CEOs X-Ray Challenges and Proffer Solutions for Financially Viable WATSAN Utilities

The forum of CEOs of Water and Sanitation Utilities in Nigeria had a special session to discuss and propose solutions to the challenges of attaining sustainability of water utilities. The CEO/MD of the Lagos State Water Corporation(LSWC), Engr. Muminu Adekunle Badmus, the lead speaker for the forum meeting emphasised that all water utilities could be self-sustaining through structured reform programme. Reform should be under an effective and efficient M&E department that supports management decision in designing improvement plans. Corporations should also encourage investment through public private partnership (PPP).

He catalogued the various challenges facing typical utilities across Nigeria. They include unreliable, intermittent and in some cases lack of Water Supply; Inadequate water supply infrastructure to meet ever growing demand ; low capacity utilization; Aging Infrastructure (production, storage and pipeline infrastructure); Lack of Reliable Customer Data Base and Billing System and Very High Non-Revenue Water characterised by High Rate of Leakages.  Other challenges are Illegal Water Connections and inappropriate Billing/Under Billing; Poor Relationship between customers and our utilities (Very few utilities have customer Service centers, Very few utilities have customer contact number, Customer engagements and community mobilization is still poor); Limited Revenue Collection Platforms where most utilities are on cash basis but with limited cash offices and limited access. Badmus said online banking is limited while mobile payment is non-existent and PoS payment is still a challenge. Other challenges are that most staff lack training in operations and quite a number suffer from the Public Service Mentality; Political Interference in Recruitment of staff, Implementation of projects, Lack of Budget, Utility Operations and Staff Restructuring.

In proposing solutions to the challenges, Badmus, cited the experience of the Lagos State Water Corporation (LWC). “LWC” implemented a Performance Enrichment Programme (PEP) which led to dramatic improvement in performance in key areas; Plant capacity utilization increased from between 25-30%  to 85%, Revenue Collection rate rose from less than 50% to 145% and there was also an increase in Cost recovery from 24% to 85%

As part of the PEP process, the utility strengthened some of its critical operational areas: Customer Enumeration, Billing System, improvement of customer engagement platforms amongst others.

The CEO meeting at the 2018 NWSA conference was attended by 16 of the 27 utility chief executive officers attended the forum in person while a few others sent representative. In total there where 30 participants at the session.  Nigeria has 27 Urnab Water and Sanitation utilities. During their deliberations, they all agreed on key solutions to take forward in building efficient and effective utilities. These include: Building a relationship between political actors and the utility to ensure sustainability, Development of a strategic business plan, customer friendly billing system and prompt response to customer’s complaints, Improved staff motivation, maximize the support from MDAs at the federal and states as well as donors and other funding agents, Quality Leadership, Transparent Procurement and staff recruitment processes.

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