The Freetown water supply is in a critical situation. It relies principally on a single source, the Guma Dam, with over 90% of the total water supply to Freetown supplied from the Guma Dam and the Guma Water Treatment Plant.  The Guma Dam was built in the early 1960s and is sized to provide water reliably to around 800,000 people. The current population of Freetown is significantly higher than this, estimated to be approaching 2 million. Inadequate water from municipal systems forces the population to seek informal sources, seriously increasing the hazards to health and the risk of disease.

Purpose of the programme:

DFID designed this programme to improve the living situation for the citizens of Freetown, through rehabilitation of the water infrastructure for improved public service delivery of water.

The governance of the programme is shown in the diagram below. The funding partners (project sponsors) are shaded in grey and asset owners (clients) in blue. Boxes shaded in green represent roles that, when needed, are likely to be procured rather than using in-house capacity of either the client or sponsor (funder). Precise roles, responsibilities and decision-making powers will be specific to the client (including where this is local government) and sponsoring organisations and type of project – and some are interchangeable. Given the potential gaps and overlaps, early agreement on roles will assist all stages from planning to service delivery. For this particular example, the roles are described below:

Client: The Freetown Water Supply Rehabilitation project is an initiative of the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), specifically the Ministry of Water Resources and the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC) – body responsible for the collection, treatment and distribution of water across Freetown.

Sponsor: DFID is the contracting authority. One main contract awarded by DFID to the prime contractor. The prime contractor coordinates and works with multiple sub-contractors to provide different aspects of the infrastructure development, i.e. design and build.  Note that this was an exceptional procurement arrangement with DFID as the contracting agency.  DFID took this approach to provide a rapid response as part of the President’s post Ebola economic recovery programme.

Wider observation regarding governance of infrastructure programmes:

The contracting agency for the consultancy support and construction contracts (which could be a single design and build contract) could be either the project sponsor or the client organisation. This decision will be based, inter alia, on the capacity and capability of the client and the fiduciary rules of the project sponsor. The contract(s) may also include some support, or responsibility, for operations and maintenance, following handover of the asset upon completion of construction.

It would be relatively easy for the sponsor to play a dominating role in the partnership with the client in many situations, but this is unlikely to be a sound strategy. A better arrangement is to ensure that the client has sufficient capacity and capability (through technical assistance or a similar capacity building arrangement) to engage with the sponsoring organisation(s).

The project manager role for infrastructure development and delivery, as distinct from any project management role within the sponsoring organisations, is central to the process. This should ideally provide continuity of involvement throughout the process of planning, construction and handover.

This stage also requires the development of a more detailed project implementation programme – that allocates responsibilities and schedules delivery dates for the separate components of the work through to the start of construction.