Based on the evidence provided by an in-depth analysis of utilities having set up and sustained successful LICSUs (Low-Income Customer Support Units), WaterAid approached GWOPA in 2016 to propose an opportunity for those utilities willing to emulate the good practices identified. The objective of the collaboration between WaterAid and GWOPA was to help one mentee utility in Africa to establish a LICSU with the help of an experienced utility (mentor) and to review its current pro-poor practices in the view of providing recommendations for improving them through the newly established LICSU. There was a Call for Mentees and two Zambian utilities were selected, Nkana Water and Sewerage Company being one and Mulonga Water Company (Zambia) being the other.
This was a pilot initiative, as the partners, GWOPA and WaterAid hope that further support through peer-to-peer between utilities will be explored on the back of this process. It is also hoped that this will have the effect of not only benefiting the relevant state or cities, where the utilities operate but also open up a new line of peer support through WOPs.
As a mentor, NWSC-Uganda was mandated to implement some targeted capacity building activities –on the basis of the need assessment done during the diagnosis-aiming at implementing short-term thematic action plans during the one-year WOP and help the mentee to establish a LICSU.
The WOP has been designed for a total duration of one year, with a diagnosis visit of 5 days, a benchmarking visit of the same duration, and 3 training and monitoring subsequent visit. The last visit should be a validation of the Medium Term Plan and an assessment of the achievements of the project.
The following challenges were identified during the focus group discussions of the diagnosis mission, as affecting the ability of MWSC to effectively serve its customers. The challenges are grouped into Technical, Financial, Commercial and Human resources categories.
The Technical challenges include:
- Dilapidated and inadequate funds for the upgrading of water and sewerage infrastructure
- Low treatment efficiency of water treatment facilities
- Inadequate internal capacity to extend services to new development areas
- Lack of production and zonal meters
- High NRW and Non-existant hydraulic zone
- Lack of GIS/GPS
- Frequent power interruptions
- Pollution of raw water sources resulting in high chemical costs.
The Financial challenges include:
- High Debtors stocks
- High energy and chemical costs
- Delayed payments resulting in loss of goodwill with suppliers
- Insufficient funds for CAPEX
The Human Resources challenges include:
- Poor attitude and mindset of staff and organization culture
- Low staff productivity as a result of demotivated workforce
- Inadequate incentives
- Lack of staff development
- Insufficient transport
- Lack of leadership in some departments
- High staff turnover
The Commercial challenges include:
- Poor payment culture by customers
- Poor quality of meter readings
- Low metering ratio
- Poor database
- Poor customer care
- Vandalism of water & sewerage infrastructure
- Failure to prosecute cases [illegal connections/reconnections]
- Erection of illegal structures on water and sewerage infrastructure
- Uncoordinated development by Local Authorities
- Limited independence of raw supply sources [i.e. Mine WTPs] especially in Chingola and Mufulira towns
- Low water supply hours per day
- Rising demand for water and sanitation services
- Political interference
- Poor management and execution of projects
- Poor image of MWSC by the public
The Short-Term Action Plan was designed to address these challenges.