The XII General Assembly of NALAS this year takes place within the annual Danube Water Conference (17-19 May 2017, Vienna, Austria), bringing together SEE Mayors to discuss topics related to sustainable water management and provision of quality services to their citizens and addressing the challenges of financing water services for development. The conference is organised by NALAS’ partners: IAWD, GIZ and the World Bank.
“The leadership of NALAS member associations will be participating these two days in the debates of the Danube Water Conference. We will be exploring (together with our fellow colleagues from utility companies and their networks) more efficient and effective ways to modernise our water services. We will be looking at good practices in financing investments to improve water and waste water treatment infrastructure. In addition, we will be launching another joint effort to build a regional capacity building system”, said Mayor Naim Ismajli, President of NALAS, in the opening of the conference. “It is the power of technical knowledge which lies in our Utility Companies and the political power of Mayors and their Associations, combined, which can make the change for the benefit of citizens in SEE”, pointed out Mr. Ismajli.
As part of the conference program, NALAS hosted a training session on Local governments’ role in planning investments and improving performance of water and sanitation services. Having more than 70 participants, the session demonstrated part of the training in Efficient organisation and effective management of communal services, one of the five trainings developed within the program “Local Leaders South East Europe: Lead for Change” (LL SEE), implemented in the past two years with the support of GIZ. The session, focused on practical approaches and tools for local decision-makers for planning investments and improving water supply and sanitation services, attracted great interest of the audience and high interaction. It explored the Financial and Operational Performance Improvement Programme (FOPIP) and the need for performance based contracts between the local government and the public utility.
The session was delivered by two excellent trainers from the LL SEE pool of 33 trainers, Ms. Aida Jusufhodzic and Mr. Jane Vrteski, and backed up with the expertise of the resource persons: Mr. Vanja Starovlah, from the Union of Montenegro Municipalities, Mr. Mirko Djacic, Mayor of Pljevlja in Montenegro, Mr. Djordje Stanicic from the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities of Serbia and Mr. Sandi Zulic from Aquasan Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr. Miodrag Kolic from NALAS presented the achievements of LL SEE and the session was chaired by Ms. Jelena Janevska, NALAS Knowledge and Communications Manager.
The session resulted with the following conclusions:
- FOPIP provides a systematic approach for achieving effective utility management and is very beneficial for any public utility company that cares for its services. Often, it is requested by financing institutions.
- FOPIP identifies the key management areas for improvement in the company;
- It is essential that local governments and public utility companies work together in all phases, from the assessment, determining the indicators, setting objectives, planning and implementing actions to improve water and sanitation services;
- In doing so, Public Service Agreement is an instrumental tool for setting objectives, determining actions, rights and obligations and monitoring the progress.
- In these processes, customers must not be forgotten and their opinions have to be taken into consideration.
- Some of the key indicators that the participants thought are the most important to be included in the Public Service Agreement are: quality of service of water, non-revenue water and financial efficiency.
- Still, the Public Service Agreement needs to be adjusted to the context. For example, setting these indicators might be challenging in rural areas, where data is lacking.
In addition to the session hosted by NALAS, Mayors and member LGAs’ representatives addressed in various workshops and plenary sessions during the two-day program of the conference.
Mr. Cemil Arslan, the Secretary General of the Marmara Municipalities Union, Turkey, had quite motivating ignite presentation during the session on Innovative Financing Mechanisms. “46% of Istanbul’s budget goes to investments, while 99% of its waste water is under control and water loses are cut to a minimum”, said Mr. Arslan.
Mayor Tatiana Badan, who is also a President of CALM from Moldova, talked in the session on Addressing the challenge of water and sanitation services provision in rural areas. “Although 50% of the population in Moldova lives in rural areas, all central government’s development efforts go to urban areas. The lack of fiscal decentralisation further increases this problem”, said Ms. Badan.
Mr. Ljubisa Cosic, Mayor of Istocno Novo Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina talked about strategic financial planning in the water sector, Ms. Voltana Ademi, Mayor of Shodra, Albania, talked about the perspectives on financing, Mr. Miroslav Matesic, the Deputy Mayor of Rijeka, Croatia, presented Rijeka bond issue, while Mr. Goran Cvetanovic, Mayor of Leskovac, Serbia talked about efficient financing of construction and operation of waste water treatment infrastructure.
NALAS next President, Mr. Mico Micic, Mayor of Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, addressed in the closing session of the conference. “The water sector makes an important part of the SDGs and it should be high in the list of all of us Mayors and development agencies in SEE. The investments in water sector are complex and costly. We need to invest in increasing capacities of our city administrations. More importantly we need to develop a better communication and team work between the city administration and the public utility companies. All based on quality data, good financial management and most importantly, good multiyear planning. It is encouraging to learn about the new training system which IAWD and NALAS are developing with joint forces and hopefully very soon all local governments that plan to enter into such investments will know who will be able to give them a hand”, concluded Micic.