$8m JAICA Funded Kambia Water Supply Project In Limbo

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NO PIPE-BORNE WATER: the writer herself checks if water is running from the public taps

By Diana Coker-WASH-JN SL

It is uncertain whether or not the Kambia Water Supply System will be sustained despite reduction in the cost of water rate from Fifteen Thousand Leones (Le 15, 000) to Ten Thousand Leones (Le10, 000) per month.

In April 2013, residents in the Kambia District reverted to the old way of fetching water from bore holes for a period of one month, as the management of the Water Supply and Sanitation Board was left with no option but to shut down the system.

The Management of the Kambia Water Supply and Sanitation Board is facing serious financial constraints to keep the system in operation on a 24 hour basis, even after the reduction of staff salaries by 50%.

While the post-paid water supply system was supposed to be sustained by a user fee system, with an expected monthly revenue collection of Twenty Five Million Leones (Le25m) per month from 2,333 registered households. Unfortunately management was unable to raise the money.

In an attempt to address the problem, The Kambia District Council summoned a stakeholders meeting where it was decided for water supply to be provided on alternate days with the monthly fee reduced from Fifteen Thousand Leones (Le 15, 000) to Ten Thousand Leones (Le 10, 000).

The Kambia Water Supply and Sanitation Board was later dissolved and an auditing committee set up with mandate to observe and monitor the operation of the system.

According to the Manager of the Kambia Water Supply and Sanitation Board, Prince Talan Turay, the committee had two months- June and July 2013- to conduct investigation and submit their report to the Kambia District Council. The board was not found wanting though monthly rates collected continue to reduce despite the reduction of rate.

In the month of June 2013 rate collected was Le12 Million and in July 2013 reduced to Le6 Million Leones, indicating a drop in revenue collection.

Considering the challenges faced by the Board, the audit committee and the Council have decided to reduce the salary of staff by 50% until a new board is set-up to oversee the day-to-day operations of the system.

However, the Government of Sierra Leone has provided an outstanding balance of Thirty Five Million Leones (Le35m) as part of an agreement with the Japanese government.

According to the agreement, the Sierra Leone Government should provide Seventy-Five Million Leone’s (seed money) as initial running cost for three months, but only provided Le40m in April 2013 after the Kambia Water Supply and Sanitation Board has accumulated huge debts.

The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) WASH statistics states that about 1,426 people in Kambia District fetch water from bore holes. This makes Kambia the worst district in the country to access safe and clean water.

The Minister of Water Resources Momodu Maligi, in an interview said that Government knows that the economy of Kambia is low, reason for the low cost of pipe borne water supply.

He said the sustainability of water supply will not rest on the shoulders of government alone but that the people have to pay for the service to be sustained.

Mr. Maligi therefore called on residents of Kambia to complement the efforts of the committee and for the chairman of the Kambia District Council to take full leadership and implement the necessary actions.

If residents in Kambia District ensure that this project becomes successful, people from other districts will appreciate them as they are hoping to have similar water projects in future.

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