GWCL Ordered To Review Prepaid Meter Policy

After weeks of public anger, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Water Resources, Works and Housing has told the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) to “review” plans to pilot a new policy aimed at introducing pre-paid meters for potable water. The Committee issued the directive at a crunch meeting prompted by public outrage over the proposed policy, described by critics as insensitive to the poor in Ghana. “They [GWCL] are going back to the drawing board on the…pilot program that they want to do,” Chairman of the Committee, David Tetteh Assumeng, told this reporter after Thursday’s meeting with officials of the water company. “What we are asking them to do is to come back and tell us the details about that arrangement…” Mr. Assumeng said the Committee’s stance should not be misconstrued to mean that lawmakers are opposed to the idea of using pre-paid meters to boost income collection in the water sector. He said, “Water is life and we will not want to compromise over efficient delivery of water to our people, but we are saying that this is not the time for us to begin to talk as to whether pre-paid metering system is good or bad. They should go back to the drawing board…. We are asking that they should review their program.” The Committee, he added, wants to know “where” the policy will be piloted and “how” it will be piloted. The Shai-Osudoku NDC MP said, “What we saw today shows that the current [pilot program] is not feasible, so they are now going to …come out with a new” program. The meeting did not agree on a specific date for officials of the GWCL to return to Parliament with details of their revised pilot program for scrutiny, but Mr. Assumeng told this reporter that the company must work with a sense of urgency. The Parliamentary Committee’s stance came more than a week after the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing issued a statement in support of GWCL’s proposal to introduce prepaid meters for commercial and industrial water consumption. Signed by Alhaji Collins Dauda, the Sector Minister, the statement said “the GWCL does not intend, at this moment, to apply the same policy to residential and domestic consumers”. The Minister said efficient monitoring of water usage by commercial and industrial customers, aided by well-timed charging and payment of bills would enhance the capability of the GWCL to produce and supply safe potable water to the Ghanaian market. At Thursday’s meeting with lawmakers, top management of the Water Company echoed the Ministry’s stance, but members of the Parliamentary Committee insisted that the company’s proposed pilot program “is not feasible” and must be reviewed. “You cannot come and put prepaid [meter] in Adenta for example when water does not flow there,” David Oppong Kusi, Ranking Member on the Committee told this reporter after the meeting attended by Alhaji Collins Dauda. But the NPP MP explained that the Committee is not entirely rejecting the idea of introducing prepaid meters into the water sector to improve revenue collection. “We cannot sit here and say don’t pilot,” Mr. Oppong-Kusi said. “If you don’t pilot anything you will never know the benefit or otherwise…We believe that public education is key on this”. A number of civil society groups, including the Integrated Social Development Center (ISODEC), have slammed the proposed policy as amounting to “punishing people for being poor”. In a recent interview, Coordinator of the Center, Dr Steve Manteaw, told Citi FM: “I don’t see how introducing prepaid metering solves that investment needs; because the technical audit of Ghana Water Company itself shows that they are losing 40 percent of their treated water through burst pipes, illegal connections, over spills and leakages at their production sites...”