NAO Recommends for NAWEC to Ensure Protection of Water Sources

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By: Kebba AF Touray

The National Audit Office (NAO) has recommended for the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) to ensure water sources and their treatment plants are well protected and guarded.

NAO made thisand other recommendations in its 2022 Performance Audit Report on the provision of water in urban, peri-urban and provincial growth centres of the country by the nation’s only utility company.

NAO asserted that human rights on water and sanitation (HRWS) is a principle that recognizes that safe drinking water and sanitation are essential to everyone’s well-being, and indicates that The Gambia is committed to achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal (Goal 6), which aims to ensure universal access to water and sanitation.

According to NAO, their audit is motivated by factors such as limited water coverage, frequent water outages and water quality deficiencies.

In the area of limited water coverage, the audit officesaid that by 2020, NAWEC served only approximately 60% of the population in the areas for which theyare responsible.

On frequent water outages, the audit office explained that there have been public outcries and newspaper publications that NAWEC customers go without water for hours, days, weeks or even months, which they say is harmful to the health of the populace and defeats the HRWS principle.

“The situation was reported to be stressful and exhausting for many consumers and it made life difficult particularly for women and children, who are often responsible for carrying loads of water containers over long distances, thus exposing them to safety risks and exploitation.Since the discovery of nitrates in NAWEC’s water supply in 2016, there has been growing concern about the quality of water supplied to consumers over the years,” the audit office said in their report on the qualityof watersupplied by Nawec, and its deficiencies.The audit office further stated that thus the concerns raised by citizens regarding the quality of water supplied by NAWEC, motivated them to investigate and carry out a performance audit on the coverage, quality and quantity of water supplied by NAWEC in urban, peri-urban and provincial growth centres of The Gambia.

According to them,their main findings include that during the period under review, NAWEC did not adequately plan for the water it is required to supply to consumers within its jurisdiction.

“The company adopted a Water Master Plan effective 2005 which should be implemented within a 25year period. However, the plan was deemed to be unrealistic because it did not capture the realities on the ground,” the audit office said in their report.

On its findings on water infrastructure and equipment, NAO reported that during the period under review, ‘‘we noted that some of the company’s facilities were not well secured.’’

He added that for example, some of the facilities visited were not provided with security guards and others were not provided with full perimeter fence including proper gates.

“The security of these facilities relies on the operating staff during working hours, but to our notice, the facilities are left unprotected when these staff closefrom work. This gives license to intruders such as unscrupulous persons and other domestic animals, to access these premises causing damage to some of these company infrastructure and equipment,” the audit office said in their report.

On its findings on water production and distribution, the audit office stated that during the period under review, the company was not able to produce and distribute the required water needed to meet the demand of consumers within its jurisdiction.

On water quality, NAO said in their report that the water supplied by NAWEC’s was not properly treated, because most of the treatment plants theyvisited were neither operational,nor do they operate under decent unhygienic conditions.

The National Audit Office recommended in their report that in light of the above mentioned issues, NAWEC should ensure that the Water Master Plan reflect the current situation and also consider putting in place mechanisms to produce adequate water to meet consumers’ demands.

“NAWEC should ensure water sources and their treatment plants are well protected and guarded, and should consider establishing strategies to extend water coverage in areas under its mandate, and accommodate and cater for the growing consumers’ demand for clean water,” the audit office indicated.

The Audit Office continued that the Management of NAWEC should ensure the prioritisation of both preventive and periodic maintenance of the water distribution systems, by recommending that the Company should ensure that all water produced is chlorinated in accordance with WHO guidelines for minimum water quality standards.