After 10 years of dedicated service, Eskom Uganda Limited, the company that operates and maintains Nalubaale Hydro Power Plant and Kiira Dam near Jinja, has joined the prestigious list of ISO certified companies.
The landmark achievement was announced by Bureau Veritas Certification (Kenya) Ltd on November 1, last year. This was after the firm successfully implemented the Quality Management System (QMS), which is the benchmark for the ISO 9001:2008 international standards.
Besides, the company was awarded two other certifications, the ISO 14001:2004 under environmental conservation and the OHSAS 18001:2007 under safety of workers, all acquired on the same day.
The accolades will officially be handed over to the recipients today. This has come at a time when Eskom is celebrating 10 years of existence in April this year.
At Eskom, the three ISO certifications have since been internally termed as Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ). ISO 9001 is a family of standards for quality management that is maintained by ISO, an international standards organisation and administered by accreditation and certification bodies.
According to Andrew Lumbuye, the Eskom human resources manager, successful implementation of the QMS reflects Eskom's commitment to achieving its goal of meeting the needs of its customers in a more comprehensive and efficient manner.
Lumbuye, who chaired the committee that co-ordinated efforts towards ISO certification notes that the company changed to the system after improving on the quality of service and product for their customers.
He says for the last 10 years, Eskom has continuously generated and supplied power to the national grid as per the concession and power purchase agreement between the company and the Government, thereby contributing towards reduction of load-shedding.
The firm actively supports the economy through recruitment of local manpower and other corporate social responsibility programmes.
"Under CSR, we help communities in a radius of 10km improve their health and promote education. We carry out tree planting exercises and also constructed a centre for war-affected people in Gulu," Lumbuye says.
He adds that Eskom trains university students, who need to learn about power generation at the plant and many people have benefited from this programme.
Lumbuye notes that after going through NOSA, the company's major focus was on improving the quality of their service. He adds that other than safety in the plant, they considered the kind of service their customer, Uganda Electricity Transmission Co. Ltd (UETCL) wanted, improved it and decided to go for the ISO 9001.
"We are offering services whose standards are internationally accepted. This means constant improvement and luckily, our staff have come on board to appreciate quality," he explains.
Benefits of the ISO certification
According to Patrick Kiryowa, the risk and compliance manager at Eskom, as an international certification system; ISO puts the company's programmes and activities on an international platform. He stresses that this gives them confidence to continue improving relations with their customers.
The road to attainment of the ISO recognition and certification was not without challenges, especially considering the fact that many were used to the NOSA system.
"A few of us knew about ISO and that alone created a gap in terms of inertia to change amongst staff. We had to preach to staff about the benefits of ISO compared to those of NOSA.
There was a challenge of developing policies and procedures' manual," Kiryowa explains. He says the process also needed a lot of expertise and as a result, three people had to be brought on board to assist in developing the ISO process.
Prior to the award, Kiryowa says the management system had to be re-visited so that the company could implement improved customer management and meet the requirements of the ISO 9001 standards.
Lumbuye notes that since water is a major requirement at the plants, whenever water levels decrease, power generation is consequently affected.
He says that the water hyacinth weed poses a great challenge at the two plants because it slows down power generation. Also, the concession the company has with the Government's Electricity Regulatory Authority needs to be reviewed.
Eskom pledges to continue promoting environment conservation programmes with the objective to increase the country's natural vegetation cover in 40 years, so that human and industrial operations have less effect on the environment.
"We look forward to continue improving on various standards such as the integration to risk management ISO standard 31000, the standard on information technology all of which we have started pursuing," Kiryowa says.
Lumbuye is optimistic that UETCL and all electricity consumers across the country will get a better quality product as Eskom continues to meet the requirements of their customer.
He adds that they look forward to extending the concession agreement beyond the initial 20 years so that Eskom continues to operate and run the two plants.
Eskom hopes to engage the Government as the biggest stakeholder as far as refurbishment of the old plant, which is currently in bad shape, is concerned.
Also, high on the agenda is to ensure the company continuously complies with the ISO requirements like implementing internal auditing, training of internal auditors and review of requirement and procurement processes to meet the international standards.
Quality, safety are key at Eskom
Interview with Eskom Managing Director Nokwanda Mngeni
Where do we come from?
Eskom Uganda took over the operation and maintenance of Nalubaale and Kiira Power Stations in 2003. Nalubaale PS formerly Owen Falls Dam had been in existence since 1954 while Kiira had been opened in 1998.
During that period there was a Factories Act that guided how to handle issues of workers safety. Besides the fact that the law was deficient in many aspects, not much was being done to adhere to as evidenced by poor housekeeping practices and lack of appropriate systems to ensure that work was done safely.
When Eskom took over, there was evaluation of safety systems and we brought good practices borrowed from our parent company.
One of them was the cardinal rule principle, plant safety regulations. As such we decided to implement a South African model for safety called NOSA. In fact by the time we dropped it, we were at a four-star level, only remaining with one to be ranked a five-star work place.
However, NOSA is limited to only safety and environment and we wanted to broaden our scope to cover quality. NOSA does not have a global appeal as ISO. ISO was deemed a perfect fit. More
The journey to Eskom certification
Today Eskom, the power generation company responsible for operating the two government dams in Jinja, is celebrating ISO certification in three standards; ISO 9001:2004 for quality, ISO 14001:2008 for environment, and OHSAS 14001:2008 for safety and health.
These were attained in November last year. Until last year it has been a journey of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE), which changed when the company decided to include quality in the certification process to SHEQ. New Vision spoke to some of the key players in this journey and below is what they said. Click for more
Set to celebrate ten years
ESKOM Uganda Ltd (EUL) is set to mark its 10th anniversary this year after the successful refurbishment of the hydro electric power generation dams, in Jinja district.
"When we took over the management of the dams 10 years ago, the system was poor," says Nokwanda Mngeni, the Eskom managing director.
Today, after rigorous refurbishment of the power plant at the Nalubaale formerly Owen Falls and Kiira dams near Njeru town on the western bank of the River Nile, Eskom sources indicate a 94% perfect system. Read more