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IRC continues to support district local governments in improving the management of water supply systems. Action research and learning remain a key part of the process. 

In an effort to professionalise management of water supply facilities, IRC piloted Sub County Water Supply and Sanitation Boards (SWSSBs) in Lira and Kabarole districts under the Triple-S Project. The SWSSBs were a collaborative effort between the district local governments of Lira and Kabarole and IRC. Under the SWSSB model of service delivery, the board acts as the overall operation and maintenance (O&M) manager of rural water facilities and is appointed by the sub-county council to provide management services on behalf of the Authority. The overall objective of the SWSSBs is to strengthen operations and maintenance systems for rural water sources by closing the gap between the water and sanitation committees (WSCs) and the District Water Office (DWO).

The fundamental questions underpinning the SWSSB model were:

  • Can SWSSBs improve operation and maintenance of rural water supply facilities?
  • Can SWSSBs create an effective and efficient system of collecting, managing, and utilising O&M user fees?
  • Can SWSSBs ensure accountability and transparency to water users, service providers and service authorities of all funds raised for O&M?

Five years since piloting the SWSSBs in Kabarole an Lira district, IRC Uganda organised a learning journey to enable Kabarole local district actors to learn from the experience of their counterparts in Lira district. The Lira district managed to sustain and scale up the approach, resulting in improved functionality of rural water supply facilities.

The objectives of the learning visit were to:

  • Enhance functionality and sustainability of rural water sources.
  • Understand the functions, roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders of the Sub County Water Supply and Sanitation Boards (SWSSBs).
  • Understand the driving factors that contribute to the successful implementation of SWSSBs.
  • Form more SWSSBs that will increase participation of water users in O&M activities.

During the visit, the Kabarole participants interacted with the Lira district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) who stressed that government, should come up with guidelines to adopt water boards as a means of improving rural water supply. The CAO further explained that the government of Uganda has invested a lot of money in the construction of water sources, but issues of poor maintenance and non-functionality made it look like there were no water supply facilities. Participants undertook field visits to Lira, Ogur and Adekokwok sub counties, where SWSSBs are thriving and performing their functions since their establishment in 2013. They learnt that the success of the SWSSBs in Lira district was because of the following factors:

  1. The passion and willingness of the district leadership and the Senior Accounting Secretaries (SAS) at the sub county level. Both of which have a key role in budgeting for WASH activities and providing technical leadership to SWSSBs.
  2. The commitment to water source functionality by the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. This was done by including formation of WSCs and water boards in the job description of the SASs, thereby making it a performance goal.
  3. Establishing a required monthly fee of UGX500 to UGX1000 for all households, depending on the number of households accessing the facility. With 80% of the amount collected per point water specifically being used for preventive maintenance and the other 20% of which is retained by the WSCs to fence off the water source, to mobilise and to maintain environmental cleanliness around the source.
  4. Setting conditions for any village to acquire a new source or to rehabilitate their water source. Requiring that they should first form a WSC and register with the SWSSB at the sub county and done by the district water office and Senior Accounting Secretaries (SAS).
  5. Issuing receipts by the SWSSBs to the WSCs for the payments made to PMs from each source to encourage good governance, trust and transparency. The information is shared with the WSCs during the general community meetings. This has enabled the SWSSBs to gain the trust and confidence of the community.
  6. Required registration of all hand pump mechanics (HPMs) in the district and at sub counties with a valid memorandum of understanding (MoU). This gives them a license to work and to get paid. The efficiency of the HPMs is attributed to the SWSSBs, and they have clear rates that are shared by the board and community. With the SWSSBs engaging the HPMs there has been an improvement in functionality of point water sources, from 77% to 82%. On average, 10 water points are repaired by the water boards—without district support—through the HPMs every year.
  7. Reduction of the down time to a maximum of three days by the SWSSBs. They have moved away from crisis maintenance to preventive maintenance since HPMs assess the sources on a monthly basis.
  8. Presence of the board enables coordination, inter linkages among the stakeholders, WSCs, the HPMs and sub county and the principal of asset management is realised in a professional way through the maintenance log book. The boards therefore do not work in isolation.
  9. Using parish WASH coordinators [VHTs] who move with the HPMs to all point water sources and hold monthly meetings with the coordinators.
  10. Rewarding the best performing water sources as a means of scaling up of O&M .
  11. Pooling money to enable timely repairs i.e by the time one borehole breaks down, another is already repaired.

Commitment to rejuvenate SWSSBs in Kabarole

Following the learning visit to Lira, the Kabarole district participants held a review meeting on the 18th of June 2018. In this meeting they developed action plans to harmonise and to update the Sub County Water Supply and Sanitation Boards (SWSSBs) guidelines as stated below:

  1. The membership structure of the SWSSB will now consist of nine members, tasked with providing technical guidance to the board. These members include: Senior Accounting Secretary who will serve as the Technical Advisor, a Health Assistant as the Secretary; a hand pump mechanic who serves as a sub county artisan or technician (so long as there are no conflicts of interest); a representative from the political wing [Secretary Health Services]; a Chairperson; a Vice Chair Person; and a representative from the model Water and Sanitation Committees.
  2. The financial reviewing of the boards will include the financing sources from the water users, water user capital contribution fees from new wells, from the sub county SAS and District Water Office upon submission of formal work plans from the boards, CSOs, fines and penalties with existence of bye laws, registration of the WSCs [25,000UGX], abstraction permits to protect the rights of the users, harmonizing politicians and districts through the boards so that the boards can solely undertake the role of O&M, rather than involving private contractors. Through collection of 100% water user fees.
  3. The Senior Accounting Secretary of Karambi commits to establishing a water board in her sub county.
  4. The District Water Officer commits to starting engagements on the formation of water boards in the two sub counties of Karambi and Karangura.
  5. The Community Development Specialist and District Water Officer plan to meet the District Chairman and the Chief Administrative Officer to get their buy-in for the re-establishment of SWSSBs.

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