WHY DO OUR UTILITY BODIES TAKE GHANAIANS SO MUCH FOR GRANTED?
By CAMERON DUODU
Time Out Magazine, the famous international guide to the best places where one can eat well, be entertained well and sleep well, in the world, has just paid Ghana the compliment of naming Osu, otherwise known as Christiansborg, in our capital, Accra, as “the 20th coolest neighbourhood in the word!”
What? Yes — according to the paper, Osu is “cooler” than City Bowl District, in Cape Town, South Africa (21)!
Is that credible? Well, assessments of places and tastes are subjective in nature, so one may or may not agree with an individual’s judgement of certain places and facilities. Nevertheless, one accords respect to such a judgement, because whoever came to the conclusion would no doubt have used certain common criteria to reach his/her conclusion regarding the subject matter.
What is ironical is that at the very time Time Out has dished out this accolade to Ghana (whose Tourism Ministry has been loudly proclaiming that it in is in the process of boosting the tourist industry) Ghana has shot itself in the foot by – of all things – denying parts of “Cool Osu” of water!
Yes, the Osu Ako Adjei Park area, only a mile or so from the “famous and fashionable” Oxford Street, has not had water for two solid weeks!+
\You ask yourself, so what do the thriving businesses in the much-praised area do? How do the tourists attracted by articles like the Time Out one fare, when they go to hang out at Osu? What about the people who have their homes there?
The answer is that like all Ghanaians, these people are stoically bearing the heavy burden placed on them by the body charged with providing them with one of the most indispensable necessities of life, water.
There was no announcement that there was going to be a water shortage in the area, either. People just woke up to find their taps dry. And they did what Ghanaians always do – they tried to “cope”. Those who had money ordered water from private companies that deal in the supply of water to homes and businesses — by tanker.
Price of water rises during shortage
Others sought out homes that had water storage systems and went there to beg for a few bucketsful of water for cooking or washing.
But as usual, everyone was initially optimistic.
It might last for only 24 hours or even less (like dumsor used to do in the bad old days!) They hoped and hoped and hoped that the water shortage too wouldn’t last long. But hours turned into days and days have now turned to weeks. And still, not a word – from the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL)! Why should they bother when the regulatory body that’s been set up by the Government precisely to protect the public against such wanton callousness from the public utilities, doesn’t care, either?
How is all this possible in 2018, you ask? Well, that is the nature of the beast that is the “country which we live in it”! (pardon the pidgin).
Now, as soon as I learnt of this water shortage, I looked for the telephone number of the GWCL. I got through to the Customer Service department. After a short period of waiting, the person at the other end of the telephone came back and gave me a telephone number for the official I wanted to speak to. When I rang the number, it gave out the horrible piii-piii-pii-iii signal which is ostensibly meant to indicate that the line is busy, but which, in reality, means the line is not working.
Eventually, someone gave me a number for the person I wanted to speak to and I got him and told him of the situation. Initially, he wanted to know whether the shortage was in a particular house (which could have been blamed on an unpaid bill!) When I said it was the whole area, he took the details down and I took that to mean he would do what he could about the situation.
That was 18 September 2018! But up to the time of writing this article — 24 September 2018 — nothing has been done. At the time of posting this article here, 30 September 2018, nothing had changed!
I have now learnt from the rumour-mill that the GWCL is working on some pipes in the area! So why did they not warn anyone? Water pipes and trouble go together; pipes burst; pipes get blocked; pipes get old and they get replaced. It happens everywhere. All that a responsible water-supplier is obliged to so is to announce that there is going to be a disruption, and give an estimate of the time it will take for the work to be done. And then make arrangements to supply the people with water, by means other than through their pipes, while the blockage lasts.
Why has this not been done by GWCL?
Well, give the people an information vacuum and they will fill it with their own concocted answers:
1st RUMOUR-MONGER: Ho, if they supply us with water by tanker, they will take business away from the private sector! Hey won’t like to do that because some of the officials of GWCL secretly own tankers themselves. So they don’t want to take business away from themselves. Even if they don’t own tankers, they know people who do – all business people are inter-connected through underground tunnels, are they not?!
2nd RUMOUR-MONGER: The GWCL people are not happy to be working for the Government. Did you see how they managed to change the name from “Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation” to GWCL, so as to make it sound as if it was a private “limited liability company”? They want to go the whole hog now and be completely privatised. That way, the officials and their secret business associates
can buy the company and make as much profit from water supplies as they like. They know that the statutory bodies charged with regulating companies in this country never do their jobs!
ME: Do you mean you suspect they are deliberately creating disaffection with the public, so that the public will put pressure on the Government to privatise water supplies? Where is the evidence for that, man?
3rd RUMOUR-MONGER: Charlie, in this country, nothing is to be dismissed out of hand like that oh! What he is saying is possible. I mean — how dare a publicly-owned company deprive tax-payers of an essential thing like water for two weeks? Does the Government even know about it?
2nd RUMOUR-MONGER: Yes — I am sure the Government has not been told. For how can politicians tolerate a situation in which potential voters are deprived of water for two weeks, and nobody even bothers to tell anyone anything by way of explanation?
3rd RUMOUR-MONGER: Or when the shortage will end?
1st RUMOUR-MONGER: IF IT WERE SOMEWHERE ELSE, THERE WOULD BE ANGRY DEMOS AGAINST THE WATER COMPANY!
3RD RUMOUR-MONGER: Ha – over here, they know we are apathetic about our rights, so they take us for granted!
ME: Ao! Ao! Ao!