FK Norway – Southern Africa Water Cooperation Project
Country (ies): Norway (funding/facilitation) South Africa (exchanging professional staff) Lesotho (exchanging professional staff) Malawi (exchanging professional staff)
Overview: The Southern African Water Cooperation Project was established in 2004 aiming to strengthen competence of water management of the participating organizations (referred to as partners), with particular emphasis on technical competence, service delivery and administration. The project focuses in particular on preventive maintenance techniques, improvement of credit control systems and adaptation of best practices. To achieve this, the project facilitates one-year international exchange of personnel within the framework of institutional cooperation, supported and facilitated by FK-Norway. The project is implemented under a 7-year time frame, and total of 20 participants have been exchanged so far.
Background: FK Norway funds and facilitates reciprocal exchanges of personnel between organizations in developing countries, a facility which is called the South-South Programme. This can be utilized by the organizations as a tool for transfer of competence, organizational development and capacity building. FK Norway is open for project applications from Norway or from the south. The organizations participating in a project can be public, private or within the civil society sector. The Southern African Water Cooperation Project applied first time in 2004.
Bloem Water (South Africa)
Bloem Water of South Africa was founded in 1991 under water services act no. 108 of 1997. It’s a public entity and its core business is bulk & retail Water Supply in the central of South Africa. It has an establishment of 240 employees. The Bloem Water vision is "Assuring sustainable provision of quality water services, for life!"
Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) of Lesotho was established in 1992 by the Government gazette as a parastatal. Its core business is bulk, retail water supply and sewer collection and disposal and waste water treatment. It has an establishment of 540 employees. WASA vision is "We strive to be a world-class provider of adequate portable water and safe waste water disposal services to all stakeholders in the urban centre of Lesotho".
Northern Region Water Board (Malawi)
This is a statutory body operating in the Northern Region of Malawi. It was established as a body corporate under the Water Works Act No 17 of 1995. The NRWB is mandated to provide potable water to the residents and institutions of urban areas of the Northern Region. The NRWB’s vision is “To be the pride of Malawi and leader in the water sector”.
All three partners place high priority on human development and capacity building. They carry out a number of initiatives for employees including on the job training, short and long term courses. Sponsored by FK Norway, the partnership between Bloemwater, WASA and NRWB started in 2004, with the objective of enhancing institutional growth and service delivery through human capital development through the personnel exchange programme.
This exchange of staff through attachment to another water board in another country for a period of one year, is geared towards the enhancement of experience and information sharing plus the adoption of the best practices by members of the participating institutions.
By the end of 2009, this South-South programme had facilitated the exchange of 20 participants between the 3 participating institutions/countries. Among these, 11 were from Engineering, 4 Administration/Human Resource, 4 Finance and 1 Management staff.
Implementation: Under the framework of the FK Norway exchange program, the partners send out their staff/personnel to work with another organization in another country, and host the staff/personnel from other organizations (we refer to them as exchange participants) to work with them for a period of 10 months. During the exchange, the exchange participants share their professional skills, knowledge and experiences with the host organization and at the same time bring back newly acquired knowledge, skills and experience to their sending organization and community. This signifies reciprocal learning.
All partners are required to send out and receive exchange participants. The age of exchanged participant is between 22-35 years old because they are potential to be future leaders/managers in their organizations and in their countries.
One round of the exchange project usually lasts for one year. There is a planning meeting with all potential partners and FK before the start of the exchange. The project starts with recruitment of exchange participants. The partners are encouraged to recruit the exchange participants within the office or from the network so that the knowledge transfer from the exchange participants can be more sustainable. The process continues with 1 month for exchange participants to attend preparatory training organized by FK to prepare them for working and living abroad; 10 months for posting abroad; a mid-term review among partners half-way through the posting period; 1 month for exchange participants to conduct activities to transfer the acquired knowledge and skills to their organizations and society; a debriefing meeting for all partners and exchange participants together to review and share experiences and results of the exchange.
The details of the project ie goals, needs, skills to be shared, types of staff to participate in the exchange, roles and responsibilities of partners, budget are made at the partner planning meeting held before the start of the project. Partners are responsible for recruiting the exchange participant, preparing themselves to send/receive participants, develop the work plan with the incoming participant, supervise the incoming participant while they are in the host country to help them to achieve their work objectives, ensure that that the new skills are transferred from returning participants back into the home organization.
One partner in the project is assigned to be a lead partner to coordinate the project and communicate between Fredskorpset and other partners and exchange participants, in this case, Bloem Water. The lead partner is contractually responsible to FK Norway to fulfill obligations of planning, budgeting, monitoring, reporting and accounting/audit.
FK Norway has the role in explaining the exchange program framework, sharing best practices collected from other exchange projects, facilitating partner and participant preparatory courses and debriefing, providing guidance and recommendations to the partners, monitoring and evaluating the project (parallel to that of the partners) and providing financial support.
Outcomes: The FK Norway exchange program has brought about changing relations between the participating institutions. The sending and hosting of professional staff between them has increased their communication and general learning from each other. A sign of getting closer is that they have also extended their relationship beyond the exchange project.
The NRWB has benefited in a number of ways through the partnership. Human capacity development has been achieved through members of staff that have participated on the program.
1. NRWB Controls vandalism of Equipment/Property through Community Liaison Groups
NRWB had since the year 2004 been facing the challenge of communities vandalizing the water supply infrastructure. Staffs that were attached to Bloem Water (South Africa) on an FK exchange program brought along lessons learnt from the Thaba Nchu project. The NRWB learnt lessons from this by forming Community Liaison Groups (CLGs) in all its schemes and zones. The result of this initiative has been outstanding, very few incidences of vandalism and the level of non revenue water has dropped from 44% to 30%.
2. NRWB rated No 1 Public Institution in Public Procurement for two years running
For two consecutive years NRWB has been rated number one public institution in following best practices in procurement and compliance with the Public Procurement Procedures in Malawi. The NRWB developed robust procurement processes through best practices learnt from both Bloem Water & WASA.
3. NRWB develops a robust 2009-2014 strategic plan
The NRWB has developed an ambitious strategic plan which will be implemented starting from July 2009 to July 2014. All these processes are a product of lessons learnt from the FK exchange program.
4. Preventive Maintenance System
With FK participants and lessons learnt from Bloem Water and WASA, NRWB developed and is implementing an effective preventive maintenance program covering all its plant and equipment as well as the reticulation system. This has reduced breakdowns and water supply disruptions resulting in enhanced customer satisfaction and improved image of NRWB.
5. Attraction and Retention of High Quality Staff
The partnership with Bloem Water and WASA has helped NRWB to attract and retain high quality staff. Employees that have participated on the FK exchange programme develop some enhanced level of loyalty and commitment to NRWB. Other employees are also motivated to remain in the Board’s employment in view of prospects for participation in the programme. This resulted in workforce stability which enhances productivity.
6. South to South exchange taken to another level – Exchange among Management and Executive Board Members
As a result of FK programme, the relationship between NRWB - Malawi and Bloem water – South Africa has been taken to a new level. The two water boards have over the years extended the exchange to the Executive Board Members and Management staff. The exchanges at this level have helped foster speedy policy review and formulation in addition to the adoption of best practices as well as enhancing the confidence and capacity of Board members from both Water Boards. This level of exchange is an indirect benefit derived from the personnel exchange program. Exchange among Management and Executive Board Members is not financed within the program.
The planned achievements of the project were that participants have contributed their knowledge and skills during their year abroad with the host institution. At the same time, they have also acquired new knowledge and ideas which have been transferred to their home organizations for organizational development and better service delivery.
The unplanned achievement is the organizational relationships which were taken to a different level as narrated by a staff member of NRWB of Malawi. “As a result of the FK project, the relationship between NRWB - Malawi and Bloem water – South Africa has been taken to a new level. The two water boards have over the years extended the exchange to the Executive Board Members and Management staff. Directors from the two Water Boards have exchanged visits and have shared knowledge and experience in areas of policies, governance, and structure as well as some cross cutting issues such as HIV and corruption prevention. Since the year 2005, there have been several week long exchange visits amongst the Board members and Management. The exchanges at this level have helped foster speedy policy review and formulation in addition to the adoption of best practices as well as enhancing the confidence and capacity of Board members from both Water Boards”
Sustainable impact is possible to draw from the project, but it requires organizational commitment to embed new ideas, knowledge and procedures.
Sustainability is also an issue if the institutions have to use their own funds to relate to each other at a different level beyond the FK exchange programme.
The positive impacts are drawn from the organizational learning and improvements through their human capital development facilitated by the FK exchange progamme.
The negative impacts can be traced from the perspective that the participating organizations are at different levels of developments which render uneven utilization of potential benefits from the exchange. There have also been cases where participants fail to settle in their host organization due to differences in their working environments (e.g from city to rural settings) and thus dropping out of the exchange programme. Some participants resigned after the exchange programme for better jobs because exposure to an international working environment fostered increased competitiveness in the job market.
Aid Effectiveness: South-South exchange produces good results because the partners experience common or similar problems or challenges which can be resolved with regional solutions which they arrive at together. Imported solutions from highly developed countries are generally based on totally different working environments, technically, socially and economically, and therefore have a lower chance of acceptance and success.
The water boards are public sector organizations which serve within their local governments. The leadership and ownership of the organizations are embedded in their local governance systems. The objectives of the FK Norway exchange project are in line with the participating countries governments’ aim of guaranteeing sustainable economic and social development of the water utilities.
Personnel exchange supplements these organizations’ development efforts by contributing to their human capital development. It contributes to their strategic objectives though it does not directly contribute to their business capital funding. There is an ongoing active management for achieving results in the project, coordinated by Bloemwater.
At this stage, this FK Norway exchange project as a whole does not coordinate with other programs and development actors. However, the water boards link up with a number of other institutions and donors on their own.
Capacity Development: As a result of the FK Programme, the organizations benefited in the following areas:
• Improved knowledge and skills among staff, and corresponding improved quality of service delivery.
• Improved staff retention among those who have participated in the staff exchange programme. Some members of staff also get motivated to stay on in view of future participation in the exchange programme.
• Improved sharing of information among staff in the participating institutions
• Enhanced understanding of cultural diversity.
• Extension of relationships beyond the FK Norway project to include Board of Directors activities.
Investment in human resource through international exposure and sharing of knowledge/skill contributes greatly to organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Working in different countries outside one’s comfort zone can in itself be seen as an incentive. It creates ambition for a better service to one’s own public on returning back to home country.
Duration: 2004 – 2010; still continuing
Budget (Optional): From 2006 – 2009 the total budget funded by FK Norway is USD 470.000.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Mr. Francis B. Munthali
Title of Primary Contact Person: Director, Finance and Administration Northern Region Water Board, Malawi
City: Mzuzu - Malawi