have been identified under all the MMDAs and MDAs and served with official notices to comply with the directive. Failure by any institution to comply with the directive means that, they would have their water disconnected and possibly prosecuted.
According to Nii-Abbey, some of these institutions include basic, second cycle and tertiary schools, hospitals, government departments and agencies, the police, military, immigration, prisons and CEPS barracks among others.
Previously, government through the Ministry of Finance paid the utility bills of all MMDAs and MDAs directly to the utility companies in Accra through the top level management. However, following the issuance of guidelines in preparing the 2014-2016 budgets for all MDA’s and MMDA’s, government directed that with effective January 2014, all MMDAs and MDAs and their auxiliary institutions should pay their own utility bills which cover water and electricity.
The directive by the Ministry of Finance made available to Savannahnews reads in part: “Sufficient budget allocation should be made for the payment of utilities by all MMDAs and MDAs since no centralized budget would be allocated for payment of these bills. Also, all MMDAs and MDAs are to comply with the directive of installing prepaid meters in all MMDAs and MDAs”.
Currently, all schools in the region are to start paying their water bills to the GWCL directly by the end of every month beginning from August 2014, Nii-Abbey said, adding “security agencies such as the military, police and other key institutions like the hospitals will also be met in a stakeholders’ forum later this month to discuss the way forward on how they’ll pay their arrears”.
He disclosed that, as at May 2014, the total arrears of government to the GWCL in the Northern Region alone was over GH¢6million, and as at July ending, it amounted to GH¢8million. “If you add the total debt owed by government to the debt owed by other private customers, it is over a tune of GH¢14million”, he emphasised.
Nii-Abbey observed that, the major challenge in dealing with the implementation of this policy directive is about how to recoup all outstanding arrears of some of the institutions which were accumulated over a period of six and eight months within the shortest time. However, the good side about the policy, he said, is also about the fact that many institutions will now learn to use water judiciously in order to avoid any accumulation of bills and possible disconnection.
The GWCL Public Relations Officer also appealed to citizens and residents of the region to refrain from using treated water to wash their cars and water their lawns during dry season and instead, harvest rain water during the rainy season for that purpose. He sought to say that, even if one can pay for his/her water bill at the end of every month, it is not prudent for anyone to use treated water to wash vehicles and water lawns because there are alternatives for that practice and if possible could be avoided.
Meanwhile, about 32 people who were recently caught by the GWCL for stealing water to run their homes and businesses are due for prosecution this month after they all failed to pay various fines meted out to them. The least fine is GH¢140.00 whereas the highest fine is about GH¢1,200.00. But, overall, the total fine is GH¢17,343.11, Nii-Abbey told this reporter.