Operation and maintenance (O&M) of all Project Sammaan facilities is community-led with each facility managed by a committee of three individuals. These individuals are elected by the community itself into one of three positions – President, Secretary or Treasurer – for an initial tenure of one year. The election process is facilitated by Project Sammaan partner, CFAR.
The management committee then signs a unique contract with their local municipal corporation which was developed by the Project Sammaan team. This contract outlines the responsibilities of the facility managers as custodians of day-to-day operations, and the municipal corporation as the ultimate owners of the facility. The contract includes a provision for supplementary gap funding to be paid by the corporation to the management committee on a monthly basis to help support operations
Project Sammaan community managers are responsible for overseeing the overall maintenance of the facility, including cleanliness & hygiene, minor repairs, financial management and community relations. Each manager is provided a comprehensive 3-day training on O&M by the Project Sammaan team. Immediately prior to facility opening, the committee is also responsible for hiring a caretaker to manage the day-to-day operations of the facility, and an attendant to regularly clean the facility. Caretakers are also provided training by the Sammaan team.
A standing committee of 8 to 12 community members is also selected prior to facility opening. The role of the committee is two-fold: to support the three-member management committee in their duties, and to ensure managers remain accountable by keeping a regular check on their activities.
Operational costs are covered primarily through pay-per-use user fee collection, and supplemented by grant funding from the local municipal corporations. For facilities that have shop spaces, shop rent is an added source of revenue.
Each community-level management ecosystem is supported and monitored by the Project Sammaan team in the following ways:
- Site-level review meetings held every 3 months – These cover issues identified during regular follow-up visits by the project team, findings from audits, challenges voiced by facility staff and management, and feedback from the community.
- Structured dialogue with facility users – These focus group discussions are a forum for users to share their thoughts on facility operations and management. Often, the target user group for community toilets are those who are least likely to have their voices heard. Given this, our team instituted these dialogues to focus on the feedback from people who are most meant to benefit from these facilities.
- Audits conducted by the Project Monitoring Unit (PMU) – Two facility audits and one financial are conducted each month for each facility, and reports are submitted to the concerned municipal corporation. The PMU is operated by TARU Leading Edge Pvt. Ltd., another project partner.
- Facilitation of grievance redressal by the PMU – In the event of issues that cannot be internally resolved by the communities (such as desludging of septic tanks), the Sammaan PMU escalates these grievances through the proper channels within the corporations to ensure that timely corrective action is taken. With the complexities of the municipal system and general lack of transparency on the proper protocols for getting things done, this facilitation is vital.