KAMPALA – The National Water & Sewerage Corporation e-billing system has been given a clean bill of health by both the Inspector General of Government and the Auditor General.
Developed internally by NWSC software development team and installed five years ago in 2013 as part of the e-payment system, the development has since saved the Corporation close to UGX. 10 billion in licence fees alone, on top of the entire costs of fresh acquisition from third parties.
Last year, allegations arose that the system — hailed as iconic by the ICT and National Guidance Minister Frank Tumwebaze because of its local content, had led to bill discrepancies and financial loss to the Corporation but the allegations were investigated and dismissed as baseless by the IGG, whose report found no evidence of foul play.
The system was also part of the Auditor General annual audit of the corporation and was given a clean bill of health.
How it works:
The system interfaces with the customer account, the collecting banks, mobile money and other e-payment systems in Uganda and the NWSC Billing interface.
“The system has been a real game changer with multiple benefits,” officials said.
For example, it led to the closure of cash offices as customers no longer have to line up at NWSC offices and has saved water utility corporation from paying bullion van companies and insurance for money in transit.
“It saves NWSC over 1 billion shillings per year in license fees because it is our own system. Propriety systems used to charge NWSC between USD 1.5 to USD 2 per account,” says Dr. Silver Mugisha, the NWSC Managing Director.
On allegations that it has led the corporation into a financial loss as result of “wrong billing,” Dr. Mugisha says as a public entity with regular statutory checks, NWSC has its projects in proper scrutiny for value for money and there was no room for messing up.
“For example, this billing system is robust and has been audited both by our internal IT teams and the Auditor General and found to be fit for purpose by banks, mobile money platforms and NWSC,” he said.
While a dressing NWSC staff last year, the Minister of ICT and National Guidance Mr. Frank Tumwebaze hailed the Corporation’s leadership for using local software developers in coming up with smart water metering system.
Mr. Tumwebaze was happy that the NWSC IT team are tapping from Uganda’s own innovation ecosystem and encouraged them to consider getting even more local input to their developments.
“Issue it out as a challenge to them (local innovation hubs ) and assess the best solutions,” the minister said.
“What we discourage is for government agencies and private sector like telecoms to spend big on IT solutions from multi-tech firms when same can be got from our local ecosystem,” Mr Tumwebaze said.
Last week, officials dismissed allegations of impropriety against the Corporation and its managing director (MD) Dr. Mugisha as unfounded and “intended to achieve blackmail”.
According to officials, some agents of rival bidding companies in NWSC projects had started a campaign to spearhead allegations blackmailing the MD after a company they backed lost a multi-billion water works procurement deal, awarded to Sogea Satom.
The French firm is currently implementing the project for the waste treatment plant and transmission at Katosi-Mukono, estimated at Euro 150 million.
The agents are bitter that the contract was awarded to Sogea Satom, which emerged the best-evaluated bidder, for quoting the lowest price.
The rival bidders took the matter through the administrative appeal process both at NWSC and the PPDA and lost.
The matter was later referred to the Procurement Appeals Tribunal which too ruled in favour of Sogea Satom, according to the records. The bitter rival bidders then decided to go to the High Court in Kampala, which too ruled against them.
“Their agents now want to sort out the issue using social media and have targeted the NWSC MD for blackmail,” an official remarked.
It is understood that the same agents now who work with a city lady social critic through her Facebook account want to point fingers at the NWSC billing system, using wild allegations in the coming weeks.
It is understood that the Corporation plans to come clean on this particular lady’s blackmail schemes in the coming weeks.