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May 27 2005
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Vitens (the largest water company in the Netherlands) plans to bid for the management contract in Ghana.
David Pessey of the Ghana National Coalition Against Privatization of Water (GhanaCAP) visited The Netherlands because GhanaCAP is concerned about the bid by Vitens to take over the drinking water supply in Ghanaian cities (in a joint venture with two South African public water utilities, like Vitens 100% public). David together with Dutch NGOs had a meeting with Vitens on 20th May, 2005 and the following letter was written after the meeting to advise Vitens not to involve in the World Bank-driven privatisation plans and instead promotes the alternative of improving public water supply via Public-public-partnerships.

Nijmegen, 26 May 2005

To: Jos van Winkelen
Chairman of Vitens’ Executive Board
Boogschutterstraat 29A
7324 AE Apeldoorn

Cc: Provinciale Staten Gelderland, Provinciale Staten Overijssel

Dear Mr. van Winkelen,

With this letter we would like to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and express our concerns about the proposed privatisation of water in Ghana. Let there be no doubt that we welcome Vitens’ commitment to contributing to the Millennium Development Goals by sharing the company’s management expertise. As a world-class public water company Vitens can make a tremendous contribution, but bidding for the Ghana privatisation contract is not the right way to move forward with this commitment.

Although the Ghana management contract is different from previously proposed privatisation models, it is the outcome of a ten year long push for privatisation of Ghana’s water by the World Bank and the government, in a flawed, undemocratic process in which other options have not been seriously considered. The public water company (GWCL) has suffered tremendously in the process of preparing for privatisation; instead of reforms to improve its capacity, GWCL was starved of much needed investments and staff morale was undermined, leading to an outflow of professionals. The government’s justification and the models of privatisation proposed have changed over time, but the goal is still privatisation, which GhanaCAP (the Ghana Coalition against Privatisation of Water), a broad based coalition of individuals and civil society organizations, such as trade unions, gender rights groups, students, residents and community associations, religious bodies and service delivery / advocacy non-governmental organizations, considers a threat to securing water as a common good and a human right for all Ghanaians.

This political context and the widespread resistance to privatisation is a reality that cannot be ignored by those considering bidding for the management contract. We assume that you, as the head of a public water company operating in a country where the legal framework for water provision explicitly rules out privatisation, will understand for the position and vision of GhanaCAP.

In GhanaCAP’s opinion, the alternative to privatisation is to strengthen the capacity of the public water company (GWCL), for instance by introducing decentralisation and citizens’ and consumers’ participation to improve its accountability. GhanaCAP is a strong proponent of international Public Utility Partnerships (PUPs) and other forms of public-public partnerships to improve and sustain the management capacities of GWCL. Such PUPs can take many forms, all with the bottom-line to improve the long-term local capacity for public water delivery. As you may know, public-public partnerships were endorsed both in the modalities of the ACP-EU Water Facility and by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (April 2005) as key tools for expanding clean water and sanitation in developing countries.

We hope that Vitens will reconsider its bid for the privatisation contract and instead propose the World Bank and the government of Ghana to explore other options, centred on capacity building for GWCL as a public company, accountable to the Ghanaians. It is our opinion that advocating and implementing public-public partnerships would be the logical and innovative way forward for Vitens in acting on its value added as a public company as well as its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. We would strongly welcome Vitens taking a leadership role in this field and are more than willing to co-operate with you in pursuing initiatives in this direction.

Thank you again for your time and please do not hesitate to contact us with any question or proposals for future action.

Yours sincerely,

Friends of the Earth International -Longena Ginting
Corporate Europe Observatory - Olivier Hoedeman
Both ENDS - Pieter Jansen, Sjef Langeveld
Transnational Institute - Satoko Kishimoto
Ghana Coalition against Privatisation of Water- David Pessey

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