This paper uses a governance theory framework to analyse the introductory process for the private sector managing and operating the public water utility Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL). The analysis was performed from three standpoints: process inputs, process conduct and process outcomes. The consultation process on involvement of the private sector was hostile and resulted in a “light” form of private sector participation in the form of a management contract that can be considered a de facto compromise, although not deliberate, by stakeholders. The challenges in improving the water sector performance and water supply services are profound. Because of continuing institutional, social, political and legal constraints, the involvement of the private sector per se is not the solution to providing long-term improvement in water services. The article concludes that it is misleading to leapfrog from government to governance, calling for the transmission of a governance “recipe”, as conceptualised in the Western context, and to assume that it can work in an unaccommodating institutional context.