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Uganda: 100 Days That Changed Life for Water Supplier

National Water and Sewerage Corporation, a water supply and sanitation company in Uganda, is one of the public enterprises, which has survived the tribulations of the government owned enterprises.
Formed in 1972 by decree to serve the urban areas of Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja, the company was later re-organisd in 1995 under the NWSC Statute, and was given more authority, autonomy and the mandate to operate and provide water and sewerage services in areas entrusted to it, on a sound, commercial, and viable basis.
It is on this premise that Dr William Muhairwe was appointed the managing director of the corporation in 1998 to ensure it lives up to its mandate.
"People were working at their own pace," Dr Muhairwe, who was formerly the Executive Director of Uganda Investment Authority before joining NWSC, told Business Power in an interview last week.
To overhaul the system, he introduced a reform strategy programme dubbed '100-Days'. 100-Days specifically focused on customer care and revenue collection.
"There was no way we could get money from customers when the services were not proper," he said.
The company was not collecting enough revenue as expected. The company had to increase production and distribution of water thus it repaired damaged pipelines to ensure proper accounting for water.
More staff was deployed countrywide and expenditures on transport and medical facilities were revisited to reduce unnecessary costs.
From Shs20 billion earned 10 years ago, the company currently boasts of a Shs100 billion annual turn-over , a figure only comparable to the National Social Security Fund's turnover.
Dr Muhairwe said they also have created an external services department. The department, which earns the country/company foreign exchange, offers expertise and advice to countries like Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana and Nigeria.
Money from this project has helped NWSC put up a leadership academy at their Bugolobi Centre.
Customer response to payment has also increased from 67 per cent to 95 per cent, a performance considered to be one of the best in world.
The company has created direct jobs for over 1,500 Ugandans and at least one million people indirectly depend on their services.
However, unlike the private sector, which takes its profits out of the business, NWSC ploughs back the surplus into the business. The MD says their tariff enables them meet the operation and depreciation costs.
This has helped the company expand to areas where it has not been before. The 100 per cent government owned entity is this year projecting a Shs20 billion surplus. '
Involving everyone in decision making as a team has been Dr Muhairwe's great strength.
"It's this kind of management that has helped me to grow the company," the PhD holder in Industrial Management-from Germany, said.
With the total revamp, NWSC is currently ranked number 15 on the Uganda Revenue Authority Top-1,000 taxpayers' list.
He said matters of policy were very challenging at the beginning when donors wanted to privatize the company while the government was not certain it was the right way to go.
NWSC brought the two sides on the table to understand the situation as partners in trying to build a system of making people pay for what they get and the workers perform.
NWSC has benefitted immensely from being allowed to run without interferences, which is a big problem when the government hears about a rumours that the MD of such and such a company has stolen a car and then runs to change the management.
"As a person, the one thing which has helped me to succeed in leadership is unpredictability," Dr Muhairwe said.

"We live in a world which is changing with no rules so if you think you're going to live on the rules set yesterday then you are in trouble -my staff know that the only constant fact is constant change,"
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