Establish terms for O&M/follow-up

Describe in detail the requirements for O&M/follow-up and how these are supposed to be met after the project completion

The terms for operation and maintenance (O&M) or project follow up comprise the specification of all the activities needed to ensure that the project outputs yield benefits in the long run. In case of infrastructure projects such terms should include details on who will run and maintain water points, sanitation facilities or other structures together with an overview of the activities and resources that are required for this purpose. In case of capacity development, awareness raising or lobby and advocacy projects terms are established to specify the required follow-up to achieve the project objectives.

During the process of developing terms for O&M/follow-up it is key to keep the results from your capacity assessment in mind. If you have not done so already, now is also the time to plan how you will develop the required capacities for O&M/follow-up.

Operation: refers to the direct access to the system by the user (e.g. operating the hand pump), to the activities of any operational staff (e.g. operators of motorized pumps), and to the rules, which may define who may access the system, when, and under what conditions.

Maintenance: is to do with the (technical) activities which are needed to keep the system working. Maintenance requires skills, tools and materials (e.g. spare parts) (CARTER 2009).

Purpose and link to IQC

Clear terms for O&M/follow-up is a crucial element of sustainability, and a frequent cause of project failure in the past. Many projects fail due to poor planning, inadequate cost recovery, or lack of local knowledge. Discussing O&M/follow-up requirements together with those people who are supposed to benefit from a project during the planning phase already helps ensuring the functioning of the services and increasing the sustainability of the investments made for the well-being of the target group.

How to

1.   Identify what needs to be done to ensure successful O&M/follow-up

List the activities needed for the daily management of the facility and for keeping the system in proper working condition (e.g. gasoline for a pump), in case of infrastructure projects. Include the actions needed to repair any potential failures in the list (e.g. breakdowns, leakages, replacement of parts…). In the other columns of the table, add information about:

  • how frequently the activities are needed (When)
  • materials, spare parts, tools and equipment that may be needed

In case of software projects you can do the same but with a focus on activities that are needed to ensure uptake of the interventions by the target group.

The following table provides an example for O&M activities to be performed for a new borehole.

Example: Borehole

Step 1
Activity When Materials & Spare Parts Tools & Equipment
Clean well site Daily Non Broom, bucket
Clean drain Occasionally Non Hoe, spade, wheel-barrow

2.   Define who does what

Define who will carry out/be responsible for the activities listed in step 1 and list their names in the first column of the table below and make them sign accepting their responsibility. In the other columns of the table, add information about:

  • Their roles: the activities they should carry out.
  • Their skills: any knowledge they have that can contribute to their role.
  • Needed training / support: any preparation and/or assistance that this person may need to be able to fulfil his/her role.

Keep in mind that you should have already assigned roles and responsibilities for the entire project at the outset, including those for O&M/follow-up.

Example: Borehole

  Step 2
Activity Who (signed) Required skills Required support
Keep water point clean, pay bills, report leaks Users No special skills Initial workshop to clarify usage procedures, payment system and reporting
Implement preventive maintenance schedule, monitor water quality Local mechanic Technical skills and basic cleaning skills Technical training and facilitate access to spare parts

3.   Clarify financial implications for everybody

The fact that most donors and funding schemes do not provide funds for project follow-up makes it imperative to clarify how costs of the post-implementation activities are to be covered. In most cases these costs need to be covered by the target group. It is therefore important that service fees cover O&M and that funds for follow-up activities are committed by the target group.

1) To clarify the financial implications at the outset you first need to calculate the costs for O&M/follow-up activities.

2) Then you define the cost recovery strategy (the ways you plan to use to recover the money). In water supply and sanitation projects it is most common to establish a fee structure. It is however most important that your strategy of choice and the resulting costs are accepted by everybody who needs to contribute.

3) Present and explain the strategy, discuss concerns and make required adjustments. In some cases it may be required to cover parts of the O&M/follow-up costs through funds from the implementing organization (e.g. through core funding or donations) or subsidies from local government to showcase the added value of the project outcomes as a basis to establish payment schemes.

Step 3
Costs Cost recovery Who to inform (signature)
10.000 Ksh per year Water fees The future users
2.000 Ksh per year Annual budget of the CSO The CSO financial manager


References & Further Readings

Last updated 12 April 2018

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