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Opinions of Monday, 20 January 2014

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Prepaid Water Metering Is Half A Problem Solved

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

While I wholeheartedly agree with IMANI-Ghana's Vice-President, Mr. Kofi Bentil, that the topmost priority of the Ghana Water Company (GWC) ought to be effective management of water distribution, nonetheless, the decision by the GWC to ensure that consumers pay for water accessibility beforehand, is a step in the right direction (See "Prepaid Water Project, Wrong Priority for GWC - IMANI" / 1/16/14).

The problem, though, is that in situation's where prepaid service is not promptly delivered, the Ghana Water Company may find itself inundated with lawsuits; and when this happens, the GWC would find its revenue collection system further complicated, and its prepaid-metering supply regime counterproductive. What this means is that the prepaid-metering system ought to be implemented in consonance with a remarkable upgrading of the means by which its water resources are distributed.

I don't quite know how the general water-economy of the country presently operates, but it clearly appears to me that the best way to foster efficiency is to introduce competition, whereby other private companies are strongly encouraged to enter the field, with water supply throughout the country being divided into discrete market zones. For instance, there could be created by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) three or five water-supply zones in the country, to be regulated by PURC as follows: zone one, Greater-Accra Region; zone two, Eastern, Central and Volta regions; zone three, Western and Brong-Ahafo regions; zone four, Asante Region; zone five, Northern Region; and zone six, Upper-East and Upper-West regions.

Rules could then be established by PURC regarding the number of zones in which any particular water-supply company could operate, with the main objective being the prevention of undue monopoly. It cannot be gainsaid that a central part of the evidently gross administrative and/or managerial incompetence of the Ghana Water Company stems from the fact of the latter's not being faced with the kinds of healthy competition that breeds efficiency and innovativeness.

The up-side of such competition, as it were, is the likely remarkable reduction in the prices of utility services. Such strategic planning could also drive in the kind of industrial investment that appears to be currently lacking in the sector. The same system/regime could be set up for the supply and distribution of electricity. In this equally critical sector, also, the government could decide to sell power to several electricity companies at heavily discounted, but profitable, rates which could then be distributed by officially licensed companies in good standing and with credible reputation and managerial competence in the sector.

It cannot be gainsaid that the efficient use of our national water resources is likely to drastically meliorate the supply and demand headache that presently plagues the system. Of course, the success of such a system would be further enhanced by implementing policies that will be apt to effectively reduce contractual nepotism, and where such problems arise, prompt and deterrent punitive measures applied.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of English
Nassau Community College of SUNY
Garden City, New York
Jan. 16, 2014