Ivorian gov’t owes water bill of FCFA 24 bn

FROM EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE, ABIDJAN, COTE DÍVOIRE
The Ivorian government as at 2010 owed the country’s water company, SODECI (La Societe de Distribution d’eau de Cote d’Ivoire), FCFA 40 billion (US$79,207,804.60) in unpaid water bills alone.
 
This amount comprised unpaid bills from schools, hospitals and government establishments over many years.
 
But although the Ivorian government has since that year began paying up the debt it owes the privately owned utility company, there still remains a huge chunk of the money to be paid.
 
Revealing this at a training workshop on “Water financing and preservation of the resource in West Africa” for about 30 West African journalists in Abidjan from July 1, 2013 to July 5, 2013, Mr. Seydou Dembele, Head, Government Expenses, Water Resources Department, Cote d’Ivoire, said “Government has now paid a big part of the money and it remains now FCFA 24 billion [US$ 47,512,183.55].”
 
 

Explaining how government accumulated a debt of FCFA 40 billion, he said in 2009 a total debt of FCFA 11billion was incurred, which reduced to FCFA 10 billion in 2010, then further to FCFA 9 billion in 2011 and then FCFA 10 billion in 2012, all adding up to FCFA 40 billion.

 
The Ivorian government official however added that some of the huge debts have been incurred as a result of wastage and illegal connections.
 
Speaking on the topic “Funding mechanisms of water: the different scenarios”, Mr. Dembele disclosed that as a result of illegal connections, about FCFA 3 billion is lost to the state annually, while 100 km of pipes are destroyed.
 
He lamented that when people are arrested for doing illegal connections they are not prosecuted but just left to go because there are no laws to punish them. For the illegal connections that people make there are no metres, hence the inability of the service providers to determine the volume of water used and bill them, he said.
 
In an interview after the workshop organised by Global Water Partnership, West Africa (GWP-WA and the International Union of Conservation (IUCN) on July 2, 2013, he divulged that in order to stop the stockpiling of the debt again, government has begun paying FCFA 600 million as its water bill every month to the utility company.
 
Touching on the population without access to water, he said the country is currently experiencing a 30% deficit.
 
Mr. Dembele said to deal with the deficit; government has received funding from the Islamic Development Bank, Arabic Development Bank and World Bank, but all that is not enough to meet the needs of Abidjan residents, adding that FCFA 48 billion is needed to supply everyone in just the capital with water.
 
Speaking on the investments made by government in the water sector, he said all pumps are bought by the state, while the various communities making up the population pay 10% of the cost of producing potable water.
 
In spite of the debt owed by government to the water company, Mr. Francois Olivier Gosso, Director of Production, SODECI, indicated during a tour of the company’s Djibi water plant that they have never experienced any stoppage in production.
 
Adding to this, the agreement with government is that the state takes charge of investment in the company, while the company takes care of water supply to the nation.
 
Whereas in 2008 water coverage in Cote d’Ivoire was 61%, it is currently at 66% and the MDG target it hopes to achieve by 2015 for its estimated population of 20 million, is 82.5%.
 
SODECI has provided over 30 years of service in water supply to Cote d’Ivoire’s urban community, starting with a lease contract which lasted for approximately 25 years. This was converted into a concession in 1987. The World Bank and other international financial establishments have also been working in partnership with the water agency through financing of investments in water supply.
 
Cote d’Ivoire’s rural population is served by ONEP (the National Office of Drinking Water) a state owned institution which is also in charge of investments in the water sector, although SODECI was in charge of water pumps before 1987.

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