Urban Sanitation: Optimizing Private Sector Involvement
Urban sanitation: It entails institutional arrangements and policies by city authorities aimed at the provision of facilities and services for safe collection, disposal, and management of all forms of waste: both solid and liquid. Poor measures and facilities for managing waste have been a cause of disease worldwide, and improving sanitation is regarded to have significant health impacts.
Private sector involvement: Entails ceding the responsibility for sanitation service delivery from city authorities to a nonstate actor or a partnership/contractual arrangement between city authorities or local government and a waste management contractor (s) for the purpose of urban sanitation service delivery. It also connotes the opening up of public monopoly to allow nonstate actors to intervene in the collection, disposal, and general management of urban waste.
Optimization: Making the best of private waste contractors under the agreed terms of contract in terms sanitation service delivery. In contemporary times, most city authorities have partnerships with private actors to facilitate sanitation service delivery. Optimization refers to the processes, mechanisms, and interventions to ensure private engagement yields appreciable outcomes in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and economy.
Sanitation remains a pressing issue across the globe and more pronounced in the developing world (Faniran et al. 2017). Developing countries face greater challenge owing to rapid increase in solid waste generation triggered by uncontrolled urbanization, proliferation of manufacturing, and speedy population growth [United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) 2014]. For instance, Africa is estimated to be about 56% urban by 2050 (Ibid). Compounding this problem is the fact that Africa witnesses only 54% access to improved sanitation (AfDB Group 2012). In the sub-Saharan Africa, there is a very slow improvement in sanitation as the 30% coverage does reflect only a 5% point increase from the year 1990 (Yeboah-Assiamah 2015). About 44% of the region’s population uses either communal or unwholesome facilities, and 26% are estimated to be practicing open defecation (UNDESA 2014). Like other developing countries, Ghana experiences sanitation challenge in its cities. In Accra, for instance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that about 2800 metric tons of solid waste is generated, out of which only about 2200 metric tons (78%) is collected and disposed, leaving a backlog of about 600 tons (21%) in open drains and water bodies (EPA 2014). According to World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme, the existing poor sanitation situation costs the Ghana Government about US$ 290 million every year (WSP 2015).
Considering the impact of environmental sanitation, the role of local government authorities cannot be over emphasized as they provide services from cradle to grave. Developing countries actively involve local governments in the provision of sanitation service (Chong et al. 2016; Faniran et al. 2017). For instance, local governments in Indonesia have had primary responsibility for delivering various services, including sanitation (Chong et al. 2016). Similarly, in Nigeria, local governments have been actively involved in ensuring proper sanitary practices among their respective citizens. For instance, Ibadan municipality in the Oyo State of Nigeria enforces monthly environmental sanitation exercise during which citizens are enjoined to participate in activities such as storing, collection, and disposal of solid waste (Faniran et al. 2017).
This situation is not different from the Ghana case where local governments are tasked to provide inter alia environmental services (Nsarkoh 1964). Section 10 (3e) of Ghana’s Local Government Act 1993 (Act 462) provides that the local government is responsible for the development, improvement, and management of human settlements and the environment (including sanitation) in the district. This study focuses mainly on sanitation aspect of environmental services provided by local governments. In order to realize sustainable sanitation, sanitation system needs not only be socially acceptable, economically viable, as well as technically and institutionally appropriate, but should also safeguard the environment and the natural resources within it. Goal six (6) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ensure the sustainable management and availability of water and sanitation for all. Among other targets, the goal seeks to assist and strengthen the involvement of local communities in improving sanitation management, which Ghana seems to struggle with (G-MDGs Report 2015). In spite of the tremendous progress made during the past years regarding environmental laws, policies and programs such as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act 1994 (Act 490) and the National Environmental Sanitation Policy (NESP) of 1999, reports, and studies show that waste management process in Ghana continues to experience a number of obstacles (Oteng-Ababio et al. 2013; WaterAid 2015). For instance, although Ghana was on track to meeting the MDGs target of halving the proportion of population using improved drinking water source, same could not be said for sanitation (G-MDGs Report 2015; WaterAid 2015). Thus, while the MDGs target for improved sanitation coverage was to be 53%, the national coverage for improved sanitation, nonetheless, only marginally increased from 4% to 13% between the 1990 and 2015 periods, respectively, which suggests a huge deficit (WaterAid 2015). High levels of rural-urban migration have triggered poor sanitation in cities, especially in Accra, Ghana’s capital. This is against the backdrop that wherever people gather, waste is produced. More than 15,000 children die in Ghana annually of sanitation-related diseases before attaining the age of five (5) (UNDP 2014). Such sanitation-related diseases include Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera, and Diarrhoea. Other common diseases related to poor sanitation but not often mentioned in hospitals include bilharzias, ascariasis, hookworm, and fungal infections (Prüss-Üstün et al. 2004). The Ghana Millennium Development Goals Report highlights that although the country observed a decline in under five mortality (from 108 in 1998 to 80 in 2008 per 1000 live births), its progress was 60 deaths per 1000 live births as at 2014. This progress was still halfway behind the MDG target of 39.9 per 1000 live births (G-MDGs Report 2015). The report, among other things, links the high prevalence of under-five mortality to diseases and complications that are traceable to poor sanitation practices as listed above (Ibid).
The foregoing suggests that local governments who are primarily charged with waste management are faced with myriads of challenges, which overwhelm their capacity to contain the amounts of waste generated posing a greatest health risk in Ghana. For instance, WaterAid (2015) reports that 80% of all diseases in Ghana are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. In the latter part of 2014, the country experienced its worst cholera outbreak hitting a record of about 17,000 cases with 150 deaths (http://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2014/October-1st/ghanas-cholera-outbreak-worse-in-30-years.php). The crises informed the launch of a National Sanitation Day in November 2015 by the Ministry for Local Government and Rural Development, to create awareness. With this, first Saturday of every month is set aside for general cleaning, which seeks participation of community members, albeit, poorly patronized. This chapter discusses the sanitation experience of one peculiar local government [La Dade-Kotopon Municipal Assembly (LaDMA)] in Ghana with a view to unpacking how the local authority addresses sanitation situation in its jurisdiction. A critical review of the Ghanaian Times Newspaper from August to October of 2014 [sanitation crisis period] reveals that the La Dade-Kotopon Municipality was tagged the hardest hit local government in terms of cholera outbreak which suggests greater laxities in its sanitation management systems. LaDMA alone recorded 1726 cholera cases with 16 deaths compared to the national 17,000 cases and 150 deaths for the same period (Ghanaian Times 2014). Paradoxically, this local government has in place various private actors and contractual arrangements for waste management. A main question underpinning this study is: to what extent does the involvement of private actors shape urban sanitation service delivery? What interventions are required of city authorities to optimize gains from private sector involvement in urban sanitation management? The rest of this chapter has been organized into the following sections: brief review of relevant literature; the research approach; data results and presentation; and it ends with conclusion and policy implication.
Waste collection methods.
Waste collection method
Waste collectors visit each individual house to collect garbage and the user generally pays a fee for the service.
Users bring their garbage to community bins that are placed at fixed points in a neighborhood or locality and the waste is picked up by the municipality, or its designate, according to a set schedule.
Users leave their garbage directly outside their homes according to a garbage pick-up schedule set with the local authorities (secondary house-to-house collectors not typical).
Generators deliver the waste directly to disposal sites or transfer stations, or hire third-party operators (or the municipality).
Contracted or delegated service
Businesses hire firms (or municipality with municipal facilities) who arrange collection schedules and charges with customers.
Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata (2012) observe that municipalities often license private operators and may designate collection areas to encourage collection efficiencies, an arrangement which is termed by scholars as public private partnership or privatization of public service (Yeboah-Asiamah 2015; Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata 2012).
In addition, 93 semi-structured questionnaires were administered to residents who were randomly selected from strata of household heads, teachers, market women, traders, hawkers, and restaurant operators. The stratified sampling method was adopted to capture the different perspectives of community members in their waste management and disposal practices.
Primary data were complemented with secondary data from peer-reviewed journal articles, government publications, and periodic reports on urban sanitation and waste management. All interviews were transcribed and analyzed thematically, and in the course of discussions, direct narratives are used to support the arguments. Questionnaires were coded using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) to generate frequencies and generate bar and pie charts to ascertain general experiences of citizens on sanitation in LaDMA.
Results and Data Presentation
It was observed that out of the 93 respondents, a majority representing 36.5% were within the ages of 21–30 years, indicating a comparatively youthful population in the municipality. In addition, 19.8% each was recorded for respondents of 31–40 and 41–50 years, while the 51–60 years composed of 17.7%. Same data also showed 3.1% of the respondents being below 21 and above 60 age groups.
Local Government Partnership with Private Actors
Lessons from an Old Burdensome System
Another informant added:
… Solid waste contractors used to collect the refuse to their final disposal sites on behalf of the Assembly and the Assembly paid them per ton. This got to a time the Assembly owed the contractors billions of cedis. This was so much of a burden to the Assembly.
He further explained:
we ran to Local Government Service and Central Government for support. About 80% of the population in Accra or La community were not paying for refuse except the developed communities like Labone and Cantonment.
This necessitated a franchise system that came with different payment arrangements.
It has been explained that the old sanitation system resulted in huge debts owed to the waste collectors by the Assembly. This made the system clearly problematic and unsustainable. It therefore became plausible to resort to an alternative system. Meanwhile, it is advanced by scholars that sanitation service provision by local authorities is faced with dissatisfaction of service and that inclusion of private companies becomes helpful notably for the sake of efficiency and quality service delivery (Domfeh 2002; Yeboah-Assiamah 2015). A new sanitation system, the Polluter Pay System, was introduced to fill the loopholes in the previous system. The Polluter Pay System is an arrangement that enjoins households to pay for sanitation service or waste collection based on the extent of service or the volume of waste generation. This is a strategy for effective cost recovery and a candid means of imposing charges accepted by most countries, both developed and developing (Lindhout and Van den Broek 2014). This means that the citizens in the Assembly pay based on the volume of waste they generate and dispose. The Polluter Pay System identified in the study comprises the Door-to-Door System (DDS) and Central Container System (CCS), an arrangement that involves private actors in the sanitation service.
A rethinking of the whole situation brought about this franchise system. Now the current system compels anybody who generates waste to pay for its disposal. This is called the polluter pay system.
Another official added:
The Assembly has franchised waste management to some private companies including Daben Cleansing Company Ltd, the official door-to-door waste contractor. This involves charging of monthly fees by contractors because of high cost of transporting the refuse or containers from the communities to the final disposal sites at the landfills
… such cost includes fuel, trucks as well as dumping fee which is now about $3.7 per ton. Because of these costs, they need to be charging fees otherwise the Assembly would have to be paying the contractors. Due to the franchise with the DDS, we have enough time to concentrate on the CCS.
Central Container System (CCS)
With the CCS, people are hired to sit at the container to receive payment from citizens for dumping the waste into the container, and out of the amount earned, payment is made to the private contractor who transfers the refuse to the disposal site.
Due to inaccessibility, central containers are placed at vantage points into which residents can reach and dispose their refuse
Community Members’ Engagement with Private Waste Collectors
The study found that almost all the residents from Green Court and Kojo Sardine areas including the elite communities dispose their solid waste in dustbins (64%), while the rest (36%) from other suburbs dispose solid waste by burning, CCS, sacks/cartons, recycling, at beaches and on compound. The choice for these alternative forms of solid waste disposal may be due to high collection fees charged by waste collectors. Only a few individuals collect and sell their plastic waste to rubber manufacturing companies for recycling.
Factors for the Poor State of Sanitation
According to the Composite Budget of LaDMA for the 2013 Fiscal Year, total solid waste generated in the Municipality in a month is 2045.45 tons out of which the Assembly, through private contractors, was able to collect only about 1200 tons. The waste generated by the municipality was largely constituted by organic substances, which can easily decompose. Other solid waste included inert material comprising of plastics, rubbles, and debris generated within the municipality and along the beaches. Most of this waste is dumped at the Tema and Abokobi landfill sites. This suggests that private sector engagement in solid waste management in the municipality has not necessarily solved the sanitation crisis. This subsection discusses the lingering challenges militating against effective sanitation service delivery.
Indiscriminate Dumping of Waste
The study identified indiscriminate dumping of waste as a major challenge confronting the municipality’s sanitation department. Indiscriminate dumping of refuse comprised those disposed in open spaces, which later enter the drains as well as open defecation along the beach and into some of the big drains.
People dump waste and openly defecate along the beaches and into some of the big drains like the Cemetery drains, Wangara drains, the Roman School drains and around the Central Containers. These sites are used as transfer stations because these are places where containers are sited
However, the indiscriminate dumping of waste by citizens thwarts the effort of the local government. It also leads to the spread of diseases like malaria. This creates major burden. It was remarked by a key officer at the local government premises:
… we thought this could be a result of inadequate number of public toilets, I recommended to the Assembly to provide public toilets at such places. Since the Assembly is very sensitive to such things, it has provided two public toilets aside the Ghana at 50 public toilets which have not been commissioned yet
The dumping of refuse and open defecation are inimical to our effort as an assembly and these contribute to the outbreak of diseases like malaria. It is a real issue of concern.
Uncollected Waste by Private Waste Collectors
The dumping sites are at Tema and Abokobi, and they are a bit far. Even the Abokobi site is full. Apart from that, the charge is high-it has been increased from UD$3.00 to US$3.75 per ton. Meanwhile, over there, night and Sundays dumping when there are less traffic in town is not allowed. These also affect our schedule for collecting waste sometimes. So at times, we are not able to collect some waste in time.
This was given support by another respondent who explained:
…. there are times the waste container gets full but they will not be coming for it until vultures and other animals scatter the waste around the compound.
….When the bin gets full, we have no place to put rubbish, so we put in polythene and lean it to the waste bin thinking the contractors will come for them on time, but at times no, dogs and birds will scatter these waste all over the area.
Limited Work Force/Labor
Another factor responsible for the poor sanitation state in LaDMA is limited staff. The sanitation department is challenged with limited number of skilled personnel. At the time of the study, the sanitation unit of the Assembly had only 49 laborers and the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) program had 190 of the laborers. These numbers are insignificant especially considering the fact that the Assembly has graduated from submetro to the status of municipality, which comes with improved services, increased population, and economic activities. The result is that the limited sanitation staff are unable to contain the increasing volumes of waste generated, leaving some of the waste in the municipality uncollected.
This clearly impedes the department’s efforts at providing improved sanitation condition in the municipality.
We also don’t have enough laborers. The GYEEDA programme has almost 190 of the laborers while my section in the Assembly has 49. But you know because we have moved from a sub-metro to a municipal assembly, there are certain areas that we have had to acquire. AMA was formerly claiming some part (public space) and now that we are collecting revenues from those parts, it implies we should also be responsible for sanitation in those areas. However, because our staff are limited, we are unable to collect some of the waste.
Inadequate Logistical Support
Since very few containers are stationed at central points, people who have not subscribed with private waste collectors have to move several meters with wheelbarrows to dump their refuse. Raising these wheelbarrows to dump refuse into the container sometimes becomes daunting. In their frustration, these people are tempted to throw waste away indiscriminately and at times in the drains.
We don’t have enough equipment like shovels, rakes, “Bɔɔla taxis” and compaction trucks which would have helped us a lot during weekends when most assembly men wish to organize clean up exercise for their communities
Informal Waste Collectors
These boys are a ‘necessary evil’ because they contribute to refuse collection in the third class communities but some of them dump this rubbish at wrong places during the night. In the fullness of time, this act results in improper waste management and poor state of sanitation.
It could clearly be observed that about 10% of the respondents, a considerable section indicated that their waste is collected by informal waste collectors (see Fig. 3). This observation may explain why the indiscriminate waste dumping attitude of these collectors contributes to poor sanitation in the municipality.
Laxity in Sanitary Inspection (SI)
Enhancing Private Collection of Waste
To ensure proper waste collection to improve the sanitation situation in LaDMA, the municipality has resorted to inspecting the tour schedules and is planning to register the informal waste collectors.
Inspection of Tour Schedules
The sanitation department inspects waste collection by waste management contractors. The Assembly supervises tour schedules of waste management contractors for adherence. The staff at the sanitation department of the local government drive within the communities to find out whether or not the private waste collectors have performed their function of collecting the waste from households that have subscribed to the service. They inspect the households and the containers situated at vantage points to be sure the waste contractors have collected the refuse. With this, they are able to find out any lapses for themselves and interrogate the waste collectors accordingly.
If the contractors go to Labone and Cantonment on Mondays, we go there late Monday afternoon or on Tuesday morning to see what they have been able to do. Normally, every household knows collection days, so they wheel out the 240 letter bins and put them at the gate, lock the doors and go out or a security man may be left behind to see to it that they are emptied. Since the bins are seated in front of the house, contractors just empty them on their arrival and go away
Based on the observations of the sanitation department, a monitoring form is filled. The Assembly further interrogates the private waste contractors should they default in adhering to their schedule. The contractors may have developed mechanical fault or just could not complete collection in that area on a specific day, in which case the landfill site might have been closed or they were distracted by rains. The use of this inspection instrument or model is to help to provide quality service by regularly picking up the waste to ensure cleanliness of the vicinity as espoused by Schulte, Gellenbeck, and Nelles (2017) who conducted a study on operationalizing service quality in waste collection.
During monitoring, if we drive within the community and see so many containers standing at the gate not emptied, it means that they (the contractors) have not been able to work
Registration of Individual Solid Waste Contractors
By this approach, these individual waste collectors would serve as a check on each other against indiscriminate dumping of waste to ensure enhanced sanitation within the municipality.
…we are planning to meet and register all the individual solid waste collectors within the communities so we could channel each of them to solid waste contractor with considerations to their various local areas. This would mean placing central containers, not too large at certain points within the town where they can collect their money and dump there for the contractor to also transfer to final disposal sites when they are full. With this, they will be controlled from dumping outside their outskirt and be tracked as well. They would also police themselves in the case of unregistered individual solid waste collectors.
Institutional Strengthening (by-Laws)
The decision to assign a court to deal with sanitation cases has been mandated by Section 10 (3 g) of the Local Government Act 1993 (Act 462) which provides that the “District assembly shall ensure ready access to Courts in the district for the promotion of justice.” In addition, concerning the making of by-laws to tackle waste collection and sanitation challenges, Section 79 (1) states, “A District Assembly may make by-laws for the purpose of a function conferred on it by or under this Act or any other enactment.” In this context, the proposed by-laws and special courts are set to enhance sanitation in the municipality.
… My colleague and I have been working on some documents to be considered as by-laws by the Assembly. When approved and endorsed, the by-laws will facilitate the incorporation of informal waste collectors into waste collection by registering them. The laws intend to look at the punitive measures for people who dump waste into sea, drains and other unwarranted places. In fact, we intend to dedicate one court to handle such cases in case of default
This chapter unpacked how LaDMA addresses its sanitation challenges. Previously, the system in place was such that private waste contractors collected the waste on behalf of the assembly for subsequent payment. This system proved unsustainable, as the assembly was heavily indebted to the waste contractors. That regard, upon reaching a “crises point” of indebtedness, the Assembly had to alter its sanitation institutional arrangement towards one that adequately collaborates with other private stakeholders towards effective and sustainable waste management (Yeboah-Assiamah et al. 2017). This problem with the old system triggered a new sanitation system, the Polluter Pay System, which was introduced to fill the loophole in the previous system. The Polluter Pay System is an arrangement that enjoins persons to pay for sanitation service or waste collection based on the extent of service or the volume of waste generation (Mauerhofer et al. 2013). This means that the citizens in the Assembly pay based on the volume of waste they generate and dispose. Oduro-Kwarteng (2011) argues that monthly flat fee charge per household may not be appropriate for all communities especially those with low incomes and high illiteracy rate. Hence, the classification of communities into first, second and third class for effective implementation of the new payment policy. Additionally, Domfeh (2002) is of the view that such franchise system of waste collection will only be feasible in communities where the entire household can be educated to understand its need for public health and sanitation.
On the part of informal waste collectors, this study found that this category is very instrumental and helpful in clearing households of refuse generated although in some instances, yet they appear to be problematic. In other words, the informal waste collectors serve as “two-edged sword”; they contribute significantly to effective waste collection, yet this chapter observes that informal actors could also be a nuisance to effective waste management. The first part of the finding affirms an earlier study by Oteng-Ababio et al. (2013) that informal waste collectors are very useful in collection waste from households. The second part of this present study finding reiterates a need to regularize activities of informal waste collectors and to merge them with formal waste collectors to optimize comprehensive waste management system especially in terms of wider waste collection coverage and proper final disposal. Realizing this benefit, India as at 2010 made a resolution that saw formalization of informal sector waste collection to effectively regulate their operations (see Oteng-Ababio and Amankwa 2014).
Notwithstanding the partnership with the private sector, there remained challenges in the sanitation situation where waste may be left unattended to which exacerbated the poor sanitation situation. This observation provides empirical support to a postulation by Yeboah-Assiamah (2015) that it is not the merely involving private actors that helps improve sanitation but the nature of their engagement. He puts it “the processes before, during and after engagement of the private sector in service provision are imperative for the efficiency and effectiveness of the process… if city authorities after engaging private sector coil back in their shelves and sit on the fence may render privatized services poorly provided” (ibid, p. 284). Yeboah-Assiamah further admonishes urban administrators that “private sector involvement in urban waste services should be effectively monitored through appropriate institutional arrangements so that the private entities do not engage in activities or actions that reduce effectiveness and efficiency” (p. 284). What appears problematic is that most local governments engage private actors but fail to monitor them well which has been a major challenge why in spite of many public-private partnerships in sanitation service delivery yet the sanitation challenges seems to be lingering around in many jurisdictions (see also Yeboah-Assiamah et al. 2017). Although private actors have been incorporated in the waste collection in the municipality, there appears to be lapses in the waste collection, which the municipal authorities are endeavoring to tackle.
Conclusion and Policy Implication
The study observes that private sector participation is essential to effective sanitation service delivery as this brings about a renewal in how waste is collected and finally disposed. Observations and discussions in this study highlight that without strengthening the monitoring and supervision mechanisms, private sector engagement for urban sanitation service delivery will not yield any significant improvement in waste management. In other words, it is not just about private involvement in sanitation services, but the “how,” and “what” goes into the contract agreement and more importantly “how” and “what” occurs after the involvement of private actors. The study contends that putting private actors to task or making private involvement worthwhile requires a formidable monitoring system as well as a performance appraisal mechanism that reviews activities of private actors periodically. A policy implication is that city authorities need to be very meticulous in their engagement with private actors and should provide active monitoring mechanisms and regular checks to ensure these are on track per the contract.
The study also concludes that informal solid waste collectors serve as “facilitators for” and “detractors of” effective sanitation service delivery. Although they help in waste collection and disposal, they nonetheless pose a major challenge to the efforts of local government sanitation service delivery if their activities are left unregulated. In that regard, the study maintains that to optimize the role of informal waste collectors, the assembly should register them and assign specific places to them where they would be responsible for collection of waste generated by the households.
For effective compliance to details, coordination and effectiveness in waste collection, the study recommends increase in the frequency of sanitary inspection to deal with insanitary practices in households and communities, especially in urban slums. The Assembly should also develop periodic educational programs on public health and environmental sanitation to sensitize residents. Again, there should be increased distribution and placements of waste bins and stringent punishments meted to culprits of indiscriminate waste disposal. It is also expedient for the assembly to intensify its supervisory role on the private waste collectors in order to keep up with their regularity and punctuality in collecting refuse to ensure quality service delivery.
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