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10.04.2006 General News

Consortium Walks Out Of water meeting

By Public Agenda
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A short drama ensued at an arranged meeting last Friday between the National Coalition against the Privatisation of Water (NCAP) and a two-man team from Vitens/Rand Water and the Urban Water Project of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing.

Public Agenda has learnt that the management consortium of Vitens/Rand Water which won the contract to manage water in urban Ghana had called the meeting between them and NCAP to discuss issues related to the controversial water management contract.

NCAP, sensing danger that the consortium was probably up to some public relations gimmicks, quickly rallied their members and some journalists to attend the meeting at the board room of the Trades Union Congress.

It was a few minutes past 10 am and as the two-man team led by Enomil Ashong, Communications Director of the Urban Water Project walked into the board room; they found members of NCAP and journalists ready to interact with them.

After reluctantly taking their seats and without introducing themselves, Ashong openly protested against the presence of the media in what was supposed to be a one-on-one meeting with a representative of NCAP and his team. The other member of Ashong's team, a Dutch also openly protested. “We did not come to talk to the media, we thought it was a closed door meeting between us and your representative, yelled Ashong.

In a subdued manner and reminiscent of the parliamentary style walk outs, the two then stormed out of the meeting, leaving the journalists and NCAP members bemused.

Alhassan Adam of the NCAP Secretariat then took the opportunity to address the members of NCAP and the media. According to him the attitude of the pro-privatisation team shows that they have something to hide from the public. “Today, they have demonstrated that they don't want water privatization to be debated openly. If they don't want water to be debated openly, then they have no business managing water in Ghana.”

According to Adam, NCAP believes that water is a public good, so any discussion on it should be in the public domain, hence the decision to invite the media. Adam was shocked at the behaviour of Enimil Ashong, a communications expert who, he said slammed the media and instigated the walk out.

In a release last Friday NCAP said it recognizes that the walk out fits perfectly into the strategy to exclude the larger Ghanaian populace from the discussions on the new proposals on the water privatization table. “On several other occasions, the Project Management Unit (PMU) of the Urban Water Project has used all kinds of means to prevent the Coalition from speaking on a number of Public Platforms”, the release said.

NCAP says it finds it rather bizarre that, while the Dutch government passed a law in 2004 making it illegal for water privatization in the Netherlands, (whether Lease Contract, Management Contract or Concession) it had allowed its public water company - Vitens to come to Ghana to engage in the privatization of Ghana's water. “If protection is good for the Dutch public, it is equally good for the Ghanaian public”, NCAP protested.

A research paper released by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) and the University of Greenwich highlights a recent development in Holland, the home of Vitens, where a law was passed in 2004 to prevent any privately owned company from providing drinking water services to the public. The bill went through the lower chamber of parliament of Holland on December 9, 2003 and was passed into law on September 7, 2004 by the upper chamber.