Over 50 percent of Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) customers do not pay their water bills regularly, a recent study has found.
The irregularity of payment by these customers affects the ability of GWCL to carry out scheduled repairs and replacement of aged and obsolete equipment, pipelines and other critical assets, according to the study tiled ‘Water Access, Billing Issues and Policy’.
Already, analyses of customers’ debt balances from five regions in the 2021 Auditor General’s report disclosed that some customers owing GWCL a total amount of GH¢11.18million had not made any payment over a considerable period; yet they continue to enjoy water supply, and no effort was made to ensure collection of these debts owed the company.
The Auditor General’s report noted that the failure of management to institute “aggressive measures” to collect the debt owed by these customers “will put a strain on liquidity of the regions and the company at large”.
“The accounts receivable balances will have been overstated or enhanced by this seemingly uncollectible amount, and this ultimately inflates the size of the balance sheet,” it added.
Presenting the study’s findings at a water policy workshop in Accra – organised by the Environment and Natural Resource Research Initiative (ENRRI), one of the 15 research centres of the EFD – Professor Anthony Amoah, Dean, School of Sustainable Development-UESD, called for strategic collaborative efforts to address the challenge that threatens to plunge GWCL into a vicious cycle of inefficiency and ballooning debt.
“Over 50 percent of customers are not paying bills regularly, and that’s very sad. If we don’t take care, this will plunge them into a cycle of poverty and debt whereby they will struggle to pay their debt and give us good supply,” he told the B&FT on the workshop sidelines.
The study was a collaboration between the University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD), Environment for Development Ghana (EFD) and GWCL.
Asked what he thought causes customers to not pay their bills, he blamed the situation on the billing system being postpaid in nature.
“From the evidence we saw it’s attitudinal, and also as result of forgetfulness due to the billing system’s postpaid nature. If you send them a bill and they have already consumed, sometimes they forget about the fact that they have to pay,” he said.
On water quality, Professor Amoah said the time has come for government and the citizenry to launch a holistic fight against illegal mining to protect the country’s water-bodies.
He said about 99 percent of the GWCL customers interviewed during the study complained about the quality of water they are getting.
“They are complaining about quality of their water in different forms. Some are complaining because of odour, some because of taste, some because of colour; it’s only one percent that didn’t complain, and that’s also a major problem,” he said.
He added: “And to be frank with you, we need not be playing politics and toil with the situation. It’s getting very serious, and if we don’t take care a time is coming when Ghanaians will hit the streets demanding their right to access water and sanitation. It’s about time policy-makers start opening up the discussion so we can have an all-inclusive strategy toward mitigating these problems”.
Participants of the workshop were drawn from the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI); Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL)’ UESD; University of Ghana (UG), Legon; Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development; the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, and other research institutions.