Elmina, Nov 11, GNA - The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, on Friday declared that it would be "criminal and unpardonable", if money provided by the donor community for development projects, was not well utilised to have a positive impact on the lives of the people.
He assured the country's development partners, that the government was not oblivious of the need to give more attention to the water sector.
The Minister said the Ministry, was putting in place stringent measures to ensure that donor funds were not wasted on non-performing consultants in the provision of water and sanitation facilities. Mr Owusu-Agyeman was opening the 'Annual Joint Development Partners Conference on Review of Water and Sanitation' on the theme, "harmonising approaches in water and sanitation delivery", at Elmina. The four-day conference, which is being organised by the Ministry of Works and Housing is a follow up of a 'Joint Government-Development Partners Conference' held last year, aimed at measuring progress on the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) targets and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
About 50 participants, including officials of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), district assemblies, NGOs and representatives of the donor community like DANIDA, the European Union, World Bank, German Technical Cooperation and CIDA, are attending. The Minister, assured the partners, that the government was aware that donor funds in support of the country, was from their taxpayers and would therefore by very well used and said that a technical team had been established at the Ministry to ensure the proper execution of projects.
He reiterated the determination of the government to attain a set target of 85 per cent of rural water supply by the year 2015, under the Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for rural water supply, as against the MDG's target of 73 per cent.
Mr Owusu-Agyeman allayed concerns raised by the Danish Ambassador, Mr Flemming Pedersen, on behalf of the Development Partners, that the country may not be able to achieve this target, and stressed that 85 per cent coverage, was not an ambitious programme, because the government was focused on enhancing potable water supply for the people. "We can and we will", he declared and called for the support of the partners, adding that, it was also towards the successful implementation of reforms within the sector, that Cabinet, had given approval for the Ministry, to be changed soon to the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, stressing "there is something in a name".
He enumerated water projects being carried out in the Central Region and stressed that in order to curb the expensive cost of water in urban communities, improvement of water systems in Tamale, Sunyani, Wa and Koforidua, would also be tackled by the end of the year.
According to him, in line with its objective of comprehensive water supply in both urban and rural areas, the government was availing itself of the opportunities being offered under the various water supply initiatives, such as ECOWAS, EU, World Bank and NEPAD. The Minister also allayed concerns expressed by Mr Pederson, about the low government financial support to the CWSA and attributed the situation to budgetary constraints.
Mr Owusu-Agyeman expressed concern about inconsistencies in the reported incidence of Guinea Worm in the country and said he had directed the Water Directorate of the Ministry to contact the Ministry of Health on the issue.
He expressed optimism that when the country begins to enjoy the benefits of the debt forgiveness by the G8 countries next year, more attention would be given to water and sanitation facilities.
Mr Pedersen, had called on the government to increase its domestic financing of rural water and sanitation services and to move away from the current situation where 90 per cent of investment in rural water supply, as well as most of the funds for the urban sector were provided by the development partners.
According to him, a significant increase in government contribution would be a strong indicator that donor support, would be sustainable. He said it was imperative for the sector to make significant progress in the provision of efficient and sustainable water supply to un-served and under-served urban population, to curb the sale of water at prohibitive prices by vendors.
Mr Pedersen, however, acknowledged the "steady progress" being made in the reform of urban water supply and urged all stakeholders to work towards "the collective goal of improving access to safe, affordable and efficient water delivery in Ghana's cities and towns". On improvement of sanitation, he urged the Ministry to collaborate with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and suggested the setting up of a Sanitation Directorate at the MLGRD, to "provide leadership in the struggle to increase construction and use of household latrines".
The Minister of Public Sector Reform, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, catalogued several attempts over the past years to reform the public sector and said these had among others, been hindered by weak political direction and support and lack of commitment by the leadership of the targeted public institutions.
"The reforms have been largely consultant-driven. There have been a lack of counterparts to whom skills could be transferred and there was no leadership to ensure the implementation and sustainability of proposed changes. We are determined to solve these problems this time around," he pledged.
Dr Nduom, pointed out that although reform was a continuous process, there was the need for tangible, visible and positive results, and said that attaining the objectives of the conference, required commitment and effective collaboration from the government and donors. He said there was also the need to relate the proposed National Water Policy to the Public Sector Reform Programme to ensure successful implementation.
Dr Nduom announced that a 'special sanitation initiative fund' had been approved to promote sanitation in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA) district.
The Central Regional Minister, Mr Isaac Edumadze, underscored the importance of potable water and good sanitation and thanked the development partners for their support. Last year, the CWSA, provided a total of 2,098 boreholes, but had to scale down the number to 1,152 this year, due to delays in project implementation.
According to the Acting Chief Executive of the CWSA, Mr Robert Van-Ess, the Agency hopes to provide 3,000 boreholes next year.