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SALWACO BOSS SPEAKS ON WATER TRANSFORMATION

The youthful Director of Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) Samuel Bangura has recently said in Freetown that his priority in the water transformation process in the country is to restructure the WASH sector.

The erudite Director disclosed that institutions in the WASH sector are undergoing massive transformation as encompassed in the National Water and Sanitation Policy.

Samuel Bangura made the disclosure during the recent discussion on the 2015 Budget Discussion at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, when advancing reasons for Government to see the significance of supporting the parastatal to provide more funds for the institution.

According to Samuel Bangura, “If SALWACO is supported adequately the issue of water-borne diseases will go away.”

He added that, “Sierra Leone has been struggling with cholera and other water-borne diseases over the years because of the problem of providing clean and safe water for communities.’’

Samuel Bangura furthered that the current Ebola outbreak depends so much on water supply as without water much would not be achieved in combating the disease, adding that all healthcare facilities in the country use abundant water at this period of the outbreak.

He maintained that the Ebola fight will not be won if there is no water in treatment centers and hospitals across the country, noting that the broad rural sub-sector policy is to improve health and alleviate poverty of the rural population through improved access to adequate safe water.

Prior to the launch of the National Water and Sanitation Policy in 2011, the institutional framework for the sector was disjointed. In the past, water was viewed as an abundant free commodity and consequently, little attention was paid to the different uses and users. As a result of this, coupled with the rapid disorderly urbanization, water was increasingly becoming scarce and of inferior quality. With little coordination amongst stakeholders, water resources were being used in a non-optional and unsustainable manner.

Before now, institutional arrangements for the sector were far and in between as there were conspicuous absence of Government bodies to carry out policy and regulatory functions.

There also were overlapping service delivery mandate between the Ministry of Energy and Water Resource, Water Supply Division, the two public water utilities, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s Environmental Sanitation Unit, and Local Councils.

There was also no clear mandate for private sector WASH service delivery. It is against this backdrop that activity gaps be filled and eliminate those institutional overlaps that fundamental institutions’ reforms in the WASH sectors is underway.

The institutional reforms in the WASH sector in Sierra Leone are underway for three main reasons as follows: there were an absence of Government entities mandated to carry out policy and regulations at the national and local levels; no clarity about the mandate between entities at national and local levels; and, no clarity about the role of the private sector in WASH service delivery.

Establish the National Water Resources Management Agency - a resource regulator. Internal restructuring of Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC): keeping GVWC as a state owned enterprise but transforming the utility into a profitable customer focused entity.

Reforming the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) - defining the utility as a commercial entity with an expanded remit in urban water and sewage provision outside Freetown, and a knowledge service role in rural supply.

Support to existing structures in local councils for WASH Planning and Financial Management and local coordination.

There is much that is needed and people need to know about new institutions being created. The electricity and water regulatory commission, both the National Energy Policy and the National Water and Sanitation Policy highlighted the need for economic regulation of service delivery which is only possible if utilities can recover their lifetime recurrent costs through tariff and fees, and that utilities must be regulated to ensure charges to the consumer are fair, and that there is scope for competition between providers.

In order to regulate, there is need to be legislation, hence the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission Act.  Te Act provides a clear mandate for the utility regulator, the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission, to regulate electricity, water supply and sewage service. The Act gives clear guidance on the staffing structure, administrative arrangements and budget.

The reason why the Government of Sierra Leone opted to set a multi-sector regulator to deal with both electricity and water supply was because of the advantage of economies of scale, cost efficiency and resistance to sector capture.

The current situation on water resources management underlines the fact that an integrated water resources management approach is needed to ensure that water does not become a constraint to national development.

For information on WASH issues in Sierra Leone, visit the WASH sector learning website, on ww.washlearningssl.net.

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Water

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