The Environmental Service Providers Association (ESPA) is demanding the payment of about GH¢700 million owed its members by the government if the desire to rid the country of filth and make Accra the cleanest city in Africa is to be realised.
Additionally, the association has called on the government to come up with a legislative instrument to establish a legal authority to disburse some GH¢724 million that has accrued from the taxes imposed on plastic products since 2011.
Making the call at the second annual general meeting of the association in Accra Wednesday, its President, Mr Joseph Siaw-Adjepong, said the government’s indebtedness to the members had made it difficult for the service providers to fund most of their initiatives to sustainably manage waste.
The meeting, which was held on the theme: "Sustainable capitalisation as a driving tool to improve sanitation in the country", served as a platform to discuss sustainable means of recapitalising the service providers to put them in a better position to manage waste in the country.
Participants in the meeting included the Coalition of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) and Tersus-GH, a sanitation think tank.
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Mr Siaw-Adjepong said the private sector had invested heavily in sanitation services and built the capacity of its human resource to deal with the sanitation challenge, but stressed that until the government took bold steps to pay outstanding debts to ESPA members to improve their capital base, the war against filth would continue to be a mirage.
“No matter what we do as a country, sanitation will remain a national challenge if the government fails to recapitalise the private sector by paying the huge debts owed service providers,” he said.
He also called for the effective implementation of the National Environment and Sanitation Policy designed in 2009 and reviewed the next year which gave the private sector the mandate to handle the sanitation challenge in the country.
The policy, he said, put the management of waste in the hands of the private sector, so if the indebtedness was not addressed promptly, that mandate could not be fulfilled because of the logistical challenge some of the service providers faced.
"If we liken the sanitation challenge to a patient, I will say that the sanitation policy is the prescription, the private sector is the pharmacy, so the government needs to pay for the medicine to be administered properly on the patient," he stressed.
Mr Siaw-Adjepong further called for tax incentives for ESPA members in the form of free duty on sanitation equipment and flexible loan regimes to put them in a better position to provide quality services.
Touching on the idle funds from the tax on plastic products, the President of the Ghana Plastic Manufacturers Association (GPMA), Mr Ebbo Botwe, underscored the urgent need for a legislative instrument to ensure that the GH¢724 million that had accrued from the taxes imposed on plastic products from 2011 was disbursed to tackle the waste management challenge.
“The money is locked up in the Consolidated Fund because there is no legal instrument to set up an authority to disburse it. We have tried all means by contacting the appropriate ministries to address this issue, but all to no avail.
“The key objective is to invest 50 per cent of the money in the recycling of plastic, but it is not being done and no value is being added to plastic to make it a resource. We are asking the government to act promptly to put this money to proper use,” he stressed.
The Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, assured the service providers that the government would take steps to settle debts owed them.
“We accept that we owe the service providers, but we will find ways to pay them to ensure that waste management is properly handled. Personally, I do not sleep over this issue. Anytime I see ESPA members in my office, I feel sad.
“The government is getting a financial package for you, including equipment that will boost your capacity to tackle the sanitation challenge head on,” he said.
He charged the service providers to move away from the current waste management system to a more efficient system that would involve the use of improved technology to convert the waste into a resource for national development.
"The ESPA should encourage its members to embrace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the discharge of their core mandate in terms of collection, storage, haulage and final disposal.
"I'm simply emphasising innovation and creativity, using technology to reduce fatigue among frontline men, collection time, changing the methodology in terms of reuse, composting, separation and recycling waste," Mr Adda said.