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Improving Water Operator Finances Through Better Practices – Experiences From East Africa

Improving Water Operator Finances Through Better Practices – Experiences From East Africa

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The Fast Track Capacity Building programme implemented by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) in Uganda under UN-HABITAT’s ‘Water for African Cities’ programme demonstrates that an integrated programme of training and capacity building, combined with investments in physical infrastructure, offers the best hope of improving institutional capacities to reduce non-revenue water, improve service delivery and increase the sustainability of investments in the long-term. GRAHAM ALABASTER discusses the programme’s success in five towns in Kenya and Tanzania.
The Fast Track Capacity Building programme implemented by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) in Uganda under UN-HABITAT’s ‘Water for African Cities’ programme demonstrates that an integrated programme of training and capacity building, combined with investments in physical infrastructure, offers the best hope of improving institutional capacities to reduce non-revenue water, improve service delivery and increase the sustainability of investments in the long-term. GRAHAM ALABASTER discusses the programme’s success in five towns in Kenya and Tanzania.

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33
WATER21 •
 FEBRUARY 2011
TheFastTrackCapacityBuildingprogrammeimplementedbytheNationalWaterandSewerageCorporation(NWSC)inUgandaunderUN-HABITAT’s‘WaterforAfricanCitiesprogrammedemonstratesthatanintegratedprogrammeoftrainingandcapacitybuilding,combinedwithinvestmentsinphysicalinfrastructure,offersthebesthopeofimprovinginstitutionalcapacitiestoreducenon-revenuewater,improveservicedeliveryandincreasethesustainabilityof investmentsinthelong-term.
GRAHAM ALABASTER
discussestheprogramme’ssuccessinfivetownsinKenyaandTanzania.
CAPACITY BUILDING
I
t is only in recent years thatcountries in sub-SaharanAfricahave started to emerge from thehighly centralised water sectorssupported by donor agencies,which have focused primarily onthe main urban centres.This hasleft the infrastructure in manysmall towns neglected due to alack of investment in rehabilita-tion and a lack of technical andmanagerial capacity within theorganisations responsible formanaging the assets.This hasled to high rates of leakage andrevenue losses,which haveundermined the financial status of most small town operators.
At the same time,the MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDGs) havefocused resources on increasing servicecoverage,with far less attention paidtowards the ensuring the sustainabilityof these services or improving theoperation and maintenance (O&M)of existing assets.This results in thesituation shown in Figure 1,whichshows the difference between thetheoretical values of access to improvedwater facilities (measured as coverageas reported by theWorld HealthOrganisation (WHO) / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program) andthe actual access,taking into accountthe inadequacies of supply based upondata from five small towns in Kenya.This situation invariably reducescustomer’s willingness to pay,whichhas knock-on consequences onutilities’revenue and underminesinstitutional capacities to sustain theservices.An evaluation undertaken bytheWorld Bank’s IndependentEvaluation Group in 2009 concludedthat most municipal developmentprojects – including those with water supply components – paid littleattention to O&M,leading to negativeproject results and significantlyincreasing the risk to developmentoutcomes
1
.It is therefore clearlyapparent that there is an imperativeneed to focus on the O&M require-ments of water and sanitation infra-structure in order to improve servicedelivery on a sustainable basis.
The UN-Habitat capacity buildingprogramme on utility management
A good example of an initiative thathas been designed to systematicallyaddress the problems described above isthe UN-HABITAT’s CapacityBuilding Programme on UtilityManagement.The programme wascarried out between June 2007 andAugust 2008 in the five towns of theLakeVictoria RegionWater andSanitation (LVWATSAN) Initiative:Muleba and Bukoba inTanzania andKisii,Gusii and Homa Bay in Kenya.The overall objective was tosupport the financial and operationalsustainability of the capital investmentsprovided under the LVWATSAN
Figure1:AccesstowaterinKenyantowns
Improvingwateroperatorfinancesthroughbetterpractices
 experiences from East Africa 
AnofficialreceiveswaterpipesfortheLVWSANinitiativeinHomaBay,Kenya.Credit:UN-HABITAT.
 
CAPACITY BUILDING
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34
Initiative.The main objectives were todevelop more effective operationalsystems for water demand manage-ment to reduce NRW,carry our water audits and improve cost recoverysystems,and expand the revenue baseby establishing effective billing,accounting and revenue collectionsystems.An additional objective linkedto the above was to establish good linesof communication and improverelations between customers andthe utilities.The NationalWater and SewerageCorporation (NWSC) in Uganda wasselected as the company with therelevant experience,competence andsuitable expertise within the region tosupport these utilities through itsExternal Services Unit.NWSCsuccesses in this area are exemplary.The Managing Director recentlyreceived an award at the IWAWorldWater Congress in Montreal for leading a remarkable turnaround atNWSC over the last 12 years,duringwhich time the utility was transformedfrom a fiscally and operationallydysfunctional organisation to afinancially sustainable and efficientservice provider.
Performance improvementprogrammes
With support of NWSC’s ExternalServices Unit,each utility prepared aperformance improvementprogramme (PIP) based upon atechnical assessment of assets andconsultation with operators andcustomers.These PIPs focusedon improving the operationalperformance,covering technical andmanagerial aspects of operation andmaintenance in six operational areas(seeTable 1).Concept papers on utilitymanagement defining the priorityareas for improvement and draftimplementation plan were preparedfor each of the five towns.Keyperformance indicators were selectedand targets set based on historicalperformance and upon the provisionof funding within the annual budgets.In each of the utilities,‘changeagents’from the utilities’managementteams,water board and local govern-ment were identified to act aschampions to promote the turnaroundof performance.To increase thecommitment of the managementand staff,the PIPs were signed byrepresentatives from each party andwitnessed by the Board Chairperson.These plans were shared with theclerk of works in each of the towns aswell as the governmental advisors inKenya andTanzania.
The capacity building process
Although there was a need for expenditure for immediate rehabilita-tion of the system and procurement of supplies and equipment (e.g.water quality testing kits,bulk meters,computers,software) to supportimproved operation and maintenance,the main focus of the initiative was oncapacity building.The NWSC External Services Unitadopted a combination of methods andtechniques for capacity building,which aimed at ensuring activeparticipation from as many staff at alllevels as possible.Comprehensivesituational analyses and training needsassessments were carried out andstakeholder consultations identifiedkey thematic areas which were used asthe basis for preparation of a capacitybuilding programme and training planfor each utility.Management and staff analyzed their performance in each of the technicaland managerial areas in the PIPthrough identification of their respective strengths and weaknesses.These self-assessments were usedto formulate strategies to addressidentified bottlenecks and improveperformance.Vocational training for staff from each utility was then carriedout by NWSC.There were four keyfocal areas of activity:Water demand management:water audits,leak detection surveys,andidentification of illegal connectionstoreducenon-revenuewater(NRW).Block mapping:Practical demon-strations were also held on how touse the equipment for surveying andcarrying out the block mappingexercise to provide baseline infor-mationwithregardtothecustomers.Billing software development:Amore robust computer databasesystem was developed for theutilities,which was synchronizedwith block maps to allow for easyinclusion of new customers.Commercial and customer care:alogging system was introduced tothe utilities for capturing customer 
ChildrenqueueatwaterkioskinMuleba,Tanzania.Copyright:UN-HABITAT.
TheOperationandMaintenanceNetwork:supportingsustainablewaterandsanitationservices
TheOperationandMaintenanceNetwork(OMN)aimstoenhancetheeffectivenessandsustainabilityofcapitalinvestmentsinwaterinfrastructureandensureimprovedservicedelivery,withbenefitsforbothconsumersandtheenvironment.TheOMNplaysa leadingstrategicroleinpromotingeffectiveoperationandmaintenance,providingpracticalandauthoritative advice towaterandsanitationsystemmanagersandoperatorsinlowandmiddle-incomecountries.Itiscoordinatedbythe NationalInstituteofPublicHealthinJapanandsupportedbyIWAandWHO.Thenetworkoffers:AccesstopracticalguidancematerialviatheonlineOMtoolboxTechnicalassistancefromexpertsonO&MissuesThechancetoshareknowledge,casestudiesanddevelopnewguidancematerialsAccesstoregionaleventsandworkshopslinkedtowidercapacitybuildingactivitiesAnypersonsororganisationsinterestedinreceiving supportorcontributingtothenetwork’sactivitiescanjoinbyregisteringatwww.operationandmaintenance.net.Forfurtherdetails,contactKirstendeVette:Kirsten.deVette@iwahq.org.
Table1:TechnicalandmanagerialaspectsofthePerformanceImprovementProgrammes
Technical Managerial
Waterproductionandwaterquality CustomercareserviceTransmissionandleakagecontrol FinanceandaccountsBillingandrevenuecollection Humanresourceandadministration

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