National Water and Sewerage Corporation – Reconstruction of Uganda’s economy

uganda-reconstruction-of-ugandas-economyTHE NWSC 40 YEAR EXPERIENCE AND CONTRIBUTION

Provision of safe water supply and sanitation services, their proper management and utilization, are necessary conditions for good health, and are vital for the welfare of society. It was in view of this that the Government of Uganda chose to focus on the water and sanitation sector as one of the core priority areas.

Operating under the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE), National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC), has been at the forefront of providing water supply and sewerage services in urban centres and towns under her jurisdiction.

The Corporation’s contribution to this country’s economy can be partly attested in the growing customer base of which about 80% are domestic while the rest are industrial and commercial.

As the corporation celebrates 40 years of existance, and 25 years of the NRM governance, a self reflection, focusing on  overall contribution to the country’s water sector, and in particular the current government is indeed invaluable.

National Water and Sewerage Corporation Profile, Vision, and Mission
National Water and Sewerage Corporation is a Public Utility Company whose mandate is to operate and provide water and sewerage services in areas entrusted to it on a sound commercial and viable basis.

The National Water and Sewerage Corporation operations have expanded from 3 towns in 1972 to the current 23 urban centres viz: Kampala, Mukono, Jinja, Lugazi, Entebbe/Kajjansi, Tororo/Malaba, Iganga Mbale, Masaka, Mbarara, Gulu, Lira, Fort-Portal, Kasese, Kabale, Bushenyi/Ishaka, Soroti/Kaberamaido/Amuria, Arua, Hoima, Masindi, and Mubende. Over the years, the Corporation has implemented a number of performance enhancement programmes which have resulted into a turnaround in the performance of the Corporation.

With the vision of being One of the Leading Water Utilities in the World, NWSC’s Corporate Mission is to provide efficient and cost effective Water and Sewerage Services applying innovative managerial solutions to the delight of their Customers.

Background
National Water and Sewerage Corporationwas established in 1972 under a government decree, and charged with the delivery of water supply and sewerage services in the large urban centres of Uganda under her jurisdiction. At  inception, the Corporation operated in the three major towns of Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe. Despite the urgent need to instutionalise and operationalise water supply and sewerage services at the time, these efforts were hitched by the prevailing political and economic turmoil.

However with the advent of the NRM Government, there were deliberate efforts to improve water supply and sanitation services country wide. The Government of Uganda through the Directorate of Water Development and the Corporation in the period 1986 to 1992 embarked on a massive infrastructure rehabilitation and system expansion programme. This saw the towns of Masaka, Tororo, Mbale and Mbarara rehabilitated and handed over to NWSC. In 1992, a new water treatment plant for Kampala, Ggaba II, was also constructed to increase water production for the growing city.

Further to these infrastructure improvement interventions, the Government between 1992 and 1998 undertook an auxiliary water supply and sewerage system expansion programme in which the towns of Gulu, Lira, Fortportal, and Kasese were rehabilitated and handed over to NWSC for operation and management.

In 1995, the Corporation was re-established under the National Water and Sewerage Statute, 1995, with the main objective of converting the Corporation into a commercialized venture. The statute was later enacted into the NWSC Act 2000. Following this, NWSC initiated internal reforms which saw the Corporation change its water supply service orientation from a technical to a commercial approach, with the aim of improving financial sustainability.

Despite the above investments and programmes,the Corporation was still embroiled in a number of operational challenges Faced with the risk of being privatised, NWSC in late 1990’s awoke to the need to improve her commercial viability.

A two-tier process or business model was developed. The period that followed was characterised by the reform spirit in water sector that gave birth to the subsequent reform initiatives. Within the overall framework of the Corporate Plan and the Performance Contract with Government, a series of activities were implemented at operational level.

Accomplishments

Water Production: The Corporation currently produces about 78 million cubic meters of water per annum compared to 44 million cubic meters per annum in 1998.

The increase in production has been as a result of the upgrading of the Ggaba I Water Treatment Plant, construction of the Ggaba II and III Water Treatment Plants in Kampala, rehabilitation and expansion of other water treatment plants.

Water Sales: Over the 40 year period, the water sales have increased substantially to the current 52 million cubic meters, a growth of way over 100%. This significant improvement has been largely due to NWSC’s deliberate efforts in ensuring that customers have constant and reliable water supply services.

Service Coverage: In 1998, the water service coverage in NWSC managed towns was about 47%. Resulting from the previous infrastructure improvement and comercialisation programmes, notably the new connection policy, the service coverage has since increased to the current 75%.

In addition to the 23 towns gazetted as NWSC service areas, the Corporation also serves numerous other town centres and townships.

Currently, the Utility serves about 2.5 million people countrywide with water services, against a targeted population of 3.2 million.

Service to the Poor: NWSC since 2004 has undertaken a number of programmes like intensification of the network and establishment of public standposts and installation of yard taps in informal settlements . In addtion, 700 pre-paid water meters have been installed in Kampala, in the parishes of Kishenyi I & II, Ndeeba, Kawempe, Mengo and Kagugube.

In the last four years, a total of 150 public and private shared sanitation facilities have also been constructed in the informal settlements of Kisenyi, Ndeeba, Kagugube and Kawempe, as part of NWSC’c corporate social responsibility.

Sewerage Services/Sanitation: The Corporation has been able to expand its sewerage services by an average of 310 sewer connections per annum. This has been facilitated by the implementation of a new sewerage connection policy.

Financial Performance: NWSC has witnessed strong revenue growth with an average growth rate of 21% per annum from Ushs 19.5 billion in 1995 to Ushs 131 billion in 2011. Currently the Corporation is able to effectively cover all its operation and maintenance costs, depreciation or asset replacement, and also undertake minor investments

External Services: The “turn around” experience has set NWSC apart as a model public utility in the water industry. Innovatively, an external services wing was set up, offering the Corporation a platform for sharing  experiences with sister utilities in Africa and across the world.

Institutional/Organisational Development: The Corporation has undertaken a number of institutional reforms which have helped improve staff productivity and performance. Notable of these was the changing of the staff employment terms from permanent and pensionable to two year renewable contracts.

One of the other key initiatives the Corporation has embraced over the years is the adoption of delegated management, amongst its operational Areas. This has given the Areas/Towns autonomy to efficiently execute their duties under management contracts supervised by the NWSC Head Office.

NWSC future ventures

Kampala Sanitation Project:-phase I
The project, which is being implemented within the framework of the Kampala Sanitation Masterplan, is aimed at addressing the sanitation needs of the growing Kampala city, The project entails; construction of Lubigi waste water treatment plan (already ongoing), construction of the Nakivubo waste water treatment plant and construction of the Kinawataka waste water treatment plant.

Kampala Water Lake Victoria Watsan (KW-LVWATSAN) Project:
This project is aimed at improving water supply services for the Greater Kampala over the next 20 to 30 years. It entails; rehabilitation of the Ggaba water treatment complex, construction of a new water treatment plant in Katosi, network rehabilitation/expansion and rationalization in Kampala city, among others.

Water Development and Management Project (WDMP):
The project which entails the rehabilitation and expansion of the Arua, Gulu, Bushenyi, and Mbale water supply and sewerage systems is being developed. A key component of this project is the Integrated Water Resources Management employing catchment based approach.

Other Capital Development Projects:
The Corporation has also embarked on the implementation of other capital development programmes like; Re-development of a new intake for the Soroti water works, Bwaise II Urban poor project, extension of water to Kazo in Masaka.

Challenges
Increased pollution of the raw water sources in most urban centres/municipalities;
Currently, the Corporation is battling with increasing pollution of  water sources. This is aggravated by the changing climatic conditions and human activities.

Huge investment deficit;
In 2008, NWSC prepared a Strategic Investment Plan which showed that the Corporation needs to invest a minimum of Euros 480 million over the next 15 years if it is to cope with the growing population and increasing water supply and sanitation challenges. This however cannot be financed from the current tariff which is not full cost recovery.

High costs of production;
The turbulent macroeconomic variations i.e inflation and exchange rate changes, coupled with the increasing electricity costs, have continued to increase the input costs.

Poor structural planning of the urban centers and the undefined supply area;
The lack of proper structural plans in most urban centres has made it difficult for NWSC to properly plan its intensification and  expansion programmes

Conclusion
As the Corporation reflects on  40 years of existence and strides made during the period of 25 years NRM goverance, the pledge to continue improving services for the betterment of the livelihoods and the promotion of economic growth in Uganda is indeed profound.

Ongoing programmes like expansion and rationalisation of the transmission and distribution networks in Kampala and other towns, construction of Lubigi, Nakivubo, and Kinawataka waste water treatment plants in Kampala and new sewerage systems for Arua and Bushenyi, shall be strengthened.

As the Corporation strives to fulfil her mandate, it is indeed obligatory that customers pay their bills on time, report any leaks and bursts promptly, and notify the Utility of any illegal use.

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