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Civil society calls for timely release of funds for water, sanitation activities

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Participants at the recently held annual water and sanitation conference in Tamale, dubbed Mole XXIII, have asked the government of Ghana to ensure the timely release of funds for activities in the country’s water and sanitation sector.

In a 12-point communiqué issued at the end of the 23rd edition of Ghana’s longest running water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conference, the participants, largely made up of civil society in the WASH sector, stated; “The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning should ensure the timely release of budget allocation to WASH sector ministries and allied agencies to enable them implement planned activities on schedule to meet the MDGs, especially on sanitation.”

Making their submissions under the four sub themes of the conference organised by the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) from August 22 to August 24 2012, the participants numbering over 100, also called for the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee on water and sanitation comprising the Ministries of Water Resources Works and Housing, Local Government and Rural Development and Finance and Economic Planning, to facilitate transparent and coordinated resource allocation.

Saying they were well aware of the challenges communities are facing in financing capital maintenance of WASH facilities, the conference also called for the establishment of a national WASH fund that will pool resources from the replacement accounts of Small Town Water and Sanitation Management Teams and other sources.

Participants at Mole XXIII further recommended that the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) be elevated to an Authority with greater financial overview responsibility over rural water operations, to ensure effective operations.

“Fiscal decentralisation should be promoted with transfer of funds to District Assemblies with related competence. This will ensure that district and community level structures have the requisite financial ‘muscle’ to support project monitoring evaluation. This implies strengthening the existing structures towards enhancing decentralised governance of WASH. Governments need to renew the current process and take the necessary measures to address the challenges related to fiscal decentralisation. e.g. inadequate financing,” they demanded.

Touching on the role of development partners in providing WASH services, the forum tasked them to support capacity building by adopting a comprehensive approach which includes tools and equipment to facilitate better performance, in collaboration with national and local governments.

“Citizens’ engagement should be designed to respond to rights/entitlements, relevant laws and policies towards deepening ownership and participation that will culminate in improved governance and sustainable WASH services,” the conference agreed, adding that whilst they acknowledged promulgation of a Legislative Instrument to regulate the WASH sector, thorough dissemination among sector players was very paramount.

The participants also agreed citizens’ engagement is critical and mutually beneficial to leadership and citizens, as it culminates in a win win situation for both, but asked that National and Local governments mainstream the process at the local level with backing from all actors as a minimum accountability mechanism to comply with.

Held under the main theme; “Financing the WASH Sector: Past, Current Trends and Vision for the Future”, the conference agreed local governments should explore private sector financing as an additional option or source of financing local development plans for WASH, adding that it should focus on supporting pro-poor, inclusive and equitable service provision.

Further to the role of local governments and other sector actors, participants were of the view that they should effectively plan for sanitation in the short and long term with the necessary financing, to support communities move up the sanitation ladder.

Lastly, noting with satisfaction Government’s establishment of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) to provide a comprehensive development blue print for the northern belt of the country, the conference called for deliberate inclusion of pragmatic programmes and projects in WASH under SADA.

Decision points arrived at, were under the sub themes; Public Financing of WASH Serviced Delivery: Exploring Options, Capital maintenance financing practices and innovative options for the future, Policies, Standards and Regulations for WASH Services and Private-Public Partnership in WASH Delivery.

Some of the organisations represented at the conference were WaterAid in Ghana, ProNet, Resource Centre Network (RCN), Water and Sanitation for Africa (WSA), Water Health, Grassroots Africa, as well as agencies such as the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD), Water Directorate, Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), and was organised in collaboration with the Government of Ghana and Development Partners in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.

By Edmund Smith-Asante

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