22 April 2014

Rwanda: MPs Grill EWSA Officials Over Billing System

The Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) was not able to properly bill its water and energy users for a period of four months since January, due to system failure.

The utility body insists that lack of skills on the part of its employees led to mismanagement of the billing system, although the management failed to explain why the system broke down.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday, the management of EWSA explained why a series of systems employed to manage daily activities failed.

The first of those systems, Oracle E-Business Suit, which cost government $1.3 million was implemented in 2009, with a maintenance fee of $98,000 (about Rwf66 million) per year.

The system was capable of integrating EWSA's finances, assets, payrolls and human resource activities but did not contain the billing component.

"The system was purchased expensively yet it cannot bill water and electricity users. This shows that public funds were not wisely spent. The system does not give value for money if all it does is to manage EWSA's other activities minus billing," Juvenal Nkusi, the PAC chairperson said.

Both the Director General of EWSA, Ntare Karitanyi, and his deputy, James Sano, acknowledged that the utility agency currently faces billing problems and that the Oracle project was wrong right from inception.

"I don't understand why the billing module was not among the key modules of Oracle. It is a very important module. Everything we do is based on billing yet the Oracle doesn't provide it," Sano said.

Lucien Ruterana, the Strategic Advisor to the Managing Director of EWSA, explained that the public utility had been informed that the Billing component was too expensive to be integrated in Oracle.

"We requested the providers to include the billing module in the Oracle system but they charged us $2.5 million, which we found to be too expensive.

We, therefore, decided to procure services of a cheaper option, the Customer Management System, which cost Rwf2 billion," Ruterana said.

"We used the Customer Management System for some time but it crushed down in December last year. We traced the problem to lack of skills. People who entered data committed mistakes because they lacked skills," he added.

To avert the challenge, the company decided to build an in-house billing system, which is used todate, after the failure of both Oracle and CMS.

"We have not billed our clients for four months now, but we have all the data concerning how much they have used," Karitanyi said.

"What we are doing is to completely reform processes. We are getting consultants to map all the systems we have and see where we need intervention," he added.

The deputy chairperson of PAC, Theoneste Karenzi, reminded the management of EWSA that shifting blame could be the main reason why its systems fail.

"Leaders need to inspire their staff. The bad attitude comes from the top and trickles down to the bottom. I am certain that everyone here was hired because they have the right qualifications," Karenzi said.

It was revealed observed that over 40 per cent of water consumed by the public was never paid for.

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