The role of umbrella organisations in utility management in Uganda. A case of the Northern Umbrella of Water and Sanitation
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The study explored the role of umbrella organisations (UOs) in utility management in Uganda with a case of the Northern Umbrella of Water and Sanitation (NUWS). The study was carried out at the NUWS secretariat office located at Plot 14/16 Maruzi road in Lira City in northern Uganda. The study applied cross-sectional design to assess the role of umbrella organizations in using the utility management model for piped water systems under the NUWS. A total of ninety-eight participants was reached using simple random sampling and purposive sampling techniques. From the study findings, it was established that umbrella organizations are charged with the responsibility of operating and maintaining (O&M) piped water systems in their respective geographical scope. These systems have different designs and operational capacities. The NUWS is tasked to deploy a measurable amount of resources aimed at attaining full functionality and systems capacity utilization. This in the end is aimed to attaining systems sustainability and self-reliance of the NUWS as a water utility through the utilization of revenues collected from the water user fees. However, there is inadequacies in resources which spells out the challenges faced by water schemes to continuously provide the water services in line with MWE standards. It was further realised that with the deployment of additional resources, systems will be operated at full capacity which will in turn boost revenue collections to not only offset the O&M costs but also allow the utility to save funds for future investments such as network expansions, replacement of ageing infrastructure and improving production capacities among others. In the case of NUWS, failure to generate adequate revenue has a negative impact on the sustainability of piped water systems. It was recommended that the MWE and sister UOs should develop marketing strategies and set strict policies and guidelines on the issue of payment for the water services provided by umbrella organizations. The secretariats of umbrella organizations should endeavor to install equipment that can ably detect illegal connections and other forms of non-revenue water which greatly affect the revenues from water sales. The scheme operators and secretariat staff should take a concerted effort to progressively engage in the collection of accumulated arrears from water users until the debts are settled. In conclusion, Umbrella organizations have taken the fore role in the O&M of piped water systems using a utility management modal which is a shift from community based to professional management. Although these efforts are constrained by the shortage of required resources. It was evident that revenue generation still poses a great threat to the ability of the NUWS to provide continuous water services in the intervention areas.