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18.01.2007 Business & Finance

Ghana Water Company workers agitated over AVRL contract

By myjoyonline
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Workers of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) are reportedly contemplating a strike to force Government to abrogate a contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd (AVRL), a private company contracted by the government to revamp the operations of GWCL.

According to the Ghanaian Times, the workers' discontentment with the performance of AVRL which took over the operations of GWCL six months ago has resulted in mounting tension among the GWCL staff.

The situation is said to be compounded by the workers further accusation of the GWCL management of reneging on its promise of increased salaries.

The Times said its investigations revealed that the leaders of the GWCL local unions across the country were to meet next week to assess the performance of the operator during the past six months.

Some of the workers the Times said it spoke to in Accra confirmed the planned meeting and called for immediate action on the alleged poor performance of the private operator who they also accused of not being able to develop any strategic plan to improve the company's operations.

Some of the 241 staff of the GWCL seconded to the private operator were also said to be aggrieved and accused the company of ripping off GWCL and the Government because it had not introduced anything new to improve the performance of the GWCL.

Last month, the management of the private company reportedly met with the seconded staff at the Accra East regional office where, according to the Times, it asked the staff to submit proposals for the improvement of GWCL's operational performance.

That request was said to have further infuriated the staff who were of the view that the private company was brought in to help solve the company's problems and not to ask the local staff for ideas.

Each of the eight foreign managers of Aqua Vitens Rand was said to be receiving a monthly salary of ¢270 million from the project funds provided by the World Bank as a loan to the country.

However, the Times said further investigations had revealed that the management of GWCL itself was not happy with the performance of the private company and was seriously thinking of reviewing the contract.

The disappointment stemmed from the private operator's alleged inability to develop any strategic plan for the improvement of the company's operations after six months of its involvement in the sector.

All it was able to do was the submission of reports of an inventory of operational problems affecting the GWCL throughout the regions.

The Times said it learnt from a source close to the GWCL management that some management staff had expressed reservations about the performance of the private company because the "management wants a strategic plan for progress and not an inventory of problems which are already known."

Most GWCL management officials were however tight-lipped over the performance of the private operator.

Meanwhile, the management of the GWCL had written to the managers of Aqua Vitens Rand to stop using the company's staff for its operations, which they said contravened the contract.

The Rev. S.L. Lamptey, Chief Administrative Manager confirmed the management's receipt of the reports and its ultimatum to the private operator to revert the GWCL staff being used as operating staff to the seconded staff category.

Under a five year contract signed between the GWCL and Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd on November 22, 2005, a number of GWCL staff with the required competence were to be seconded to the private company and paid from the revenue funds of GWCL.

The private company, a joint venture established by a Dutch water company, Vitens International BV and a South African water firm, Rand Water Services (Pty) was also required to recruit its own staff for operations who were to be paid from the private company's resources

However about 24 of the seconded staff drafted by the private company into its operations were still being paid by the GWCL in breach of the contract.

In addition, some of the seconded staff had reportedly been transferred by the private operator without consulting the GWCL management as provided by the contract.

The GWCL management had therefore given the private company up to January 31, to look for its own operator staff and stop using those from the GWCL.

The Times said it learned from Mr. Stanley Martey, Public Relations Manager for the Aqua Vitens Rand, that the workers' accusations were misplaced because there had been considerable improvement in operations of the GWCL.

He stated that the contract was on course, saying that a strategic framework had been developed and its full implementation was about to start.

Mr. Mintah Aboagye, Director of Water Directorate at the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, told the Times that the Ministry was yet to assess the performance of the private operator.

The GWCL, which was playing the monitoring role, would have to submit a review report to the ministry to enable it to do a meaningful assessment, he said.

Mr. Michael Agyeman, Chief Public Relations Officer of GWCL, when contacted said it was too early to comment on the performance of Aqua Vitens Rand since the company was "yet to start actual operations" to improve efficiency in the GWCL's operations.