In 2014 Oxfam made the decision to bid for a big commercial tender. It was not just any commercial tender but one that was structured along a Payment by Results (PbR) process. This meant that all programme funding had to be pre-financed by Oxfam and its partners. Once results have been proven, Oxfam gets paid by DFID (Department for International Development). This process introduced a new way of working for a lot of teams: we had to provide concrete evidence to prove our success.
Oxfam took a lead in this PbR-funded project as member of the SWIFT Consortium for Sustainable WASH in Fragile Contexts: a consortium with partners from Kenya, DRC and Liberia. Our ambition was to reach over 1 million people across these three countries over a four-year period. Unfortunately, the Ebola crisis in Liberia halted programming there, but we continued to work in DRC and Kenya.
Between 2014 and 2016 the programme had reached over 850,000 people in DRC and Kenya, providing safe water or undertaking sanitation and hygiene promotion activities. During this period, Oxfam achieved its first set of goals. Despite the immense pressure on our teams in countries, we received 100% payment for the initial phase.
Unlike many traditional implementation programmes, DFID included a sustainability phase in its programming. During this phase – between 2016 and 2018 – teams supported local capacity for the management of systems. Through working with water utility companies, we sought to improve services and introduce an e-billing service to improve efficiency and decrease corruption. Both water utility companies that Oxfam worked with now have improved revenue collection systems; staff of one company now have their own uniforms.
In Nairobi, Oxfam partner WSUP (Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor) worked with Nairobi Water Company to bring water to individual compounds in some of the poorest neighbourhoods of the city. Oxfam also expanded Water ATMs, which allowed for people to access water whenever it is convenient, and ensured that payments are clear and transparent.
In DRC Oxfam piloted ‘ASUREPs’, a professional water management model, which has made significant improvements to the maintenance of water systems, increased the proportion of people paying for the service and, in some places, raised money to extend the system. This model was implemented in semi-urban localities: small towns or high growth areas. It has been praised by the government, leading to an opportunity to influence WASH policies at national level.
The benefits of this programme, beyond its achievements, have been for all of us – from head offices to country teams and partners – to really think about sustainability, about WASH, and look at how we are measuring success.
All these activities took place during a drought in Kenya, insecurity in DRC, and heightened political tensions during the election period for both countries. The teams, throughout the programmes, went above and beyond to deliver a successful programme, which has been called a ‘high performing programme’ by DFID.
Finally, this risk has been paid off with DFID extending our DRC programme for another three years.