Local technicians perform regular checks to prevent breakdowns.
Whave’s collaboration with national and local governments since 2012 has led to a system which radically revises the way the community maintenance policy is implemented. It addresses the systemic maintenance problems by engaging local technicians with a different financial incentive. Technicians are paid a monthly fee which varies according to their level of success in achieving reliable water flow every day. They are trained to conduct checks and carry out preventive maintenance to prevent breakdowns before they happen. All Whave’s technicians are vetted by the district Hand Pump Mechanics Association (HPMA) and are members of the HPMA; Whave works alongside the HPMA, training it to become a preventive maintenance service provider through this practical experience. Communities are assured of work being done by the same technicians who they already know and who are approved and supervised by the HPMA, with the difference now that they pay regular service fees and their local water source is now functional every day.
Communities register as legal entities with bank accounts for financial accountability.
Whave works hand-in-hand with local technicians and government officers who are respected by the communities, to strengthen committees by introducing preventive maintenance agreements, training them in their duties and supporting them in collecting tariff revenue. In this revised version of community maintenance, communities are obliged to have an elected committee which is formally registered as a legal entity under local government, and which banks the tariff revenue it collects.
The bank account is open to public scrutiny and supervision by civil society organizations and local government officials, and statements are regularly shared with community members, so they are confident their money is being used correctly. Tariffs are charged to water users, either through subscription (for example payments twice a year at harvest time or monthly) or pay-as-you-fetch arrangements. The tariff revenue is used by the committee to pay a small annual service fee to the Service Provider for preventive maintenance services.
Although Community Based Maintenance is being radically revised, the role of the committee remains important. Where a committee has been replaced by un-regulated commercial sale of water, or weakened, the very poor are vulnerable to prolonged breakdowns or walk long distances rather than pay tariffs. In contrast, strengthened committees with registered status and supervised bank accounts have the duty of identifying the very poor and reducing or waiving tariffs, and compensating by charging higher tariffs to high-volume consumers and commercial water users.Special effort is made to encourage women to take key positions in the committees, for example as chair-persons and treasurers, to represent the interests of women and children, and to improve financial accountability.
Many women are working effectively in these leadership roles in the PPP communities where Whave is in partnership with local government, and they testify that children and mothers in the whole community are benefiting from reliable water supply.
Partnership with government
Local government sets performance standards and tariffs.
The local government has an important role in strengthening and supporting the revised community maintenance system. It ensures that all communities register their elected Water and Sanitation Committee as a legal entity (a Community Based Organization or CBO), have a standard constitution and a supervised bank account.The sub-county and district may pass regulations supportive of preventive maintenance and implement the regulations, for example checking that committees attend to water access for the poor following their standardized constitutions. Five district governments have signed MOUs with Whave which describe a division of roles between the government, the Service Provider, and communities. This is called a “Public-Provider Partnership” (PPP) where the Public are the communities and their representatives in government, and the Provider is an entity regulated by government, for example a company, a non-profit like Whave, or a specialist government body. Already ten sub-counties in three districts have passed resolutions which support preventive maintenance services by a specialist Service Provider entity.
Local government budgets can be used more efficiently when partnering with a Service Provider. For example, budgets allocated for rehabilitation can be used to upgrade a larger number of non-functioning sources and to support “preventive maintenance and continuous renovation” agreements between communities and a Service Provider, ensuring reliable functionality. Local governments work with Whave to calculate service delivery cost transparently, and so develop capacity to set uniform tariffs for defined service levels, so allowing local entities to emerge as efficient Service providers in the best interest of the communities. For example, Whave integrates with the local Hand-Pump Mechanics Associations training them to become Service Providers. Many aid “think-tanks” have identified the root reason behind the persistence of the global WASH crisis as the absence of appropriate institutional frameworks or enabling environments which are essential to sustained and stable services independent of stop-start grant funding. Whave helps government build an effective institutional and regulatory structure. By achieving practical results in close partnership with local government, Whave is helping Uganda’s national government to design replication and scaling strategies, so that a self-sustaining and effective PPP revised community maintenance system can be replicated and scaled at affordable cost through the many districts of Uganda, in line with Uganda’s national development plan and SDG 6.1.