When Dr William Muhairwe, the former managing director of National Water and Sewerage corporation, retired in 2010, there were fears that the Corporation would slip back to mismanagement.
The several awards NWSC bagged during Dr Muhairwe’s reign greatly endeared the corporation to the public, but upon his departure, the corporation began getting negative stories regarding the process of recruiting a new managing director.
But this was resolved by the political decision of Environment minister Ephraim Kamuntu to appoint Dr Silver Mugisha as the managing director and Dr Chris Ebal as the chairperson of the NWSC board.
As is often said, the rest is history because the corporation has picked up itself and continued its legacy of receiving global coveted awards which have earned the two engineers guiding it the titles, award winning chairman and managing director. But who is Dr Chris Ebal?
Youth today may think swag is a thing for the dot.com era, but Ebal’s former schoolmates, remember him for his signature revision style at night revising books with legs dipped in a basin of water and he only slept for two hours.
“Do not forget to include in your story that at Dr Obote College Boroboro, students described him as the man with the biggest brain at school, because he was the brightest student,” says one of the editors at Daily Monitor.
Engineering has confined Ebal, who was born in 1964 in Lira District, to the Judiciary close to two decades. He also had a stint at the Uganda Development Corporation for slightly over a decade.
His education journey began from Aliwang Primary School, a missionary school in Lira, which sent him to prominent schools such as St Joseph’s College Layibi, Dr Obote College Boroboro, then St Mary’s College Kisubi from where he joined Makerere University to study civil engineering.
“I did my first degree in Civil Engineering from Makerere University, then Loughborough University of Technology [in the UK], Maastricht School of Management [in the Netherlands], Harvard Business School [in the US]. I also did my PhD in the US,” Ebal says.
“I started by working at Sheraton (Kampala Hotel) during a renovation it was an Energo project, from there, I taught hydraulics at Makerere University, then Uganda Development Corporation and later central government.”
Ebal, who chairs the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) board, has been given the title “award winning chairman” by his colleagues because of numerous international accolades NWSC has scooped in the past year.
Much as controversy surrounded his appointment in February last year, the confusion, infighting, disharmony and low staff morale which had crept in the corporation seems to have cleared.
“My first mission as board chair was to understand the corporation as the leader of the board. Between February and June, I was just a board member, and then from July I was the chairperson,” he says, adding that his immediate task was to restore sanity in the corporation.
“I remember when I had just come there was the search of a managing director (MD). We took a professional touch, appointed the MD and work started,” he says, adding that they then started preaching team work and the spirit of reconciliation.
“In the past two years, we have been able to create a strategic direction. This has improved our financial stability, we have increased water network expansion by 1,000kms per year compared to 80kms per year previously, and we hope to do better,” he says.
“With a network of about 6,000km which we found in place our plan is to double this within six years.”
The other achievements he notes is the expansion of water coverage to 66 towns from 23 within one year and now they have embarked on engaging partners such as consumers, politicians, religious leaders, schools and the media to help the corporation in the delivery of water and sewerage services.
“We have created good partnerships with our donors in Germany and France. We have taken big projects to expand water and sewerage services to places like Arua, Gulu, Mbarara, Mbale, among others. Even places like Karamoja, we are just waiting for a go ahead from the minister before we venture into the area,” he says.
Asked about his winning formula, Ebal’s explanation is simple: “Fish starts rotting from the head.”
He explains that as a leader, he listens and all his decisions are taken from an informed point of view. He says he believes in hard work, respect for others, honesty and integrity when dealing with others.
Asked how NWSC has been able to win several awards in the recent past, Ebal says: “People see the work that we do and reward us. We never apply.”
He says the trick lies in treating the customer as king. “Understand the major issues the customer wants and if you are able to do it, fix them and also endeavour to explain where necessary,” he says.
Ebal’s contributions have not been limited to only NWSC. He is the brain behind the donor-funded project in the Justice, Law and Order Sector involving the construction of buildings for the Judiciary, the Directorate for Public Prosecutions and the Uganda Police Force. This project will see the entire justice system centred within one location.
He says they opted for this arrangement with donors because when decentralisation came in, local leaders took over the offices of the Judiciary.
“We have constructed more than 50 courts across the country, but we have a general lack of maintenance culture,” he says.
Asked to name a public institution he would take on if given chance, Ebal says the road sector.
Ebal attributes his performance to the opportunity the Ministry of Water and Environment gave him, and above all God for being born in a good family that gave him chance to study.
NWSC chairman and managing director will next week head to Nairobi to pick another accolade from the East African Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Authority. The authority is recognising NWSC as the best public body in compliance with PPDA procedures.
Last week, the corporation was awarded the Financial Reporting Award from the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, having been voted the best public institution with the most transparent financial records.
Last Month Otherways Management Association Club Paris, an international research and consulting firm based in France, awarded the corporation in a colourful ceremony in Geneva. The award was to reward firms around the world which have distinguished themselves in the field of quality and excellence.
In August, the corporation won the Global Water Leaders Award in Paris and in May again it was voted the best African water utility in Cape Town, South Africa.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor