Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsCambodia: Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority—Internal Reforms FuelPerformance Upgrade
Knowledge Management Officer Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA)transformed from a utility on its last legs to one of Asia’sbest and brightest. For a utility to avoid drowning is onething, to hold its head above water for an indefinite periodof time is another. How has PPWSA managed t his feat?
THE PERFECT BAD EXAMPLE
Today, PPWSA is theepitome of achievement andsuccess. “But back in1993, we were theperfect bad example,” says Ek Sonn Chan,recalling his earlydays as PPWSA’sGeneral Director (GD).He wasn’texaggerating. Fifteenyears ago, only 20% of the city was connected to the 70-year-old water system, and each connection costs awhopping $1000. “You could have had a water pipe runningin front of your house and still not be able to have aconnection,” GD Chan said.Nonrevenue water (NRW) topped 72% and revenuescollected barely covered half of operational costs. Thoseconnected, just 25% of the coverage area, had water foronly 10 hours daily.Employee morale was low and it’s no wonder. Their salaryaveraged at $20 per month. Nepotism was widely practiced,so many held positions they weren’t qualified for. The topmanagement and its cronies abused power and fanned theirvested interests, and employees get away with stealingfrom the company by illegally installing connections. Inshort, employees were underpaid, underutilized,unmotivated, and undisciplined.
INVESTING IN THE PEOPLE
When GD Chan took over the war-ravaged utility, he knewhe had a lot of tough, unpopular decisions to make. Thefirst of these was restructuring the management. Corruptleaders were replaced by younger employees who had theright qualifications. Promising young and dynamicemployees were given new authority and inefficient “oldtimers” were reassigned to more dormant roles.Next came the strengthening of the workforce, and PPWSA’ssolutions centered on education, motivation, and sanction. “We set up a trainingcenter to respond to in-house training needs,” says GD Chan, addingthat “On the average, ourstaff receives 12 days of training annually.” Performance evaluationswere also conductedevery 3 months to ensurethat staff can benchmarktheir performance, work well with the team, and getmeasurable results. PPWSA also introduced a profit-sharingsystem that monitors corruption practices of all employees.Top performers were given incentives while poor performersand corrupt employees were weeded out. The decision tofire or hire rests squarely on the shoulders of the GD.These days, employees also have a more compelling reasonto perform well. With the exception of the GD and financedirector, who are employed by the Government, all 583 staff are employed by PPWSA, which has its own salary structure.From 2001 onwards, PPWSA has increased the salary of itsstaff by about 20% annually, making them comparable to—and sometimes even better than—private sectorremunerations.
Comparison of Median Monthly Salaries of PPWSA andGovernment Agencies
BeneficiariesMedian Monthly Salary(US$)
Deputy General Director87661Director75853Chief Office62350Vice Chief Office51142Chief of Section42537Vice chief of section33734Skilled office staff26629Skilled employees21325Skilled workers18223Workers/UnskilledWorkers14219