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09.12.2005 General News

Ghana Water Company's problem is political interference

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Accra, Dec. 9, GNA - The Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE) on Friday said the problem facing Ghana Water Company (GWC) was not that of poor management but political interference and archaic equipment at the water pumping plants.

It said unlike Volta River Authority, where the Chief Executive reported directly to the President, GWC was under an inadequately resourced Ministry, which had over the years not done any significant rehabilitation works on the equipment of the Company.

Dr Robert Adjaye, President of the GhIE and Mr Willie Apatu, immediate past President of the GhIE, were speaking to the Ghana News Agency on the debate about the 100 million dollars five-year water management contract awarded to foreign companies.

Dr Adjaye stated that political interference rather than poor management was responsible for the bane of GWC, saying that the Company had been denied the level of independence and resources it needed to develop and deliver efficient service over the years.

"The Ministry determines the budget allocation for the Company and, therefore, could decide that there was no money to repair or replace equipment even though it was cardinal to the efficiency of the Company," he said.

He noted the expatriates would have the opportunity of managing rehabilitated GWC, unlike the Ghanaian management that had to sit on archaic equipment for years and be blamed for the inefficiency of the system.

"We need to take a critical look at the way we are quick to bring in expatriates and pay them exorbitant fees with the taxpayers' money and make things easy for them to do what our own people could have done with a little resource support," he said.

Mr Apatu said Ghanaian engineers were ready to deliver on major national contracts, from design, construction to finish levels, but the Government did not challenge them enough.

He explained that the Government policy favoured expatriate engineers more than Ghanaian engineers and this created the impression that Ghanaians engineers were incompetent and not capable to deliver on major road and other contracts.

"Government needs to be a little more nationalistic in the award of major contracts to ensure that capable Ghanaian engineers benefited from major contracts and kept the funds in the country.

"Government must publish major contract opportunities early enough to give local engineering companies ample time to put ourselves together and present our bid for the challenge to undertake such projects." Mr Apatu cited the upcoming CAN 2008 tournament in Ghana, saying that foreign-owned engineering companies were undertaking all engineering works for the rehabilitation of existing stadiums and the construction of new ones in Tamale, Takoradi and Cape Coast.

He said the contracts were awarded on turnkey basis, which implied that the winner of the contract should bring his own money, design, construct and then handover to the government to be repaid in instalments. Such a policy, he added, did not favour local engineering firms.

"Government could have challenged Ghanaian engineering firms by sourcing the funds for us to do the design and construct so that most of the benefit, will remain in the country to benefit everybody," he said.

Mr Apatu noted that governments were usually too quick to resort to expatriates for major engineering works and that was not going down well with Ghanaian engineers.

He said Ghanaian engineers were world acclaimed and had the reputation of making significant contributions to the design and construction of some major projects in the developed world, but it was unfortunate that in their own country, they were not trusted and even challenged to deliver.

"This attitude of governments towards local professionals is not limited to engineers alone but to the whole spectrum of businesses in this country."

He noted that most of the expatriate-managed contracts around the country were actually executed by Ghanaian engineers, except for the designs that were by the expatriates.

He called on the government to, for instance, publish business opportunities that existed in the forthcoming CAN 2008 tournament to enable local businesses in hospitality, security, journalism, tourism, engineering and other areas to prepare to benefit from them.