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☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

When government institutions don’t pay their water bills, they push water utilities towards insolvency and service delivery failure

By: Ivanna

Delayed or non-payment of water bills by public entities is widespread in developing countries, and has significant impact on the bottom line of water service providers. A 2020 survey by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), End Water Poverty, Solutions for Water Integrity and Management (SWIM) and other partners showed that 95% of the utilities investigated in 18 countries, mostly from the Global South, reported cases of non-payment by public institutions and that collection rates for public customers are consistently lower than for private customers.

Access to water is a human right and yet, according to a 2019 UN analysis, 2.2 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed drinking water sources or are not connected to water networks, and 3 billion people even lack access to basic handwashing facilities. The situation is putting millions at even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic when it is paramount that services be delivered as effectively as possible.

Water service providers are on the front lines. They must maintain adequate service and ensure that new measures mandated to face the pandemic are implemented effectively. They must do this while facing shortfalls in revenue collection due to the crisis and without compromising their ability to improve and increase service provision in the long-term.

National and local governments must take action to ensure water is accessible to all and do so by supporting service providers to weather the crisis and ensure optimal service, for the long-term. The first steps are to prioritise the payment of public institutions’ outstanding water bills  and to back up the promises made in response to COVID-19.

 

Arrears from public customers jeopardise financial stability of water service providers and ability to respond to crisis

The reasons for non-payment are varied but at least 10% of survey respondents claimed abuse of political power or undue interference are to blame.

In a number of cases, the arrears represent a high proportion of the total revenue of water service providers. And, survey results show that the situation is worsening during the pandemic crisis as arrears are increasing. Two out of five surveyed water utilities suffer from increasingly delayed payments or a reduction of their bill collection ratio from public institutions. The missing money is urgently needed to provide adequate services and to ensure that the human rights to water and sanitation are realised.

There are now reports of a growing number of water utilities facing financial distress in part because of these issues. In Ghana, for example, the Water Citizen Network, warned that the Ghana Water Company Limited “will not be able to sustain a regular supply of water or expansion to reach unserved communities if the debt situation of the company is not resolved“.

 

Financial stress is compounded by lower collection rates and increased losses due to the crisis

In addition to delays and missing payments from public institutions, many service providers are also suffering financially from losses and a decrease in water demand and associated revenues. Otherwise reliably paying customers with high consumption rates, such as industry or the hospitality sector, have been hit hard by the crisis.

Many private customers, who had paid their bills may also be struggling to cover costs as they are confronted with the effects of the pandemic. As reported by the World Bank, the Uganda National Water and Sewerage Corporation for example “only collected 39% of the revenue expected between February and June 2020“.

This is leading to a general decrease in the collection efficiency of payments and is putting a serious strain on the operations of many water utilities. A Zambian water service provider shared insight on collection efficiency for our survey and research, showing a notable decrease since the beginning of 2020, with collection rates now far below the sector benchmark.

These issues are major concerns for utilities worldwide, and not only on the short-term. In the United States, for example, it is unclear for many how accumulated debt will be paid and what the impact of the crisis will be on collection and delinquency rates when emergency measures expire.

 

Measures to respond to COVID-19 provide relief, but they must be effectively funded and sustainable

Measures are being taken by governments to support water users and to provide water and relief for people during the crisis. Various governments have pledged to make water free or cheaper, put a moratorium on disconnections, and reduced or waived fees and extra costs. Governments are also, in some cases, already supporting utilities with additional financing and other measures to improve monitoring and coordination, all in an effort to maintain continuity of service. These are necessary and important steps forward that highlight the crucial importance of the water and sanitation sector.

The issues are whether, in practice, these measures are adequately funded and what their impact will be on the long-term. From our research, a Kenyan utility worker reported that: “Free water supply to hand-washing points and informal settlements“ was mandated by government to fight against COVID. But to pay for these additional services, water service providers still need to maintain sufficient income. Another Kenyan utility worker added that “the Government announced there would be no disconnections for non-payment of water bills, yet no subsidies have been provided”.

Overall, the inability for water service providers to avoid losses in revenue in combination with non-payment from public entities and accumulated arrears increase the risk of severe financial stress and bankruptcy. Immediate as well as long-term actions must be taken to protect and sustain water and sanitation services that are indispensable to overcoming the pandemic.

Two streams of action are required: a) Governments must support utilities, backing up their promises for COVID-19 relief with adequate subsidies that fit in to a longer-term strategy towards the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation. b) To ensure a sustainable financial basis for utilities, measures must be taken by governments to ensure that all public entities, at every level, pay their bills to water service providers in full and on time.

Without these actions, any progress to provide water and sanitation to all is being put at risk by the very governments that claim commitment to this target.

 

 

 

The post When government institutions don’t pay their water bills, they push water utilities towards insolvency and service delivery failure appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Putting integrity at the heart of climate adaptation

By: Water Integrity Network

Integrity-readiness is key to safeguarding development funds. Climate finance in particular must flow where it is intended and most needed. We must ensure climate adaptation programmes are not derailed by corruption.

To mitigate integrity risks and to ensure the water sector is integrity-ready for climate finance, we need effective, strategic partnerships. Join our network of organizations committed to smarter investments by hindering corruption and building integrity.

 

Talking integrity with Ibrahim Pam from the Green Climate Fund

As Head of the Independent Integrity Unit at the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Mr. Ibrahim Pam knows first-hand how damaging the lack of integrity in the water sector can be. Watch this compelling exchange of ideas between him and our Executive Director, Barbara Schreiner.

 

Water Integrity as an Opportunity: Climate Change Finance and the Water Sector

Our policy brief provides an overview of challenges and opportunities concerning corruption in the water sector in the context of climate finance, and addresses policy makers and practitioners from both sectors. This document, drafted by GIZ and WIN, is based on a literature review and interviews with experts from international and civil society organizations and implementing entities. It seeks to promote greater responsibility and accountability in climate finance.

The post Putting integrity at the heart of climate adaptation appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Strengthening integrity: crucial in advancing water security in Asia Pacific

By: Ivanna

The 2020 Asia Water Development Outlook (AWDO), the just released flagship publication of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), introduced governance as a chapter and applied the OECD Water Governance Principles across AWDO’s five key dimensions of water security.

Among the Water Governance Principles, the 9th principle focuses on Integrity and Transparency. Based on a survey undertaken by OECD which provides a snapshot of governance gaps in the Asia Pacific area, AWDO underlined the low adoption of integrity practices and tools among the member states. It further establishes that less than 20% of the countries in the region have implemented relevant international conventions or institutional anti-corruption plans.

Poor integrity in water governance and management is a major barrier for achieving water security and resilience, which have been stated to be objectives of key sectoral stakeholders, including the ADB for the Asia Pacific region. For the first time, AWDO has specifically called for “mainstreaming integrity and transparency practices across water policies, water institutions, and water governance frameworks that are key for greater accountability and trust in decision-making, and effective implementation of water policies”. WIN welcomes AWDO’s initiative of highlighting the urgent need to strengthen integrity within the water sector processes among member states.

AWDO’s report points towards the need to address integrity and corruption in the capital-intensive water sector. At least US$75 billion is siphoned off annually from critical water projects for every 10% of investment lost to corruption. This significant risk, if not tackled, leads to misuse of the investments coming into the sector and further hampers more investments from diverse sources. Poor integrity tarnishes the reputation and creditworthiness of water sector entities and overall, the economic, social, and environmental ramifications are enormous. Mitigating corruption risks can lead to substantial savings across the sector.

WIN has worked with numerous development sector partners, donors, and government agencies to promote integrity and good governance in water and sanitation. We have also established a set of Integrity Tools and practices, useful in strengthening institutional integrity, improving performances and taking measures that prevent corruption. Applying these tools in collaboration with government agencies and water utilities in the Asia Pacific region, has led to valuable lessons and practices that can be scaled up within countries and in the region.

Addressing integrity concerns requires each stakeholder to equally collaborate; otherwise, it can be very challenging to establish good governance. We encourage ADB and other regional partners to support the implementation of the AWDO recommendations on good governance, especially on integrity among the member states.

The post Strengthening integrity: crucial in advancing water security in Asia Pacific appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Women and Water: The Story of Alice Rutto

By: Water Integrity Network

When Nakuru Rural Water Service Company (NARUWASCO) and the Dutch NGO WaterWorx picked Total Mau Summit in Nakuru as the base for the Total Mau Summit ‘Water for Life Project’ in December 2017, Ms. Alice Rutto, had no idea it would change her life. Now, Alice and the other residents of Total Mau Summit in Nakuru County, Kenya, no longer have to walk long distances every day in search of clean water from the Silibwet Spring, or pay unscrupulous water vendors exorbitant prices to access the precious commodity.

Alice explains while showing us the spring:

‘We used to line up here to fetch water from the spring for hours, and in the dry season, sometimes fights would occur because we didn’t have enough water. But now, with this water project, we can now look to the future and also focus on other things.’

Alice is one of more than 15 million people in water-scarce Kenya on the fringe of water services, dependent on sometimes distant wells, ponds, water bowsers and water vendors or rainfall for farming or personal use. With the introduction of the ‘Water for Life’ project which supplies water to 17,000 people along the Nakuru – Eldoret highway A104, she benefits not only from the safe drinking water and improved health, but far more.

It all started when Alice was recruited as part of the 25-member Task Force team of men and women mandated to assist in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the project. The Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD), WIN, and NARUWASCO supported the Task Force with training on integrity and transparency and helped them acquire the-know-how to monitor the project.

Her new role forced her to grapple with longstanding gender disparities. According to Alice, management is traditionally seen as a man’s job; therefore, the women here found limited access to the information on water management. Nevertheless, when it comes to water issues, women feel the pinch the most as they are the ones who are directly impacted.

Alice increasingly saw the importance of women’s role in protecting water sources. She slowly found her voice in the team and eventually ended up leading implementation. Today, Alice is the main guard of the Silibwet Spring. She monitors the construction of the water storage tank, ensures that the materials listed in the bill of quantities are what is provided, and educates the community on the importance of protecting the stream from over-exploitation. Alice is also campaigning for yard taps to be placed in strategic locations and negotiates with farm owners to allow for their installation and use.

 

Ms. Alice Rutto, taking notes during a budget process training

Photo: CESPAD

 

Like many other women who have recognised their critical role in the sustainability of water projects, she now ensures that more women in the Total Mau Summit area are stepping up and getting their voices heard. Recently, she formed a group of community members living near the spring to restore the riparian land and to stop the drawing of spring water, especially during the dry season. This group is mainly made up of women, but also includes former members of the Task Force. With the trust and relations built in the trainings with WIN, they are now able to lobby for more infrastructure from NARUWASCO and the county government.

Before this project, if you had have asked me what I thought of water management issues, I would have sent you to the MCA,’ says Alice. ‘I never, in a million years, would have thought I would be on the frontline of solving water issues. As long as I had enough for me, my family and my farm, I was ok. I did not realise how powerful I was; how my voice was relevant and needed. I would watch as people exploited the spring, and I would grumble to myself but leave it to someone else to solve the problem. Now I know it was and always will be my problem. If anyone exploits or contaminates the spring, I am responsible for it; and it will be a problem I will pass on to my children if I do not solve it now. Now, I have a voice and a platform, and I will use it. I will get other women to use it too. Water issues are women’s issues. The moment we accept that and rise up to the challenge, that will be the moment, we begin to achieve SDG 6’.

The Task Force was disbanded with the completion of the ‘Water for Life’ project in December 2019. But Alice, along with her team members, now know how to hold themselves, the community, NARUWASCO and the county government accountable for equitable water supply in the small town of Total Mau Summit.

 

Alice is now the guardian of the Silibwet Spring

Photo: CESPAD

 

Alice and other women in Total Mau Summit now have more time to focus on other income-generating activities. Alice’s farm is thriving, and she has more time to deliver her products to the market. For sustainable development of the Nakuru county, Alice urges the government and non-profits to involve more women in technical skills training so that they do not have to look for technicians to repair water pumps or fix a broken water pipe. These skills, she says, will help reduce delays and will give these women, most of whom do not have formal education a sustainable source of income to improve their livelihoods.

The post Women and Water: The Story of Alice Rutto appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

WIN’s annual General Assembly 2020

By: Ivanna

The Water Integrity Network’s General Assembly online meetings included official GA Members such as the OECD, GIZ, SIWI, Sida, Transparency International and a dozen other kindred key global players. These were held from the 18th to the 20th of November and highlighted the progress made in 2020, while offering preliminary showings in vital, new and continuing projects for 2021. 

On the ground projects

Despite the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 WIN was able to continue work on the ground:

  • In Bangladesh, with three utilities and numerous school WASH programmes. 
  • In Kenya, with local partners to deliver a Training of Trainers for 18 people, and 16 partners trained on the Integrity Management Toolbox (IMT) for Small Water Supply Systems (SWSS).
  • In Mexico, a further Training was done with the IMT for SWSS, and an integrity assessment tool for water utilities was successfully piloted. 
  • Further projects were delivered in South Sudan, Honduras, Uruguay and Benin. 

Executive Director Barbara Schreiner explained that, our Annual Plan and Budget for 2021 will continue to allow us to remain stable in staffing, and deliver targets as expected. WIN may be able to add to existing work-plans if fundraising in the pipeline is successful. 

Leadership change

WIN’s former Board Chair and now first Honorary GA Member, Mr. Ravi Narayanan, is stepping down, and was thanked for his years of leadership, which started from the very beginnings of WIN:

“It wasn’t so long ago that corruption was not a word that was spoken in polite society. This changed when WIN was born. I’m very happy to be leaving WIN in such good hands, despite the large challenges we face.”

– Ravi Narayanan,  2020

We would like to heartily welcome Dr. Letitia A Obeng, the newly elected Chair of the Water Integrity Network (WIN). Letitia is a Water Supply, Sanitation and Water Management professional with 40 years’ experience.  She served with the World Bank in managerial and director positions on water management and sustainable development. Letitia has served in leadership roles in WaterAid America, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), and the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute.  She holds a PhD in public health and water resources engineering from Imperial College, University of London. 

The General Assembly unanimously elected the additional Members: 

  • Dick van Ginhoven, Secretary of Supervisory Board, (2nd term) 
  • Peter Conze, Member of General Assembly and member of Supervisory Board (1st term),  
  • IWMI General Assembly Member Nov 2020 – Nov 2023 (re-election) 

 

The post WIN’s annual General Assembly 2020 appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Human Rights and Water Integrity in Informal Settlements

By: Water Integrity Network

Despite clear international law on the human rights to water and sanitation, and widespread recognition of these rights, people living in informal settlements (slums) typically lack access to essential services. They pay more per litre for precarious, potentially unsafe water than residents in wealthier areas, and have limited access to toilets; relying on shared latrines, self-dug pits or overflowing chemical latrines.

Lack of integrity and corruption contribute to the failure to deliver services, reinforcing existing inequalities in access to water and sanitation, diverting resources from where they are most needed, and reducing the quality and availability of services.

A new paper from the South African Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) and the international Water Integrity Network (WIN) discusses these issues based on research conducted by SERI in Siyanda, Marikana and Ratanang, three informal settlements in South Africa, and by partners in Mukuru, an informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya.

The paper shows how an integrity focus can help to achieve human rights obligations and how a human rights focus improves integrity and reduces opportunities for corruption.

 

 

 

The post Human Rights and Water Integrity in Informal Settlements appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

What does it mean to mainstream gender in open government processes and why are gender-blind indicators not enough?

By: Water Integrity Network

Globally, women and girls take on a grossly disproportionate burden in the work of securing water for their communities. Yet they remain dramatically underrepresented in water management at all levels. This leaves them vulnerable to and dependent on men for their water and sanitation needs – despite distinct menstrual, pregnancy, and child-rearing needs – and effectively deepens their economic marginalization. Gender-blind indicators don’t make these issues appear and that’s a big problem.

In Open Government co-creation processes, including those related to water and natural resource governance, we often talk of mainstreaming gender to address these issues more systematically. At Técnicas Rudas, we’re proposing that to do this and take the next step in advancing gender-inclusive governance, we need to mainstream the use of gender indicators.

 

Why gender indicators?

To measure impact, to observe change, or to detect differences in characteristics across populations, policy makers, social scientists, and project managers make use of indicators. The feminist perspective calls our attention to two dangers of relying on easily accessible, simple indicators of well-being like GDP per capita, literacy rates, access to healthcare etc. First, the assumption of relative homogeneity obscures significant, systemic disparities within a given population along these indicators. A second and deeper danger is that the indicators generally neglect to take into account the systematic exclusion of marginalized populations from data collection efforts, which further exacerbates the fact that women’s and minorities’ realities are made invisible.

These dangers have significant consequences at the design, implementation, and evaluation stages of open government commitments related to Natural Resource Governance (NRG).

  • At the design stage, the blind spots mean that policy ideas and “theories of change” might be much less relevant and far-reaching in practice than they appear on paper.
  • At the implementation state, implicit discriminatory practices can go entirely unnoticed.
  • At the evaluation stage, the same blind spots mean that skewed or counterproductive impacts might go undetected and uncorrected.

Gender has been part of human rights and development sector discourse for years! In that time, many have come to realize that relying on feminist intuition or focusing on getting people of diverse backgrounds “at the table”, is simply not enough. For gender to be taken into account, it needs to count, and be counted. That’s why we’re proposing gender indicators.

 

New research to show impact of gender-based approach

In 2019, the Feminist Open Government Initiative invited organizations to present proposals for action-oriented and evidence-driven research to support the adoption of a gender perspective in Open Government. As a feminist organization that works a lot on issues related to transparency and extractive industries, and one that relies on open data and grassroots participation, this call for proposals made us think.

What does having a gender perspective look like in practice? Does a gender-based approach have observable consequences? For example, do policy priorities change? Do strategies change?

In 2019, my colleagues and I embarked on a year-long, action-driven exploration of the practical potential of gender indicators within the Open Government Partnership. We adopted a specific focus on commitments related to natural resource governance (NRG) and the differential impacts of the extractive industries on women. Our case study countries were Mexico, Colombia and Peru – contexts where land rights movements and socio-environmental conflicts persistently challenge both traditional and sustainable development logic, and where NRG commitments feature frequently in National Action Plans.

Our research took a detour almost as soon as we kicked off. Because the open government discourse is so embedded in the Sustainable Development Agenda, our original layout also integrated the SDG framework. However, we quickly realized that in the contexts where NRG challenges are most extreme – where indigenous communities face off against multinational corporations to keep toxic spills from contaminating bodies of water, and where open-pit mines threaten to displace entire villages – the development agenda doesn’t quite resonate. Instead, we turned towards the international human rights framework to help us think strategically and ethically about where we need gender indicators most.

We proceeded with an intensive period of literature review, interviews, and round-tables with specialists on the extractive industries, open data, and feminism in Mexico, followed by workshops with women land rights defenders in Peru and Colombia, with whom we worked together to test methods for creating and using gender indicators in the context of the challenges and needs of their communities.

 

 

Gender indicators highlight the harmful impact of extractive industries in terms of human rights

According to front-line land rights defenders who participated in this research, the differential impact of decisions about how natural resources are exploited or safeguarded is most apparent in connection with the impact of extractive industries on human rights.

In particular, when it comes to the right to water and sanitation, we see a very dangerous chain reaction of impacts. For example, a mining project has a dramatic effect on a community’s ability to exercise its right to water (due both to pollution and scarcity), which has cross-cutting consequences, by affecting the health of the entire community, which disproportionately burdens women due to traditional roles as caregivers, and thus in turn also lead to a drop in their ability to participate in the labor market, a subsequent reduction in livelihood, and further deterioration in access to health. Meanwhile, fewer clean water sources translate to more time dedicated to household chores and supporting agriculture production, further reducing time available for rest, education, and remunerated work.

 

Where there is resource extraction, there is violence

We also discovered that using gender indicators in the process of co-creating Open Government Commitments brings issues to the forefront that we rarely see in conversations, let alone in action plans, on open natural resource governance. One of these issues is violence.

Across the board, where there is resource extraction, an increase in the threat of physical violence appears to be ubiquitous. This includes forced displacement, forced labor, domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual extortion, human trafficking, militarization, intimidation and attacks against community leaders and land rights defenders, and more. Natural resource governance strategies need to confront head-on the violent consequences of opening communities and the environment to extractive industries.

 

Beyond specific indicators, committing to the process

Our research illustrates what using gender indicators can accomplish, which is to:

  • make visible what has been invisible for many up until now
  • assign value to what is normally taken for granted – issues that have traditionally been viewed as secondary or only indirectly related to natural resource governance – and put it center stage; and, finally,
  • serve as guideposts for designing much more inclusive and impactful natural resource governance strategies that have respecting and protecting human rights as one of their primary objectives.

We now have an extensive menu of gender indicators, which, for the water sector, includes for example disaggregated data on water quality and perceptions on water availability. But the most relevant result of this research is not the indicators, but the process.  We created a replicable process to develop gender indicators and published two short, simple guides (in Spanish) to help stakeholders design gender indicators for evaluating long-term impacts as well as short-term results of Open Government commitments.

Overall, it’s important to recognize we don’t have to wait for sweeping reforms or for the next national action plan to start using gender indicators. They can be incorporated from the word go, in implementation. That said, and as far as OGP on the international level and on the country level is concerned, there are  key moments where we can start to plan and integrate gender indicators: during co-creation, as part of the processes, at the conclusion of a national action plan – specifically in the self-assessment and in the independent reporting mechanisms methodologies- and, ultimately, at impact evaluations.

We should think of indicators not just as evaluation tools but also as guideposts that can help us ensure – from the moment of co-creation – that what we’re trying to achieve and the path we’re taking to getting there takes into account gender and gender minorities

The emphasis on process is in line with one of the final takeaways that I am left with as this project comes to a close:  One doesn’t “have” a gender perspective in a passive state; a gender perspective is, or should be, the active, collective and continuous undertaking of a deliberate process. Keeping this in mind will be key if the OGP is to transform into a genuinely inclusive platform.

 

About the author

Tamar Hayrikyan, Managing Partner at Técnicas Rudas, a Mexico-based organization that aims to contribute to social movements and human rights defense through strategic research, technology, creative alliances and organizational strengthening. Prioritizing grassroots initiatives, our approach integrates an intersectional gender lens and digital security. Tamar has an academic background in political economy and human rights, as well as professional expertise in corporate accountability, transparency in the extractive industries, documenting human rights violations and protecting human rights defenders.

 

See more posts from the Water and Open Government Community of Practice here.

See more posts on gender and water integrity here.

The post What does it mean to mainstream gender in open government processes and why are gender-blind indicators not enough? appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Water and sanitation through a gender lens

By: Water Integrity Network

Every day, across the world, women and girls spend around 200 million hours collecting water. Women also have specific WASH needs. Yet they remain dramatically underrepresented in water resource management at all levels. Corruption and integrity failures shrink revenue for and effectiveness of the sector, further threatening the welfare of poor women and children in particular.

The Water and Open Government Community of Practice is working to change this by sharing research, best practices, and recommendations on how decision-makers in water management can significantly improve gender-related outcomes of their work. In a recent webinar, experts in national and international water and resources management focused on one means of action: gender-specific strategies linked to the WASH commitments made in Action Plans under the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Here are the key discussion points and conclusions.

 

 

Gender across OGP action plans

Allison Merchant, Open Government Partnership

Platforms like the OGP have major potential for governments and civil society to work together on improving gender responsive reforms. In the past years, we have seen promising transparency and accountability reforms on gender equality priorities through these collaborative efforts, building on strong partnerships as well as learnings from the Feminist Open Government Initiative.

Gender is the second fastest-growing area for OGP action plans. To date, throughout the partnership, 41 members – governments in particular – have made 127 commitments on gender. Furthermore, there are currently 28 members implementing 82 commitments in 2018 and 2019 action plans.

However, this merely scratches the surface of how these cross-sector initiatives can collectively champion ambitious reforms to close economic, resource, and social gender gaps. Natural resource governance has particularly been a long-standing integration into OGP’s work, but bringing a gender perspective is relatively new. So, when we think about opportunities to advance gender throughout open government work, I would urge that the following be considered as part of our water and sanitation reforms:

 

Inclusive co-creation:

The process of co-creating reforms can be made more inclusive through proactive outreach and engagement with government ministries and departments which are tasked with gender or inclusion

 

Gender mainstreaming:

Non-gender-specific action plans and commitments can be transformed by gender analysis.

Such a gender analysis can take many forms and use specific tactics like gender budgeting or gender-disaggregated data.We have examples from Kenya related to open contracting and from Cote d’Ivoire related to participatory budgeting.

 

Gender-specific commitments:

Specific interventions are needed to close gaps that disproportionately impact women and other key communities and reforms must be designed around those areas. Germany, for example, is monitoring women’s leadership in public and private sectors and using that data to inform law. Sri Lanka is connecting international protocols with the open government platform, by ensuring reporting for the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women is cross-populated and reinforced within open government structures.

 

 

Integrating gender priorities into WASH commitments

Kanika Thakar, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)

Of the 65 WASH and sanitation commitments made to date, there are two on gender or gender equality, three on women’s participation, and another three on women’s agencies among their supporting actors. Gender equality is key to achieving sustainable water governance yet those numbers indicate it is largely forgotten in the process for open water governance.

We can’t just will gender equality into WASH.We need a process, with renewed and ongoing commitments on gender. Rather than having only specific areas of work dedicated to improving gender equality, we must actively mainstream (or include) at every stage: from planning and implementation to monitoring and resourcing.

It can feel like a huge undertaking, but we can build on our existing work and find easy entry points for activities that can deliver gender-equal outcomes.

 

Represent gender diversity:

Participants in the co-creation process should reflect our populations and their needs.

One woman or one non-binary individual does not represent all; we need to strive for strong representation of women and gender minorities from different backgrounds.

One tactic is to request that all partners or supporting organizations send gender-diverse representation to meetings. If these organizations have gender focal points – increasingly common among WASH institutions – they should be engaged in the process. Consider your audience as well – guarantee the right conditions which allow full participation. Segregated consultations or groups may be appropriate, particularly when it comes to discussing toilets and menstrual hygiene management.

 

Be gender explicit:

While the term “community involvement” is used with good intention, it can result in gender blindness. Too often we take for granted women as part of the community. However, without being deliberate that the community includes men, women, and gender minorities, experience shows that one group will outweigh the others: typically, many men participate while women and gender minorities are left out, due to lack of engagement or underlying barriers to participation. This results in missed critical information about times and quality of service, as each group engages in WASH infrastructures at different hours and in different ways.

 

Illuminate and account for inequalities:

At first glance, pledging that a newly developed platform will offer “access to updated, complete information on drinking water supply and sanitation services” seems strong and gender neutral. However, women and girls make up two thirds of the world’s illiterate population, meaning that reports and written media are far less accessible to them. Women also have fewer financial resources, which can translate in less access to smartphones or computers and therefore less access to less online information. By appending to a commitment that access to and reporting on data is equally done by women and men, or by including the consideration that women and gender minorities face difficulties to do so, gender is brought to the surface. This may ensure follow-up on gender in implementation of open government commitments.

 

Collect gendered data and set targets:

With any good commitment, outcomes must be measurable.

Evidence and data are the backbone of good policies; sex-disaggregated data is thus critically important.

To recognize and measure how women and gender minorities are engaging with or being affected by commitments, is to gain deeper insight into otherwise hidden barriers and motivators, which helps in noticing implicit bias in our commitments and activities. Seeing low numbers in these areas can also help motivate better policies to address these challenges and help us take active steps to achieve gender-equal outcomes. However, it’s important to be ambitious but reasonable about targets. Achievable targets are more likely to be realized. The World Water Assessment Programme’s gender and water toolkit (2019) is a helpful resource for this, including interview questions, indicators, and methodologies.

 

Be prepared to pay:

Mainstreaming does not need to be hard, but it doesn’t come without cost. The process of monitoring indicators, addressing barriers, and ensuring women and gender minorities are engaged and equally provided for takes resources, and these should be allocated from the start. Gender-sensitive budgeting, advocated for since the 1980s, works to achieve gender equality by providing funds to ensure gender-responsive outcomes. In South Korea, for instance,  gender-sensitive budgeting was applied to modify their act on public toilets and allocate more resources to building them for the differentiated needs of men and women.

 

 

Developing and using gender indicators for open natural resource governance

Tamar Hayrikyan, Tecnicas Rudas

We have carried out a year-long applied research project on gender indicators in natural resource governance, with the input and support of frontline land rights organizations and local communities and researchers from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia as well as the Feminist Open Government Initiative. We see that gender indicators, and not only the numbers but especially the process of developing them, can:

  • make visible what has been invisible for many up until now;
  • assign value to what is taken for granted; and, finally
  • serve as guideposts for designing much more inclusive and impactful natural resource government strategies which respect human rights.

Gender indicators can be incorporated from the start and in implementation of OGP commitments.

We don’t have to wait for sweeping reforms or for the next national action plan to start using gender indicators.

 

The hidden human rights impacts of natural resource governance:

The differential impact of natural resource governance decisions is connected to the human rights impacts of the extractive industries, for example the rights to food, to a healthy environment, and to water and sanitation.

Using gender indicators and undertaking the commitment co-creation process with a feminist approach brings to the forefront these issues and more that are rarely talked about.

One of these hidden issues is violence. which appears to be ubiquitous when there is resource extraction, and includes forced displacement, forced labor, domestic violence, sexual violence, sextortion, human trafficking, and attacks on community leaders. Natural resource governance strategies need to start dealing with this reality head-on.

 

Chain reactions of impacts:

From our research, we saw that impacts highlighted by gender indicators can lead to a dangerous chain reaction, also in the water and sanitation sector. For example, a mining project has a dramatic effect on a community’s ability to exercise its right to water – both due to pollution and scarcity. This has cross-cutting consequences on the health of the entire community, which disproportionately burdens women due to traditional roles as caregivers. This leads to a drop in their ability to participate in the labor market, and later to a reduction in livelihood and further deterioration in access to health. And meanwhile the reduction and unavailability of clean water sources increases the amount of time dedicated to household chores and agricultural work, further decreasing time available for rest, education, and remunerated work.

In conclusion, gender indicators, from the moment of co-creation, can help ensure that what we’re trying to achieve and the path we’re taking to get there fully takes into account gender and gender minorities.

 

The webinar “Water & Sanitation through a Gender Lens: Reinforcing Commitments in OGP Action Plans” is one of a series organized by the four lead organizations of the Water and Open Government Community of Practice: Fundación Avina, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Water Integrity Network (WIN), and World Resources Institute. Founded in 2017, the community has grown to 75 member organizations worldwide. For more information, write to wateropengovernment@siwi.org.

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A novel method to measure corruption in urban water and sanitation

By: Water Integrity Network

Is corruption a real threat for water and sanitation services in our city? Is the situation improving or getting worse? How does our city compare with others? Can we even do something about it, and how do we start?

These questions are often asked but are actually difficult to answer with objective and reliable evidence.

 

Can you improve what you can’t measure?

Corruption is a concealed act by definition. It doesn’t easily lend itself to measurement. It’s nonetheless costly and dangerous, as it skews planning, diverts resources, and protects incompetence. In the water sector, corruption can be deadly.

Existing measures of corruption tend to focus on country-level reports of perception of corruption, provided by sources such as the Political Risk Service, International Country Risk Guide, and Transparency International’s Global Corruption Index. These are important tools to raise awareness and guide research but they are less useful when trying to examine and improve integrity in a given sector.

To ensure sustainable and resilient water and sanitation services across cities, local governments and sector decision-makers need a better understanding of the corruption risks that undermine their efforts. They need reliable measures that can guide practical action.

We couldn’t find this, so we’re building it.

 

Leveraging increasing data availability and advances in analytics to develop new measures for integrity

Big Data and advances in analytics are making new kinds of measurements of corruption and integrity risks possible. WIN is collaborating with the Government Transparency Institute to take advantage of these innovations and develop a Water and Sanitation Sector Integrity Risk Index (WIRI) for urban areas.

The Government Transparency Institute has a proven track record in applying innovative quantitative and qualitative methods to researching and advocating good governance. They recently won the IMF Anti-corruption Challenge with an intelligence tool which uses big data to spot corruption risks in public procurement processes. WIRI partly draws on the methodology applied in this award–winning project.

WIRI is a composite index, which is constructed by applying Big Data analytics to administrative data and survey datasets. WIRI offers insight across the three main integrity hotspots in the water and sanitation sectors:

  1. Public investment projects
  2. Recurrent spending supporting ongoing operations
  3. Client-utility interactions

In developing WIRI, we benefitted from continuous feedback from an advisory panel of experts, including Cetina Camilo (CAF – Development Bank of Latin America), John Dini (South African Water Research Commission), Kasenga Hara (ESAWAS), Ricard Gine (SIWI), Sanjeev Narrainen (GCF), and Vincent Lazatin (CoST).

Our new working paper explains the building blocks of the Water Integrity Risk Index and presents results for selected cities..

First results are very promising. The working paper shows that corruption risks in a particular city tend to change over time. WIRI enables us to capture even small variations in risk levels, thanks to the precision achieved by measuring corruption at the transaction level (such as contracts, customer interactions, etc.). In contrast, the measures of corruption perception widely employed in other indices tend to be persistent over time. The results in the working paper also show that corruption risks can differ significantly across different cities within the same country. This makes us cautiously optimistic about the prospects of selectively preventing corruption at the local level through carefully designed interventions.

 

Water Integrity Risk Index
The index captures even small changes in risk levels over time

WIRI preliminary results – from GTI-WIN Working Paper

 

An actionable index focusing on sector-specific corruption risks

What makes WIRI a useful tool? Firstly, we have aimed to capture a comprehensive list of sector-specific corruption risks. Moreover, unlike other existing measures of corruption that predominantly focus on perceptions, WIRI relies on direct measurement of corruption risks. Finally, WIRI results are comparable across time and space, which enables policy-makers to track progress and benchmark different cities.

These properties of WIRI make it a useful tool for:

  • monitoring, auditing, and investigations of corruption risks;
  • informing sector-wide policy decisions, for example on regulation and oversight; and
  • supporting civil society and other stakeholders to hold governments accountable and advocate for better services

 

Building integrity in cities: WIRI for your city?

In 2021, we aim to support a number of cities in applying WIRI. The aim is to support decision-makers get insight on how to improve integrity in the water sector and enable better service provision. We’re always seeking out new partnerships.

Want to know more? Interested in applying WIRI in your city? Contact us with your questions – uallakulov(at)win-s(dot)org.

 

Downloads:

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More transparency in Brazil’s water sector national information system

By: Water Integrity Network

In Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan, the development and implementation of Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources, have been an opportunity to build participation and bring new actors to the table -including civil society and basin committees- to improve and increase the availability of information on water resources in Brazil. 

In April 2020, the #WaterOpenGov Community of Practice spoke with Marcus Fuckner, Coordinator of Planning Area Situation and Information Management at Brazil’s National Water Agency (ANA), on the open government commitments for water included in Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan. This is an edited transcript of the conversation.

 

Understanding Brazil’s Water Governance

The National Policy of Water Resources (PNRH), defined in 1997 by the law Nº 9.433, also called the “Law of Waters”, is the cornerstone of water governance legislation in Brazil. The PNRH structured, oriented and modernized the administration of Brazil’s water resources. In 2000, Law No 9.984 established the National Water Agency (ANA) as the responsible entity to implement the national policy and to coordinate the National Management System of Water Resources (SINGREH).

ANA implements the PNRH in Brazil through water allocation terms and the regulatory framework, in addition to five official policy instruments: water resource plans, water permits, water quality objectives, water charges, and information systems.

 

 

Water management in Brazil is decentralized and managed at different levels by different entities. States and Federal Districts work with additional instruments to manage the water bodies under their control.

The National Management System of Water Resources (SINGREH) is a cooperative mechanism for water management which brings together entities from different levels.

 

 

Currently, the sanitation portfolio (which covers drinking water supply services, sanitary sewerage, urban cleaning and solid waste management, and drainage and rainwater management) is shared between the Ministry of Regional Development’s (MDR) National Secretariat of Sanitation and the regulatory bodies of the States and municipalities, with occasional service outsourcing to private companies in certain municipalities. At the time of this publication, a bill is under debate at the National Congress that would modify the regulatory framework for sanitation in the country, giving regulatory powers to the ANA, which would make it the National Agency for Water and Basic Sanitation.

 

Developing Brazil’s 4th Open Government National Action Plan

Brazil’s 4th Open Government Action Plan contains 11 commitments, which were discussed and designed with the participation of 105 individuals (representatives of 88 institutions, including 39 civil society organizations, 39 Federal Public Administration bodies and 10 State and Municipal Public Administration bodies). The Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), which coordinates the Alliance for Open Government in Brazil led the process of developing the Action Plan.

The methodology included the discussion of challenges and then the definition of commitments through co-creation workshops, i.e. meetings with equal participation of government specialists and civil society on the prioritized issues. The process was meant as democratic and designed to open the floor to issues beyond those prioritized by government bodies.

Several topics were thus addressed:

  • Structural issues, which their very nature, have the potential to improve Open Government policies in Brazil;
  • Issues prioritized by the government,which have been identified and proposed by government bodies as being of strategic importance for the Federal Government to move forward on matters of open government;
  • Issues prioritized by civil society and selected through a public consultation on thematic proposals.

The topic of water resources was brought in via civil society participation, as the third most-voted for during the online consultation phase.

Two co-creation workshops were held in May and August of 2018 to define Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources. One workshop sought to identify the problems and their respective potential solutions, and the other was designed to formulate the commitment. Commitment 10 is linked to target 6.5 of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water. It focuses on improving the National Information System of Water Resources (SNIRH) portal, first published in 2016, with the aim of providing more transparency on the water situation in the country, to address challenges in improving its availability in terms of quality and quantity.

 

ANA’s involvement in the Open Government Commitment on water

As the process of developing the OGP Action Plan was ongoing, the CGU contacted the Board of Directors of the ANA and the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), to which ANA reported until December 2018, to highlight the government’s work with transparency in water issues.

During the process of co-creating Commitment 10, it was recognized that ANA is responsible for a) systematic monitoring of the water resources b) the preparation of annual reports of the Brazilian Water Resources Overview and c) the coordination and management of SNIRH. The CGU then proposed that ANA coordinate the water commitment included in the OGP Action Plan.

The full process has helped to deepen ANA’s work on access to water resources information and data. Currently, ANA has its own open data portal, in addition to making data available on the Brazilian Open Data Portal platform

ANA has defined priority databases to make available in open formats, based on the most frequent information requests made through Citizen Information Services (SIC) of public administrations (established through Brazil’s Access to Information Law (Law No. 12,527 of 2011).

 

Implementing Open Government Commitment 10 on Water Resources

Launched in August 2018, the implementation process of Commitment 10 on Water Resources comprised a set of eight compliance milestones.

Public institutions such as ANA, the Ministry of the Environment (MMA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) and CGU were some of the actors involved in implementation along withcivil society organozations such as Artigo 19, Fundación Esquel, Water Governance Observatory, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the University of São Paulo. CGU held six meetings with stakeholders throughout the process, to work towards the milestones and to address common challenges, including for example the required changes in the administrative structure.

Critical river basins were identified to carry out improvements. A pilot training workshop was held for a specific river basin committee (Paranapanema river basin, in the State of São Paulo and Paraná) and another extended workshop was held at the Annual National Meeting of River Basin Committees (ENCOB), in October 2019.

Moreover, civil society organizations Artigo 19 and Fundación Esquel organized an online consultation to propose further improvements to the SNIRH.

Improvements to the SNIRH carried out in the implementation of Commitment 10 now have important benefits.

 

Lessons learned from implementing Commitment 10 on Water Resources: the need to plan a sustainable process

An important lesson learned from implementing Commitment 10 on Water Resources came to the fore from the uneven level of participation between institutions throughout the implementation process. The change of government in Brazil (2018/2019) and the changes that occurred in the institutional matrix of SINGREH influenced the actions of some participating partner institutions, making it difficult to implement some actions previously planned in the commitment. In particular, it affected the participation of the National Water Resources Council (CNRH) and the availability of resources for the participation of representatives of basin committees and civil society in the workshops. To mitigate this, an online workshop was planned.

As a suggestion for future action plans and for other member countries of the OGP, the duration and timing of the Action Plan commitments should be carefully considered to limit the impact of changes in the administrative structure when implementation extends over two administrations.

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Water integrity is a woman’s issue

By: Ivanna

Despite the prominent role of women in managing household water and their specific water and sanitation needs, women  are rarely consulted about the provision and delivery of water services, and women’s needs for water for families or for irrigation are often given a low priority by water managers and decision-makers. This is a failure of integrity. Corruption in water and sanitation further increases the burden on women and girl children fetching and managing water, and puts their health and safety at risk.

How does this play out and what can we do about it? How are women specifically affected by water sector corruption, including sextortion?

Let’s find out…

 








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Partner survey and partner meeting 2020

By: Water Integrity Network

WIN conducted a detailed Partner survey in 2020. Thirty one partners working at the international, national and regional level responded to the survey. The questions we asked related to integrity issues and how these affect the work of our partners. We also looked at potential areas of collaboration.

See full report:

 

Highlights

Some responses from partners on the incidence of corruption in the water and sanitation sector include:

  • “Corruption in the sector is well hidden especially when it involves big companies or big projects. The participants are usually well-versed in handling the money through offshore/shell companies which is difficult to trace. These offshore companies are used to transfer shares in an opaque manner.”
  • “The process of changing mindsets takes long especially where even the community is involved in corruption. We are also perceived as a threat by the people in power especially when it comes to advocating for disclosure of budgets and amounts expended.”
  • “Investments in rural water and sanitation by municipal, state and/or federal governments do not respond to local needs, are priced at a premium and do not comply with the rules of operation, therefore, in the end, there is poor infrastructure, of poor quality that is quickly abandoned.”
  • “Citizens are often aware of these issues but they are not motivated to demand their rights, thinking this would not be implemented due to the integrity environment.”

 

Partner meeting 2020

These partner survey results were presented at the annual WIN partner meeting which took place in August 2020.  The partner meeting was an opportunity for us to plan jointly with partners for 2021 and beyond and to share ideas and aspirations. For the first time, the meeting went online, enabling more of our implementation partners across countries of focus to participate actively and to share their experience and insight in the deliberations. A total of 50 participants including a full house of all WIN staff members took part.

See Partner Meeting notes:

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What is integrity readiness for climate finance and why is it necessary in the water sector?

By: Water Integrity Network

This blog is based on our partners’ work and responses at the webinar “Integrity Readiness of Water Sector for Climate Change Finance – Challenges and Opportunities”, organized by GIZ on August 28th, in partnership with Green Climate Fund Independent Integrity Unit (GCG-IIU), Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI), and WIN. (Full recording). Thank you to all partners and participants!

 

Water plays a pivotal role in how the world mitigates and adapts to climate change impacts. Extreme weather such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves caused by climate change not only affect water availability and quality but also hinder access to safe drinking water, especially for the most in need.

For these reasons, global climate finance increasingly flows towards the water sector, especially for climate adaptation processes. As all major financing flows however, climate finance to the sector is vulnerable to corruption.

The relatively untested nature of funding sources for climate finance, the increment in the number of interested parties (e.g. energy and agricultural sectors), as well as the rise of multilateral climate finance and the emphasis on mobilization of the private sector boost the potential for corruption.

 

0% corruption, 100% climate action

Water infrastructure development for climate adaptation is prone to corruption, bribery, and nepotism, especially at the procurement stage. Without integrity and strong governance standards, climate finance can be diverted from vital prevention and adaptation activities into private bank accounts and vanity projects, often leading to catastrophic effects for vulnerable countries.

In response, there is a need to promote integrity readiness of the water sector for climate finance, by building capacity of all relevant actors and raising awareness of red flags for corruption throughout the project lifecycle.

 

“Integrity readiness is highly important to ensure that these funds are adequately used to safeguard vulnerable communities; who may be affected the most from the consequences of lack of integrity in climate adaptation processes. The water sector already has complex fragmented institutional arrangements. With added complexity comes added risk. That is why integrity readiness within institutions absorbing climate funds and among stakeholders at an early stage is important. We need to prepare for the changing architecture of the water sector.”

– Binayak Das, Programme Coordinator at WIN

 

The aim is to ensure corruption cannot compromise effective climate action.

 

#WW4D webinar on climate finance with (clockwise from top left) Fanni Zentai, GIZ as moderator, Ibrahim Pam, GCF-IIU, Rennie Valladares Alcerro, CABEI, Binayak Das, WIN
#WW4D webinar on climate finance with (clockwise from top left) Fanni Zentai, GIZ as moderator, Ibrahim Pam, GCF-IIU, Rennie Valladares Alcerro, CABEI, Binayak Das, WIN

 

Integrity readiness – building block 1: preventive action and capacity building

Green Climate Fund (GCF) is an operating entity of the Financial Mechanisms of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It provides the largest amount of funding to water-related projects in climate finance, approximately 13% of its portfolio.

The GCF Independent Integrity Unit (IIU) registered 40 cases of integrity violations in its 2019 Annual Report. These included project-related fraud, corruption and collusion; staff misconduct such as abuse, harassment, conflict of interests and retaliation against whistle-blowers; and others. The cases marked a 90% upsurge in the number of investigations by the IIU, in comparison to those of the previous year.

The trend is of concern and confirms that increased funding may lead to increased risk. Preventing and managing these risks is essential, an approach GCF-IIU is working actively exploring, in addition to implementing strict policies and a strong control framework.

 

“We are developing and institutionalizing strong preventative measures as well as investing in capacity building to address risks. The most crucial future development is Proactive Integrity Reviews (PIRs) methodology based on a data-driven integrity risk assessment.  We think that descriptive data analytics would help to understand what it is going on from the integrity perspective.”

– Ibrahim Pam, Head of the Independent Integrity Unit, Green Climate Fund.

 

There are a number of other tools and methods to address integrity risks, from both the water sector and the climate sector, that can be applied and adapted for water-related projects for climate finance. The Integrity Management Toolbox, is one such water sector tool that is adaptable and has already been used by water sector government agencies and river basin organisations.

 

Integrity readiness – building block 2: involving local communities and civil society

In the water sector specifically, corruption directly affects the most vulnerable. From project selection to implementation, there is also a high risk that vulnerable communities and those most directly touched by an intervention are not able to participate. It is crucial to safeguard and include local communities and civil society at all levels and stages.

 

“Understanding what the local population are seeking from a project and bringing people’s voices is one of the biggest challenges, but it is fundamental. In most of my experiences, there are conflicts of interest with the private sector. It is important to have close auditing and monitoring with due diligence. We must also have the conversation with the beneficiaries of climate finance, not just follow the procedures.

– Rennie Valladares Alcerro, Country Analyst at CABEI

 

Integrity readiness – building block 3: building partnerships

In addition to promoting the participation of vulnerable communities and civil society, we need more knowledge-based partnerships to collect data and information, to increase transparency and jointly curb corruption in water-related projects for climate finance.

 

“We need to work in partnerships and coalition. It is also key to keep the media involved. If you are looking for solutions and measures, it is necessary to think about what we can do to improve together, instead of just pointing out that corruption is happening.”

– Binayak Das, WIN Programme Coordinator

 

GCF Integrity Forum with Accredited Entities at COP 25, Madrid in 2019 (source: GCF)

 

Key takeaways

  • 0% corruption, 100% climate action and commitment
  • A data-driven approach, as well as strong preventative measures and capacity to address risks is important.
  • Zero tolerance, honesty, and professionalism must be core values.
  • Working with beneficiaries and in partnerships is key

 

For more information on climate finance and water integrity, we invite you to read our GIZ/WIN policy brief:

 

 

This post is by Kei Namba. Kei is an independent consultant, specializing in water governance, climate, and environmental politics. She has been working with WIN on several projects including water integrity and climate finance, Water Integrity Global Outlook (WIGO 2021), building strategies for Asia-Pacific, and promoting WIN’s tools .

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The smart investment for the water and sanitation sector is an investment in integrity

By: Ivanna

Joint statement by IRC WASH, Wateraid, and WIN.

“The ability of low- and middle-income countries to mobilize additional, repayable financing and explore financial innovations is highly dependent on the ability of the sector to demonstrate that it receives and makes good use of existing funding.”

– Sanitation and Water for All, 2020, Water & Sanitation: How to Make Public Investment Work. A Handbook for Finance Ministers

 

Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are essential to the COVID-19 pandemic response. And, the performance and sustainability of the WASH sector will be decisive for how well and fast countries can recover and become more resilient in the face of climate change.

Considering this central role, why does the sector suffer so clearly from the “interlinked challenges of underinvestment and a poor performance record”? The WASH sector requires funding to at least triple to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, every 10 per cent of investment that is lost to corruption implies annual losses to the sector in excess of USD 75 billion. Because the sector is particularly vulnerable to corruption, some estimate actual losses are many times higher. Low integrity, capacity issues and mismanagement make the situation worse.

Starting in early November 2020, ministers of finance from Sanitation and Water for All partner countries will gather to “develop and strengthen partnerships for smart investments in water, sanitation and hygiene”. They have the power and responsibility to coordinate more effective funding mechanisms and attract new finance. Thought leaders in the sector agree that the ministers’ ability to do so is linked to improving governance in the sector and making better use of existing funding. We argue that it’s high time we go one step further than good governance and also focus on integrity.

Because of corruption, money we cannot afford to lose seeps out of the water sector. Low integrity contributes to inefficient and unfair investments and undermines investor confidence by increasing risk. We must take the bull by its horns and aim for accountable and transparent governance, with proactive measures in place to prevent corruption and build integrity.

 

Lost money; inefficient, unfair investments

There are important integrity risks in the planning and design of WASH interventions and infrastructure developments. The actors involved, the location, the size, and technical specifications of an intervention are all elements that can be manipulated to suit vested personal and political interests. Procurement is another major risk area for integrity and corruption because of the size of financial flows involved.

Collusion between project owners and bidders, kick-backs, and bid rigging or suppression are relatively common examples of corruption in WASH infrastructure development. As a result, projects are more expensive than they should be and infrastructure breaks down prematurely, if it even becomes operational. More broadly, other typical examples of practices with low integrity include targeting interventions to sway votes, to provide business opportunities for friends, or in exchange for favours, irrespective of population or inequalities in service levels, and at the expense of those in need.

 

High integrity risks: low investor confidence

Key sector stakeholders like service providers or utilities, must become creditworthy and able to defend their financial management and performance track records to access new finance, including repayable finance and innovative finance from new players that are used to working with possibly more seasoned actors in other sectors.

However, abuse of political power to influence utility management is not uncommon. There are many red flags for investors, including: wasteful expenditure by boards of directors (often made up of political appointees), procurement issues, patronage in human resource management, financial irregularities, poorly kept records, or unclear mandates.

Concurrently, utilities are not necessarily subject to the same oversight and control mechanisms as many government institutions. Their financial plans and statements tend to be less openly available, and public participation and reporting mechanisms less developed. These are important risks that need to be addressed.

 

Making better use of existing funding and bridging the financing gap with integrity

In its Handbook for Finance Ministers, Sanitation and Water for All highlights four critical and useful intervention areas with the potential to mobilize resources for the sector:

  1. “Maximize value from existing public funding by incentivizing sector performance, improving subsidy targeting and promoting better sector planning and management.
  2. Mobilize more funding by setting up adequate cost recovery policies, reforming tariff systems, introducing earmarked taxes and establishing an array of options for cross-subsidization.
  3. Increase repayable domestic finance through mechanisms that reduce perceived risks and pool finance at national, municipal and household levels.
  4. Encourage innovation and least-explored new approaches such as climate funds and social impact bonds, to tap sources of finance rarely accessed by the water and sanitation sector.”

Integrity is an enabling factor in all these areas and finance and sector ministers can incentivise sector performance on integrity, for example with stricter corporate governance standards, public participation measures, public disclosure, effective oversight and complaint mechanisms, and transparency and controls on staff appointments.

Integrity measures can directly contribute to increasing financial efficiency by curbing corruption and mismanagement in the use of investments. They can also stimulate bigger gains by addressing perverse incentives and undue influence of special interest groups in intervention planning and design. Integrity can help build trust of users in duty bearers, a condition for tariffs to be understood and accepted. It can also help build creditworthiness of service providers, a condition to attract new financing.

Improved integrity is a critical underpinning of sustainable finance for the water and sanitation sector. Investments in the sector should be accompanied by investments in improving integrity and good governance.

 

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How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management

By: Ivanna

This brief is based on the study “Water Financing for Flood Protection in the Wetland Areas (Haor) in Bangladesh: Determining the Scope for Social Accountability” by Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury in partial fulfillment to the requirements for obtaining the degree of Master of Arts in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), The Hague. This thesis was supported by WIN.

 

Sunamganj is a wetland district in the North-Eastern part of Bangladesh, which is flooded every year due to monsoon rain and flood water from the Brahmaputra river. Flooding is a natural phenomenon in the country’s wetlands (Haor). To protect local crops from the most severe floods, the government implements crop protection embankment projects through the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).

The study on which this brief is based, revealed that corruption contributed directly to the failure of protecting local crops during a particularly devastating flood in 2017. The research highlighted how integrity deficits within these projects came to light as a result of a grassroots civil mobilisation, which put pressure on authorities to investigate.


Credit: Oxfam

 

Media and community pressure lead to policy change

In 2017, newly constructed embankments in Sunamganj collapsed, leading to the flooding of 142 Haors. Damages estimated by the government included crop loss on 371,401 hectares with a value of over USD 800 million (rice and fodder)[1], in addition to losses in fishery and livestock.

This led the local NGOs/CSOs and media to report on the damage, linking it to poor maintenance of the flood protection embankments in the wetland areas. Local-level journalists were providing real-time reports through social media and reaching out to the local community as well as the national press. Media reports showed that not only contractors, but also engineers and other officials were involved in corruption in the construction and maintenance of the flood protection structures as well as in other major development projects  (river dredging and irrigation). They brought nationwide attention to the losses.

The wide coverage on the issue in the national media,  prompted the government to review the “Kabita Nitimala 2010”, the policy governing Haor Management, which led to the implementation of the “Kabita Nitimala 2017” policy. In the revised policy, project implementation was shifted away from the BWDB’s responsibilities and delegated to the local administration. The BWDB was made responsible for technical support of the implementation process.

Despite this swift policy change, it was revealed that there were many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, which became a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater into the wetlands.

People’s active participation in the local governance system has always been a challenge in the local development context. The geographical characteristics of the wetland areas make it even more difficult to promote people-centered governance. Because the livelihoods of the Haor community are vulnerable to the natural catastrophes (i.e., floods), the government implements water projects to protect the Haor community and its crops.

The “Kabita Nitimala 2017” is one of the policies that created scope for the local people to implement the water projects under the leadership of the local administration. It was brought forth due to the pressure from the media and local organizations on the regulatory bodies, which prompted to launch an investigation into the corruption that occurred in these projects.

The role of the media was acknowledged by government officials and NGO activists who were interviewed for the study.

 


Credit: Touhidul Hoque Chowdhury

 

Investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission

In response to the tremendous pressure from the media and civil society, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which is mandated to investigate corruption in any public institution, decided to launch an investigation. During 2017, the ACC found evidence of irregularities in the embankment development and maintenance. . Despite the ACC’s efforts in filing lawsuits against the BWDB duty bearers for negligence and malpractice during the implementation of the water projects, the wetlands communities are sceptical as to whether the responsible authorities and other parties involved will be held accountable. Currently, the cases are moving slowly.

Conclusion

The chronic failure to maintain the crop protection embankments is an integrity issue, affecting the lives and livelihoods of the community members. The policy change altered the local accountability mechanisms, shifting ownership to the local administration and providing more space for local community involvement in a region where geographical characteristics have increased the challenge of promoting people-centered governance. The new mechanisms are promising but still have their obstacles. It was, for example, revealed that since implementation there are many places where the height of the embankments was increased beyond the established design parameters, becoming a barrier to the natural flow of floodwater.

It is important that joint accountability mechanisms are encouraged to ensure that BWDB and the local administration are active participants.

Media and civil society engagement also remain crucial. They played a significant role in building popular mobilisation, informing policymakers of wrongdoing and holding all stakeholders to account, thus directly contributing to safeguarding the rights of the local population.

 

[1] Haor Advocacy Platform (HAP) Position Report Flash Flood 2017

You can download a lengthier summary of the study here:

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WW4D: Government, pay your water bills!

By: Ivanna

Water utilities are crucial for guaranteeing the human right to safe water and sanitation. The session “Government, pay your water bills!” on August 25th at the Week on Water for Development (WW4D) shed light on the issue of governmental non-payment of water and sewage bills. This issue can heavily starve utilities of much-needed resources to operate efficiently and become economically viable. Also it is of great importance as most utility managers, government representatives, and development partners are aware of the matter, but rarely discuss it openly. This session brought together utility managers, development partners and civil society organizations to openly discuss, in four different breakout groups, the topics  of governmental non-payment, its impact, and the strategies to overcome it..

Research presented by Sara Ramos, member of Solutions for Water Integrity and Management (SWIM), demonstrated that 95% of the utilities investigated across 18 countries – mostly from the global south – reported cases of governmental non-payment. The reasons identified were diverse, ranging from political interference to the belief that government entities and public service providers should not have to pay for water and sanitation services.

Civil society campaign in Zambia

In Zambia, for example, services to government institutions comprised 50% of the utility’s anticipated operational revenue in the financial year of 2019/20; however, the bills were not paid. Bubala Muyovwe, from the NGO WASH Forum in Zambia, explained the diverse reasons for these developments, ranging from weakness in cooperate governance to failure to prepare financial statements. Furthermore, Muyovwe highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial stability of water utilities stating that revenues have declined even further while expenses have risen due to, for instance, the purchase of additional chemicals. Although the government has developed strategies to overcome governmental non-payment such as, the installation of prepaid water meters, the problem prevails. Muyovwe stated that the next steps of a civil society campaign in Zambia will be to raise awareness of the issue through the media, collaborate with various utilities, and to exert pressure on the Ministry of Finance.

Getting the government to pay its bills in Romania

In her opening statement, Sara Ramos highlighted that the issue of governmental non-payment is solvable and there are diverse approaches to tackle it in the long run. In his breakout session Teodor Popa from the Romanian Water Company (Brasov), presented a successful example  outlining how Romania was able to solve the problem 10-20 years ago. In Romania, the root of the problem was, among others, the lack of regulations and the problem of legal enforcement of non-payment. Consequently, certain measures were identified and implemented to address non-payment. The most important of these measures discussed were (i) the establishment and legal strengthening of regulators who can enforce the payment of unpaid accounts, (ii) the simplification of the legal process to sue for arrears, and (iii) the establishment of accountability provisions for government institutions in which they need to show that the funds have been used to settle arrears. Furthermore, through structural change, water utilities gained more independence from political interference.

What regulators can do: experiences from Rwanda

In this breakout session, Jacques Nzitonda, Director of Water and Sanitation from Rwanda,highlighted different ways that regulators can provide incentives for government institutions to pay their bills. Advocating for government institutions to allocate annual line budgets, as well as, the inclusion of indicators on government debt in utility reporting, were identified as the most influential measures to transform the issue of non-payment. Additionally, he noted that utilities should be encouraged and authorized to disconnect government institutions in case of non-payment. In the case of Rwanda, it was possible to address the issue through the increase of queries by the auditor general if a government institution has arrears. Overall, the aforementioned methods to address non-payment also played an important role in the utilities ability to take on commercial financing loans.

Supporting civil society space and voice through international advocacy

The role of civil society was comprehensively discussed in this breakout session. Al-Hassan Adam from End Water Poverty explained how a civil society-led campaign can exert pressure on government institutions to pay their water bills. The key aspects of such campaign would be to put local partners upfront and assure its flexibility.. Al-Hassan further emphasized that civil society is not homogeneous and that its diverse organisations operate differently in the light of national politics.

The key insights of this session were that the problem is very real and the question should be how we address it. People are right-holders and governments are duty-bearers; it is, therefore, the government’s responsibility for human rights to water and sanitation, and non-payment undermines it. If the government does not pay, it is the individual who will have to compensate for the costs through higher tariffs or poorer service. However, examples from Romania or Rwanda showed that governmental non-payment is a solvable problem, but only if there is the willingness and the long-term vision to make this behavioral and cultural change.

 

For more information on the issue of governmental non-payment, we invite you to read our policy brief click here.

The post WW4D: Government, pay your water bills! appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

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#WW4D webinar: Governments, Pay Your Water Bills

By: Water Integrity Network

Online event. August 25th at 3pm CEST.

This session shines a spotlight on an issue most development partners, government representatives, and utility managers are aware of, but seldom discuss openly: across the globe, too many public institutions don’t pay their water and sewerage bills, thereby starving utilities of resources they need to provide adequate service and ensure realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Find out more and register at https://www.everydrop-counts.org/

The event is organised by GIZ – Water Policy, Water Integrity Network (WIN), End Water Poverty, Eastern and Southern Africa Water
Regulators Association (ESAWAS), Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), NGO WASH Forum.

Download the programme :

 

The post #WW4D webinar: Governments, Pay Your Water Bills appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Governments, pay your water bills!

By: Water Integrity Network

Access to safe water and sanitation are human rights. To serve everyone and realise these rights, water and sanitation service providers must be able to operate and stay financially viable.

However, there is evidence to show that many public institutions do not pay the water bills they receive, or with crippling delays. This is a problem for service providers who count on this revenue.

When governments don’t pay, people do. The burden shifts to those who face increased tariffs and those who are left with poor or no service, who pay with their health, time, and productivity.

There are many ways to address the issue. Utilities must improve systems to ensure collection of payments. Governments must ensure payments to utilities are given due priority and urgent attention. This is essential, to ensure resilience in crises, avoid costly bailouts, and safeguard the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

To bring attention to this issue and share best practices to improve collection processes and prioritise timely payments, WIN and End Water Poverty are launching an advocacy campaign with the support of GIZ, ESAWAS, AMCOW, Water Citizens Network, KEWASNET, and the Zambia NGO WASH Forum.

Join us at #GovernmentPayYourWaterBills

 

 

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The post Governments, pay your water bills! appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

☑ ☆ ✇ Water Integrity Network

Governments, Pay Your Water Bills!

By: Water Integrity Network

Access to safe water and sanitation are human rights. Water and sanitation service providers must be able to operate and stay financially viable to serve everyone. But this ability is often at risk due to non-payment – including by government institutions.

Water that is treated and delivered has a cost, also water meant for public office buildings, security and policing facilities, and other public institutions such as public hospitals and schools. Except when they are exempt from payment by law, these public institutions should receive water bills and are expected to pay them. However, there is evidence to show that many do not, or that they pay with crippling delays.

These arrears contribute significantly to the financial and operational challenges faced by utilities. Non-payment thus has direct impact on the ability of utilities to provide adequate service and hampers the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Someone always pays. When governments don’t pay, people do. The burden shifts to those who face increased tariffs and those who are left with poor or no service, who pay with their health, time, and productivity. The impact on affordability of service is severe. The long-term social, economic and environmental costs are dramatic.

There are many ways to address the issue. Based on new research by WIN and End Water Poverty, this policy brief outlines best practices for service providers, regulators, public finance actors and water sector stakeholders.

The post Governments, Pay Your Water Bills! appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

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