In its recent drive to sanitize the package water industry, the consuming public is now assured of at least 60 water companies that have passed clinical testing and are compliant with the licensing regulations of the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC).
These water companies include Evsumo, Bravely, Crystal Clear, So Pure, Ramadan, Bokum amongst others with more details on the list of compliant water companies found on the EWRC Website.
The EWRC recently embarked on a sanitization exercise to enforce the provisions of the SLEWRC Act and shut down several non-compliant water factories that have failed to obtain a license from the Commission to operate such businesses.
This exercise is being undertaken in the wake of several public notices, workshops, and training calling on package water entities across the country to regularize their statuses.
The ongoing exercise which started on the 26th of March 2021 in the central part of Freetown, has seen a total of 31 companies being shut down with an outstanding 106 companies to go. During one of the raids, it was found that a water production company violated the provisions of the SLEWRC Act by breaking the seal enforcing a cease in their operations. The key personnel of the company are currently helping the police with investigations.
The Commission has forwarded several warnings in the last 12 months yet current data reveals that only 10-15% of water producers have been compliant. According to the Director of Consumer and Public Affairs Ngozi Obi Sesay, she stated that the Commission practices what is known as flexible regulations so as to cajole these companies to come into regulations including workshops to explain to them the compliance expectations of the Commission and how they can go about the licensing process “but to date we are still challenged with their non-compliance”. She went on to say that the Commission hopes to work with compliant to ensure that they are well guided and monitored to produce clean water.
In recent times also, the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Water has had cause to look into the illegal operations of some of these sachet water companies due to the proliferation of unclean water in the market. However, there has been a case of the Committee overstepping its boundaries by directly interacting with package water companies instead of giving the Commission the free hand to do its work. It should be noted that the oversight role of the Committee stops at the point where the EWRC can be queried on the status of these companies and not position the Commission in such a way where its authority is undermined to regulate this cottage industry.
According to EWRC’s Director of Water Ing. Michael Kargbo, he stated that “with regards to Parliament, we have been summoned by them several times on the basis that we have allowed companies to operate even though we have asked them to shut down on the basis of non-compliance.
The reply to this has been that companies have been given a grace period to stop production and set up their facilities properly. This time round however and through the backing of Parliament, we intend to ensure that those companies are shut down for good. If they are still operating when we have asked that they shut down is going against the law hence they shall face the full penalty of the law. We have an MOU with the police to support us in our enforcement exercise to make sure that those who have been shut down do not continue to produce.”
EWRC’s data shows that over 70% of these sachet water companies are yet to obtain the Commission’s license to operate as mandated by the SLEWRC Act. Subsequently, it has been found that products from these factories have not undergone quality testing as certified by Sierra Leone Standards Bureau; a clear indication that a number of the packaged water in the market are unfit for public consumption.
He added that the public should be mindful that there is a section that states that a non-pliant company can face 5 years jail or pay a fine of Le 50,000,000 or suffer both of these consequences. The enforcement team is comprised of EWRC Staff, Enforcement Officers from CID Headquarters, and personnel from the media