Last month, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development appointed MOSES MWENYE as acting chief executive officer (CEO) for Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), replacing Alfonso Chikuni, who has been seconded to the ministry. Our reporter LLOYD CHITSULO caught up with MWENYE to talk more about his role. Excerpts;
Congratulations on your appointment. How does it feel being appointed to lead the parastatal at this point and what plans do you have for it?
The appointment brings mixed feelings of opportunity and challenge. Firstly, I want to thank the LWB Board for trusting and having confidence in me through this appointment. I regard it as a challenge but at the same time it offers me an opportunity to demonstrate what I can offer at the helm of this parastatal.
I know the board expects more from me and I do not intend to disappoint. I am determined to meet or even exceed their expectations by ensuring that I provide the critical and rounded leadership needed to deliver on those expectations. Ultimately, I want to ensure that LWB is a truly open system of thinking which responds to the requirements of our customers with innovative value propositions in tandem with our laid down mandate. I am positive we have the talent and competence to take us to that objective. There have been queries made on your appointment on the basis that you are not an engineer by profession; hence it was not right for you to take up that role. What do you have to say about this?
If my memory serves me well, that issue was already handled by our line ministry. There is really not much that I can say on this, but I believe serving at the apex of an organisation like LWB is not so much about being technically endowed.
The position of any CEO is managerial in nature and not technical. Therefore, as someone who has been studying managerial courses throughout my tertiary studies, I am a firm believer that I have the leadership and managerial acumen needed to motivate and support staff of LWB to buy into a well-conceived vision and strategy that will take the organisation to greater levels. In any case, organisations such as Escom where there is more engineering work, NCIC and others have been led by non-engineers before and so it is not like this is happening for the first time.
My biggest challenge, therefore, is not about whether I am an engineer or not, but to ensure that the qualified team that I have at LWB, which includes so many qualified and competent engineers, is able to buy into my vision and strategy for LWB so that together we achieve the organisation’s strategic objectives and take it to greater levels. We are fired up here at LWB and I am confident that together we will move from good to great.
Among some of the success stories of LWB, the parastatal was transformed from loss-making to a profit-making one and further, supply coverage was increased from 69 percent to 83.4 percent in a four-year period. How do you intend to maintain such a success rate and go beyond?
You are very right that LWB has transformed from being a loss-making to a profit-making organisation, and I would particularly like to commend my predecessor for guiding the organisation to such record successes. This is a good foundation upon which we will build future success. I don’t intend to re-invent the wheel but to build around what we have already achieved as an organisation to curate more and sustainable value for our stakeholders. It is interesting to note that the LWB Board and all members of staff are jealously guarding these achievements and are willing to do more, which to me is an encouraging development.
My strength will, therefore, be this team of dedicated employees because of its willingness to do and achieve more under my guidance. I will motivate and provide necessary resources and conducive environment to the employees so as to keep the momentum and sustain the profit-making record. In terms of the network coverage, we have a number of projects which when completed will certainly increase the network coverage from where it is now as well as improve the water supply time which at the moment is at an average of 16 hours per day.
What is it that you would want to see change?
Our biggest challenge has been the loss of water that occurs before reaching the customer. This is what we call Non-Revenue Water because it is lost along the way without bringing any revenue to our organisation.
It is a cost to LWB in that we are deprived of the critical revenue which would otherwise have booted our bottom line and increase our profitability profile in the long run. We are putting in place measures to ensure that we are on top of this challenge. Among them we are rehabilitating the distribution network and investing in training of our employees to ensure that our troubleshooting and problem-solving systems are up to speed.
The other challenge has been management of the human resource. It is now time for us to recognise that the most valuable asset of any organisation is its human resource. I will, therefore, see to it that we manage our people professionally and with utmost fairness. A well-managed workforce produces excellent results and that is exactly what we will strive to do.
Lastly, tell us more about yourself.
I am a business manager and human resource practitioner with 16 years’ experience of which six were at officer level; five at manager level and five at director level. Before joining LWB as director of corporate services in 2018, I worked for the following organisations at managerial level: university of Malawi, Teveta, Mera, Finca Malawi and Dairiboard Malawi. With the University of Malawi I worked as assistant registrar and acting registrar at Chancellor College and later on as registrar of the Polytechnic.
I am a holder of Master of Arts (Human Resource Management), Bachelor of Arts (Human Resource Management) and a Diploma in Business Studies all from the prestigious University of Malawi. I am currently doing my Master of Business Administration (MBA) with Esami and due to complete in 2020.