Assessing the capacity of Communtiy level management structures to operate and manage water facilities sustainably: A study of the Bosomtwi District of the Ashanti Region

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Since the launch of the National Community Water and Sanitation Programme (NCWSP) in 1994, tremendous strides have been made in the provision of water and sanitation facilities to rural communities and small towns in Ghana. Access to water supply in rural communities and small towns in Ghana rose from as low as 27% in 1990 to about 60% in 2009 (World Bank, 2010). Although the increase in access to water supply has been remarkable, there is concern among sector practitioners over the capacity of local level management structures to operate and manage the existing facilities on a sustainable basis. Under the NCWSP, community management of water and sanitation facilities, meaning ownership and control, constitutes the fundamental strategy. With this strategy, a new institutional arrangement evolved, assigning different responsibilities to various stakeholders, from the national to the community level. For instance, the CWSA was to function as an independent agency charged with the facilitation and coordination of the NCWSP. The District Water and Sanitation Teams (DWSTs) were to be advisory bodies and links between the communities, the District Assemblies and external actors. At the community level, Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Committees and Water and Sanitation Development Boards (WSDBs) were constituted to see to the operation and overall management of point sources and small towns pipe systems respectively. Thus capacity building for all stakeholders, especially community level structures has been recognized as a critical component of all the projects implemented under the NCWSP. This new task assigned the communities required some measure of basic skills for the effective management of water and sanitation facilities on sustainable basis. This study thus sought to investigate whether the community level structures have acquired the requisite capacities over the years, in terms of training and logistics, to undertake and accomplish the assigned tasks on sustainable basis. In this study, the case study method was employed to examine the relationships and patterns between the capacity levels of community management structures and its effect on sustainable operation and maintenance of water facilities in the district. The major cases revolved around the two, out of five management structures prescribed by CWSA, iii which exists in the District. In all three communities which have the Small Towns Pipe Systems and which are managed by Water and Sanitation Development Boards as well as six communities with boreholes with pumps or a combination of limited mechanised systems and boreholes with pumps were selected based on purposive sampling. The communities practicing the various management styles were chosen with the help of the District Development Planner and the Head of the District Works Department. The study found that though the technical capacity of the management structures was enough for the running of the water facilities, they still faced a lot of challenges in the sustained Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of water facilities. These, among others include the fact that the communities with WATSAN Committees found the management structure prescribed by CWSA to be very formal and deviates largely from the informal ways of doing things in rural communities. Again, even though the structures claimed the revenue generated from the pay-as-you fetch system was enough for O&M, evidence on the ground showed that an average of 50% of all facilities in the six WATSAN communities were broken down and nine out of the eighteen standpipes in the Jachie Town were not functioning. Additionally, all the communities were found not to have a replacement account for the future expansion of the facilities and for the replacement of major parts in the case of major breakdowns. Another interesting finding from the study is that the attrition rate of the management structures is high, especially amongst the WATSAN Committees and this has led to fewer members than expected holding the fort. In spite of the reduction in membership of the WATSAN Committees, the few remaining ones were found to be very committed, more by social rather than economic reasons. The main recommendations include, but not limited to institutional capacity building of the DWST for effective backstopping; institution of incentive schemes for the management structures; adherence to the two year post construction support espoused in the CWSA Project Implementation Manual; strict enforcement of the Defects Liability Period by the District Assembly (DA) and regular backstopping by the DWST and the CWSA.
A thesis submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the Degree of Masters of Science in Development Policy and Planning.