Access to water increased from 40% to 58% in Sierra Leone – says minister Tengbe

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 September 2019:

The inaugural meeting of the newly constituted Board of the Guma Valley Water Company was held last Thursday, September 19, 2019, at its headquarters in Guma Building, Freetown.

Chaired by the Minister of Water Resources – Dr. Jonathan Bonapha Tengbe, last week’s Board meeting is the company’s first to be held under President Bio’s New Direction government, since the previous board was dissolved last year by the president.

Speaking at the Board meeting, Minister Tengbe said that Guma Valley Water Company is one of the most important entities in the country, given its responsible for managing water supply in the capital Freetown and the Western Area with a population of over 1.5 million.

He said that the appointment of new Board members was based, not only on experience and expertise in the water sector, but on their finance and administrative skills also, and called on the Board to strongly support the Management of Guma to achieve the Government’s overall strategy for the development of the water sector.

The Minister said that when he took over the Ministry, access to water supply in the country was below 40%, and that according to the latest Multi Clustered Indicators Survey (MICS), access has improved to a level of 58%.

On the development of new water sources for the capital, he informed that the Rokel River Project is expected to kick off in January 2020, which he said will be managed on a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis; and that when completed, the Orugu Dam Project will complement the Rokel River Project.

The Minister assured the Mayor of Freetown who was also present at the meeting – Mrs Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, that the Guma Valley Water Company will support her efforts to transform Freetown.

(Photo: Left to right;  Mohamed Timbo, Mrs. Marian Sia Nyuma-Moijueh,  Maada Kpenge (MD), Bintu Myers – Chairman, minister Jonathan B. Tengbe, Mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyerr, Peter Amara and Francis Lahai).

He called on Freetown City Council to support the company in stopping people cutting water distribution pipes and committing other criminal activities that are destroying water supply infrastructure in the city.

In her statement, Mayor Aki-Sawyer said that the Freetown City Council is totally aligned with the work of Guma, and is ready to support Guma as partners in providing water supply for Freetown.

The Mayor said that the issue of water distribution pipe protection can be included in the Council’s ‘Freetown Cleanest Zone’ competition.

Mayor Aki Sawyerr (Photo) said her Council is passionate about the environment and that is why they have planted about 23,000 trees, particularly around the Tower Hill catchment area. She said her target is to plant a million trees across Freetown within the next year.

Managing Director of Guma, Mr. Maada S. Kpenge said, “The launching of the Board is a key moment for Guma, and I must thank the Minister for fully constituting the Board, after the former board was dissolved last year.”

He said that even as they wait for the necessary legal instruments to be enacted that will fully transfer oversight of Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) to the Ministry of Water Resources, as pronounced by the President, GVWC is already benefiting immensely from the Minister’s astute leadership of the Water Sector.

He highlighted that within just a few months, the Minister has launched the Urban Water Supply Roadmap, of which GUMA is the main implementing agency, sought investment partners and signed MoUs for the Rokel River Water Supply and the Orugu Projects.

He added that GVWC has a huge task in improving water supply in the Western Area, but he is confident that management will archive their goal with the full support of the Board.

“We want to transform GUMA into one of the best performing utilities in Africa, as GUMA used to be during the first 20 years of its history. People used to come here from other countries to study our gravity system, and our water catchments,” he added.

“Along the way, we seem to have lost direction. But under the New Direction, GUMA will regain its glory days.”

The Chairman of the Board, Bintu Myers MP, said: “Today, I would like to open this session by firstly reflecting on GUMA’ s performance when I took over as Chairman, and the remarkable progress that GUMA is now making towards service delivery on a daily basis.”

“I am sure we will build a productive, effective and efficient GUMA in months and years to come, whilst in office under the New Direction Government. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the new GUMA administration for their cooperation and hospitality in embracing us and of the team spirit exhibited,” she said.

“I am expecting this team spirit to continue in enhancing the goal and vision of the Company in complementing Government’s effort towards national development.”

She added that this is the time for reflection and for innovation. “Reflection on GUMA’ s past, innovation for GUMA’ s future. It is therefore befitting that under my leadership as Chairman, our theme should be INNOVATION FOR GROWTH.

“The discussion, synergies and decision we will embark on will enable us to build on its long-standing success. I am sure we will seize this opportunity to take the future of GUMA in earnest and for the lasting working partnership and friendship with each other to underpin the strength of the institution.”

2 Comments

  1. Urban water management should not be done as a charitable business. I live and work in Arusha Tanzania. It is a city of about 1.2 Million people with a long spell of dry season. However, water supply is mostly regular throughout the year. Every household and even car wash that I have visited has a meter system. People pay their bill through electronic billing and money transfer called “m-pesa”. In my 5 years of staying in Arusha and travelling within the Republic of Tanzania, I have not heard of people grumbling or refusing to pay their water bill.

    Unlike what I witness when I visit Sierra Leone, nobody including license plumbers is allowed to cut or do repairs on the city water pipe lines. Only the water corporation workers have the right and authority to do so. Private plumbers can work on your pipe that runs after your meter into your compound but not the pipes outside your compound. It is a state offence to tamper with the corporation’s pipelines and meters. Because of this good water management and supply system, the people of Arusha and Tanzania in general do no suffer the same archaic problem that we have been experiencing in Sierra Leone since I was a school boy in Freetown.

    I would if I may advise the current Minister and his Board to take a leaf from other countries like Tanzania with vast arid land, and cities housing Millions of people. Laws and enforcement of law coupled with sound financial management can solve or help alleviate the problem. I hope someone can drive it home to those in the decision making chair.

  2. Depending on the landscape or terrain around your property, the only guaranteed source of water supply in Freetown is a water-well. For the past several years, I thought maintaining a tap water connection was the best way possible for my water supply needs in my compound. However, each successive year has mainly been the same — tap water will run during the raining season, only to stop once dry reason reaches its peak. Meanwhile, the GUMA folks will bill me for the entire year even though I barely get 6 months of tap running water during the year.

    After getting tired of using my vehicle to fetch water from neighboring communities and sometimes paying bike riders, I decided to dig me a water-well. Although quite expensive, I am happy that I made the decision. I am now worry free when it comes to water supply in my compound.

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