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Published on: 04/07/2011

In Uganda, efforts towards harmonisation and coordination have been made especially through the Sector Wide Approach to Planning (SWAp) at national level and through decentralised structures especially at regional, district and in some areas at sub-county and parish levels. Sector policies and guidelines abound to ensure that there is a proper framework and standards for service delivery.

Specifically at district level, the District Implementation Manual (DIM) was issued by the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) to provide guidance for sector stakeholders at district local government level. The DIM spells out the different ways in which the parish and sub-county levels link to the district in terms of planning, monitoring and evaluation of water services. While in most districts the District Water and Sanitation Coordination Committees (DWSCCs) are functioning well, coordination at sub-county level has not been fully explored.

Logiri sub-county in Arua district provides a good example of the viability of sub-county water and sanitation coordination committees. In 2009, under the Learning for Policy and Practice (LEAPPs) initiative, SNV and NETWAS Uganda piloted sub-county level coordination in Logiri with a focus on capacity development. Working with a local organisation Youth Development Organisation (YODEO), SNV and NETWAS supported the Logiri Sub County Water and Sanitation Coordination Committee (SWSCC) to hold quarterly meetings.

Once the committee was fully functional, SNV and NETWAS phased out, but the committee continued to function. To date, the Logiri SWSCC has continued to hold quarterly meetings that have progressively addressed key issues regarding WASH in Logiri sub-county. One of their key achievements is possession of up to date data on household sanitation, collected from all the 86 parishes in the sub-county.

YODEO coordinator, Odama Oscar, reported that before the SCWSCC there were many non-functional sources but these were not reported to the District Water Officer (DWO). But with sub-county level coordination, all non functional sources are regularly reported and rehabilitated and this has resulted into increased functionality in the sub-county. Additionally, the DWO now has reliable data about the sub-county. Logiri sub-county has also gained recognition in the DWSCC meetings and reports.

In April 2011, with support from Triple-S Uganda, a group of sub-county WASH actors from Lira district visited Logiri to learn more about sub-county level coordination and to make efforts to replicate the lessons in their own areas of operation. The learners expressed particular interest in issues like the rationale for SCWSCC, its funding, communication with and support from the DWO, and linkages with the Water User Committees, as summarised below.

Why sub-county level coordination?

 Relating the story of Logiri SCWSCC, the Arua DWO, Stephen Obitre, explained that the reason why they decided to go to the sub-county was because the key issues of sustainability of sources, operation and maintenance all happen at that level. They decided that the sub-county would be left to handle all critical requirements while the district concentrated on support, monitoring and supervision.

Composition of the SCWSCC

The Arua DWO also explained that SCWSCCs are left to determine the composition as long as they are representative of all actors, including the political wing. The county water officer must also be on the committee to provide technical support and advice.

Support given by the district to sub-county committees

The DWO further explained that the support given by the DWO comes in form of funds to: conduct sensitization; carry out operation and maintenance; mobilize communities; empower pump mechanics by buying tools and bicycles.

Agenda of the SCWSCC meeting

Visitors from Lira had the opportunity to attend the April meeting of the Logiri SCWSCC. The meeting committee is chaired by Joshua Andeka a Health Assistant and also in charge of coordinating water and sanitation issues at the sub-county. The meeting discussed a wide range of issues ranging from updates on new and existing water sources to handover of O&M equipment and plans for the coming quarter.

Communication between the sub-county and the DWO

The committee members emphasised that in order to operate well, the SCWSCC must frequently communicate with the DWO. This may not always work out perfectly as was reported in the meeting that day. The DWO had sunk a new borehole at a primary school without informing actors at sub-county level.

Financing the SCWSCC

The Logiri SCWSCC is funded with revenue generated locally at sub-county level. In the beginning there was no budget for the committee. With support from SNV and NETWAS through YODEO, the SCWSCC demonstrated its relevance and effectiveness and this awakened the interest of the sub-county administration in the committee’s activities. This is when they started allocating funds to facilitate the committee’s quarterly meetings. For the sanitation activities, the Health Assistant can apply for funds from the Primary Health Care (PHC) budget. Much as this may be seen as a diversion of funds, it is discussed through the right channels; moreover sanitation and PHC activities are closely related.

Training and motivating Water User Committees

Water User Committees are trained whenever a new source is constructed and commissioned. The sub-county does not budget for refresher training, but with the intervention of SNV many of the WUCs have now been revitalised. As for motivation, the sub-county does not provide any funds for the WUCs but since these are persons elected by members of their own community, they serve voluntarily. When some WUCs collect user fees, they keep the money with the sub-county accountant. This is because they don’t want to keep it in the bank where it attracts charges.

Success factors

Political goodwill and support: The Logiri SCWSCC has enjoyed a lot of goodwill from the political leaders in the sub-county. Apart from allocating the committee funds from local revenue, the sub-county Chairperson also attends the meetings in person and exchanges views and ideas with the committee members. During the April meeting, he was present throughout the meeting and also participated in the field visits to Gravity Flow Scheme and other point sources.

Transparency and confidence among sub-county leaders: The chairperson LCIII is keen in ensuring that all key sub-county activities are known by all the sub-county stakeholders. Information is displayed on notice boards are the sub-county headquarters.  The high level of confidence demonstrated by the Logiri Health Assistant in chairing the SWSCC meeting was a challenge for the Lira extension staff.

Partnership with SNV, NETWAS and YODEO: This enabled the SCWSCC to kick off and stabilise. Even after the partners stopped direct support, the committee thrives, which is testimony to the viability of sub-county level coordination.

Resilience of sub-county level staff: The coordinator of YODEO explained that starting up the Logiri SCWSCC was no easy task. There were many challenges especially financial and human resources. But the sub-county and parish level staff continued working tirelessly until the committee was well-established.

Bylaws and ordinances: Logiri sub-county has drafted bylaws pertaining to water and sanitation, which stipulate the roles and responsibilities of sub-county stakeholders as well as setting penalties in case of non compliance. For example, a household is fined UGX 10,000 if it is found without sanitation facilities.

Collaboration and networking among various actors in Logiri: The SWSCC brought all the pertinent stakeholders to the common cause of promoting WASH in their sub-county. In the April meeting attended by learners from Lira, all parish chiefs were in attendance. They each gave reports about WASH activities in their areas. It was reported that during the sub-county staff appraisals, their role in promotion of good WASH practices is also assessed. This ensures commitment by staff.


Distance: Some sub-counties are located far afield from the district offices which limits direct contact. This gap could be bridged by taking the DWSCC closer to the sub counties.

Absence of strong inter-sectoral linkages: Some key sectors are not taking active part in the SCWSCC activities. In fact some departments and sectors feel that they don’t benefit directly from sub-county level coordination of actors.

Capacity issues: Community Based Organisations are lacking in capacity especially to handle WASH software issues. The DWO explained that sometimes they have considered privatising software activities so that able CBOs can bid but they find that many of the likely candidates wouldn’t be able to undertake that tasks efficiently. However some CBOs insist they should be given an opportunity to bid so that there is fair judgment of their capabilities.

Some CBOs contend that coordination has been owned by the government for a long time without allowing the non-government actors to take lead. Indeed the absence of non-government actors was noticed in the April meeting of the Logiri SCWSCC. Their active involvement is only seen at the district level, particularly in the DWSCC.

The gender question: The success of the Logiri SCWSCC notwithstanding, the learning team noted the lack of gender balance in the committee. The entire committee had no woman represented and yet women have considerable roles in issues regarding use and management of water sources. Although this was recognised as a common challenge, parties agreed that efforts should be made to ensure representation.

What next for Lira?

Since their visit to Logiri, sub-county level WASH actors in Lira have taken steps to establish SCWSCC. Annet Birungi a Health Assistant in Lira sub-county explains that as soon as she got back to Lira, she wrote a report about the Logiri learning visit and shared it with the Lira sub-county political leaders and technical staff including the sub-county Chairperson and the sub-county chief. Working with other non-government WASH actors, they organised an advocacy meeting pertaining to the formation of the SCWSCC. The idea was welcomed by all key actors and a SCWSCC was formed immediately. Since the financial year was ending, there were no funds to facilitate the committee activities in the short term. However, sub-county leadership has already committed to budget for the SCWSCC next financial year 2011/2012. In the meantime, they have already invited the DWO to come and train the newly established committee on how to conduct its activities. Birungi attributes the turn of events to the fact that already in Lira sub-county, WASH was a priority so both the political and technical arms are welcome to ideas on how to enhance service provision.

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