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Government of Uganda creates special unit to address operation and maintenance

Published on: 17/02/2016

Both civil society and the private sector welcome the creation of the new Division.

Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Water and Environment has created a new Division in charge of Infrastructure Operation and Maintenance. The IOM Division, under the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Department (RWSSD) will mainly address the key issues surrounding operation, maintenance and functionality of rural water supply facilities.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and private sector actors in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector have welcomed the creation of a new Division in charge of Infrastructure Operation and Maintenance (IOM).

The new Division was created by the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) as part of ongoing efforts to improve the functionality and sustainability of rural water services. Since 2011, different sector actors have been calling for the creation of a unit in charge of O&M, and this came to fruition in 2016.

The pioneer head of the IOM Division, Eng. Ahmed Sentumbwe will hit the ground running, seeing from the wide range of challenges currently affecting O&M of water supply facilities in Uganda. Whereas the functionality rate has improved from 83% in 2011 to 88% in 2015, many challenges are yet to be resolved. These include:

  • Rapid silting and drying up of boreholes
  • Corrosion of Installation materials
  • Contamination of shallow wells
  • Raw surface sources being used for water supplies without any form of treatment
  • Ageing water supply systems
  • Collapsing sanitation facilities
  • Springs drying up
  • Many water sources due for decommissioning
  • Ill-equipped and untrained Hand Pump Mechanics and Water User Committees
  • Failure or communities to contribute to O&M
  • Spare parts shortages
  • Ineffective coordination of O&M actors
  • Missing key O&M Sector guiding documents

In a February 15th national dialogue on O&M, organised by UWASNET and IRC Uganda, CSO and Private Sector representatives expressed readiness to work with Eng. Sentumbwe and the whole IOM Division. They said that they see the division as adding value in various ways including:

  • Setting standards for O&M, with regard to measurement of functionality; supervision of construction works and government engagement with different actors.
  • Revitalising, strengthening and supporting the functionality thematic working group
  • Coordination and harmonisation of implementers
  • Provide entry for policy influencing and advocacy
  • Set up and coordinate an effective O&M information management system
  • Ensure linkages: between and with other key ministries as well as private business sector involved in WASH

The CSOs also proposed ways in which they could strengthen their working relations with the IOM division, in order to move together towards the attainment of universal access to safe WASH services. The specifically made suggestions to:

  • Form a CSO functionality thematic working group
  • Documentation and share innovations
  • Scaling up O&M innovations approved by government and best practices
  • Undertake research and contribute to policy change
  • Adhereing to approved sector guidelines
  • Mobilise funds and other resources for O&M
  • Monitoring and reporting on O&M issues

The CSOs also identified what they considered the most critical issues for the IOM Division to tackle immediately. These include:

  • Update data on access and functionality access status
  • Budget for sub county WASH officials
  • Work with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) to standardise the quality and price of spare parts
  • Promote models which compel contractors to not only design and build, but also operate the facilities for a specified period. This will ensure that contractors do standard work.
  • Develop and disseminate a consistent government message on water source bylaws and water user fees
  • Coordinate and regulate CSO operations

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