A quality management system for the Namibia Water Corporation Limited.
Van Eeden, G. A.
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A company cannot survive without giving attention to quality. Ensuring quality in products is so important that many companies give major attention to actively managing processes to make sure that quality permeates everything the company does. Quality management is a company's unique approach for addressing all aspects of quality. It requires vision, a quality policy, a quality standard, a quality system and the control of the system. The water industry is a natural monopoly in which no competition exists to provide customers the opportunity to choose between different suppliers. Due to the monopolistic nature of a water utility, the tendency was previously to neglect the customer and his needs. For water utilities, the quality of the product water has always been the important factor mainly because of their responsibility towards the protection of public health. The quality emphasis was mainly towards meeting the demands of the primary and secondary sector of the water industry that is to provide water of an acceptable standard to the customers. It was only during the 1980's that water utilities became concerned about service quality in pursuance of the example set by the broader industry. Since then the emphasis on quality shifted gradually towards the tertiary sector of the water industry, the provision of quality services to the customer. The Namibia Water Corporations Act, 1997 requires that a performance contract should be concluded between the owners of the company (the State) and the Corporation. It further requires that the Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) should formulate and maintain service standards in respect of the provision of water, services or facilities. As both these requirements are primarily based on efficiency, performance,achievements, cost-effectiveness and the optimum use of resources, there is a need to develop a system that will address all these aspects. This document describes the outcome of a study to develop a quality management system for NamWater that will address all these aspects, to identify shortcomings within NamWater and to monitor progress regarding meeting the quality standards on a continuous basis. Together with the development of a proposed quality policy document, this study also resulted in the compilation of a proposed set of service standards as prescribed by the Namibia Water Corporation Act of 1997. Performance gaps where existing practices in NamWater do not meet industry's best practice were identified by making use of performance indicators developed by the International Water Association (IWA) and the benchmarking exercise of the Water Utility Partnership (WUP). A set of performance indicators was developed to monitor the progress of NamWater in meeting standards on a continuous basis. The study concludes with a proposal for a quality management system for NamWater to ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with the quality policy and the quality standards. To identify possible performance gaps in NamWater, the information from the Water Utility Partnership programme on performance indicators and benchmarking was used to evaluate the performance of the NamWater against other water utilities in Africa. In general terms, the performance of NamWater is better than in many other African countries. However, by evaluating the results of the benchmarking exercise performance gaps were identified within NamWater that needs urgent attention. This study identifies the Sales Process as being the area to concentrate on as a first priority, with the focus on the improvement of revenue collection, the improvement of customer relations and the decrease in total cost. The Support Process should be the second priority with the improvement of the asset management organisation high on the list. There are two fields in the Production Process that needs special attention. They are unaccounted-for-water, and supply interruptions. The identification of industry's best performers in the various fields where performance gaps exist is beyond the scope of this study. It will form part of the implementation phase of a quality management system for NamWater. To monitor NamWater's performance on a continuous basis over time in meeting the requirements of the quality policy, various performance indicators have been identified. These indicators will also identify future performance gaps, determine various performance trends in the company, and measure and monitor the benefits of the implementation of best practice. Performance indicators were identified (from the IWA and WUP programmes) due to the fact that it will serve the abovementioned purpose and it is compatible with the present situation within NamWater. As can be seen from the performance gap analysis all three processes in the NamWater organisation have shortcomings that will have to be addressed through a quality management system. The situation is ideal for the implementation of TQM for NamWater. Such a project should be high on the priority list of the management of the company.