Published on: 27/01/2013
When the Ministry of Water and Environment undertook to establish Hand Pump Mechanics Associations (HPMAs), there were concerns about the viability of the associations, especially in the face of competition with other service providers who are savvier with procurement procedures. Now the rules have been waived for the HPMAs' benefit.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) has waived procurement rules to allow District Local Governments to procure Operation and Maintenance services directly from Hand Pump Mechanics Associations (HPMAs) through framework arrangements.
This means that rather than compete with other service providers for tenders, HPMAs will now be considered first whenever the Local Governments need to undertake operation and maintenance of rural water supply facilities.
The MWE in 2011 undertook to establish and operationalise HPMAs in all districts in order to strengthen Community Based Maintenance System (CBMS) and enhance functionality of rural water facilities.
Stakeholders proposed that district local governments should, by way of affirmative action, give preferential treatment to HPMAs.
From the onset, there was concern over the viability of the associations. How were they going to sustain themselves in the business? Would the associations thrive on the meagre resources generated from O&M? And when it came to bidding for tenders, how were they going to compete with other service providers who had more money and were savvier with procurement procedures? Given their legal status as registered Community Based Organisations rather than private companies, would the HPMAs be allowed to bid for tenders?
In the discussions that ensued, stakeholders proposed that district local governments should, by way of affirmative action, give preferential treatment to HPMAs. However, the insulation of the HPMAs to monotonously carry out repairs of rural water facilities was considered contradictory to the prevailing Local Government Act. Any engagement of the HPMAs by the districts through a memorandum of understanding required clearance from the Solicitor General and the PPDA.
Against this background, the Ministry of Water and Environment made a formal request for a waiver in August 2013 and held discussions with the PPDA to justify the HPMAs case. The MWE argued that:
In order to achieve the target stipulated in the MWE undertaking on HPMAs, a formal framework was required to enable the district local governments to engage the services of the associations in O&M activities. The activities included monitoring of functionality, assessment of status of the facilities and major repairs. MWE further argued that the HPMA would act as a corporate body that would offer professional services, hence value for money and assurance of ethical conduct.
In a letter dated December 9th 2013, the Executive Director of PPDA, Cornelia Sabiiti said: “The Authority has no objection to the MWE request for a deviation to allow the MWE through the district local governments to procure services for operation and maintenance activities of RWSF directly from hand pump mechanics associations under a framework agreement.”
Sabiiti however cautioned that the PPDA would monitor compliance and assess the effectiveness of the waiver. She said the MWE should take responsibility to ensure value for money and requested them to submit a report to the authority within ten working days after the award and signing of contracts to an HPMA.
District local governments should experience no delays in engaging HPMAs and hopefully this will translate into more effective O&M and increased functionality of rural water facilities.
Indeed the MWE is keen on ensuring that HPMAs comply with the objective of improving functionality of rural water services. The Ministry already developed guidelines on how local governments can increase and formalise cooperation with HPMAs. The guidelines provide direction on key questions like: how to engage the HPMAs using the District Conditional Grant; how to outsource major repairs to HPMAs; and how government will support HPMAs and empower local HPMs in an accountable manner, alongside other actors in the water and sanitation sector, and in cooperation with local governments.
Now that the PPDA has cleared one of the major hurdles, district local governments should experience no delays in engaging HPMAs and hopefully this will translate into more effective O&M and increased functionality of rural water facilities. The immediate action now is for the MWE to disseminate the PPDA communication and the guidelines to all Local governments.