By SYLVESTER MWALE –
LOCAL Government and Housing Minister John Phiri has directed that all boards of directors in water utility companies sign performance contracts with his ministry to enhance service delivery to consumers.
Dr Phiri said the provision of clean and safe drinking water was a matter of life and death, hence the need to ensure that quality service by water utility firms was enhanced at all times.
The minister made the directive when he launched the 2014 National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) Urban and Peri-Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Report in Lusaka last week.
“While progress has been made in the sector, priorities of some water utility companies leave much to be desired,” Dr Phiri said.
“Complaints of poor or no service delivery continue to reach my ministry. “To this end, I wish to direct that my ministry should sign performance contracts with all boards of directors of utility companies to benchmark their performance. Good governance alone is not enough if the companies you are providing oversight are underperforming.”
Dr Phiri also ordered that boards of directors should sign similar contracts with managements of water utility companies with clear deliverables aimed at improving service delivery to the customers.
“We must stop the culture of business-as-usual where service providers merely report for work as a matter of routine without making a difference in people’s lives,” Dr Phiri said.
The minister commended cooperating partners for financial support, saying the gains made in the water sector could not have been achieved without their backing.
The country faces challenges – mostly due to unplanned settlements – in the water sector with low sanitation coverage in urban and peri-urban areas standing at 60.7 per cent.
Earlier, NWASCO board chairperson, Levi Zulu said there had been a slight decrease in the percentage of water coverage because of an increase in urban population which is stands at 6,122,285 from 5,965,575.
Mr Zulu, however, said that the Devolution Trust Fund (DTF) had contributed significantly to increased access to water supply services to the urban poor with an additional 66,667 persons in low-income urban areas.
He revealed that NWASCO had embraced crosscutting issues in its work by mainstreaming HIV and gender in the water sector in line with the Government’s vision.
Three journalists – Chatula Kampo (Times of Zambia), Kennedy Phiri (Muvi TV) and Gift Chanda from The Post – were awarded during the launch for their consistent reports on water and sanitation.