The project aims at enhancing quality and accountability in water utilities of the Mekong Region through the adoption of quality management systems of 12 water utilities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Various stakeholders in Laos PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam agree that top-down approaches in the sector should be de-concentrated, and at a later stage, decentralized. This is in order to successfully meet the growing demands for water supply and sanitation in the context of population growth in each of the three countries. The decentralization process is developing at different rates across Laos PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. In order for these reforms to achieve the most effective outcome, significant capacity building efforts at commune, district and provincial levels are urgently needed. This is in addition to the allocation of sufficient resources.
Poverty in the urban areas of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region is most marked in Laos PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, where it is experienced by 9-26 per cent of the urban population. New migrants arriving from rural areas make up much of this figure. Not only are they financially poor, but they have little or no access to water supply and other basic urban services, which adversely impacts on their health and productivity, thereby perpetuating their poverty.
Quality management systems are being introduced as part of enhancing transparency, accountability and equity and ensuring quality outputs. These systems will be introduced in line with ISO standards and water utilities will be entrusted with developing relevant Standard Operational Procedures. Lessons learned throughout this process will be shared amongst the water utilities and other relevant stakeholders in order to increase good governance in the region. Following this phase of the programme, the aim of a subsequent phase will be ISO certification of the better performing utilities. Furthermore, country level trainings on water integrity and equity will be conducted for the involved water utilities.
• 12 water utilities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam have been trained on quality management systems, in line with the ISO standards on social responsibility (ISO 26000) and quality management systems (ISO9000). Following the training two water utilities developed their Quality Manual. In 2018 one water utility in Laos was awarded the ISO certification for quality management systems. The certification is the first of its kind for any water utility in Laos.
• Four water utilities in Laos have been trained on the Integrity Management Toolbox methodology. At the end of the training each utility developed an integrity action plan that they successfully implemented, including actions such as improved customer service, meter reading procedures and field inspections. In 2018 a similar training was carried out for four water utilities in Cambodia, implementation of their integrity action plans is ongoing.