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Before yesterdayWater Integrity Network

How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management

September 28th 2020 at 13:17
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.


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:

The post How Bangladesh citizens and the media exposed corruption in water management appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

WW4D: Government, pay your water bills!

September 17th 2020 at 13:04
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.

#WW4D webinar: Governments, Pay Your Water Bills

August 25th 2020 at 11:06

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.

Governments, pay your water bills!

August 25th 2020 at 10:50

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



Download policy brief, based on latest research:

Download campaign summary:

Download campaign factsheet:




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

Governments, Pay Your Water Bills!

August 25th 2020 at 10:48

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.

Ensuring COVID-19 relief funds are used with integrity in Nakuru and Makueni counties

COVID-19 is a major threat to the livelihood of rural communities living off agriculture and livestock herding in Nakuru and Makueni counties. Key economic institutions have been shut down in response to the pandemic, including markets. This has negative consequences on household income and social interactions in rural communities and is leading to underemployment in informal labour markets.

Water, sanitation, and hygiene issues (WASH) are coming to the fore. Governments are urging people to wash their hands with soap and water as an essential means to stop the spread of infections. This has led to high demand for communal handwashing facilities in low-income areas and for the distribution of soap with handwashing tanks.

To address these issues, curb the spread of the virus, and cushion Kenyans from the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, the Government of Kenya is disbursing COVID-19 relief funds to county governments, with support from non-governmental actors.
There is no room for corruption or manipulation in these unique circumstances. Relief funds cannot be wasted. County governments must follow national procurement rules and regulations in using these funds. They must use the money transparently and with integrity. We cannot afford to take this lightly. We must hold service providers, civic and county leaders accountable.



Holding local governments accountable for effective use of COVID-19 relief funds

The Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD), with the Water Integrity Network (WIN) and the Kenya Water and Sanitation Civil Societies Network (KEWASNET), are launching a citizen’s campaign, to sensitise the public on their rights and duties to ensure the effective and transparent use of COVID-19 relief funds during the pandemic. We are focusing on ensuring meaningful public participation, as well as monitoring and evaluation of funds and procurement activities.

The campaign highlights ways to hold county governments and water service providers accountable:

  • how to report corruption from civic and county leaders,
  • how to ensure the poor and marginalised are not excluded or exploited,
  • how to deal with misinformation spread through social media,
  • how to take part in county budgetary processes.

The pandemic can only be stopped in its tracks with integrity. County and national governments must put in place sustainable measures to limit the impact of the pandemic. People must follow guidelines to wear masks correctly, wash hands, practice social distancing, get tested and self-isolating when feeling ill. For it all to work, active participation, accountability mechanisms, and anti-corruption procedures are essential. They can ensure that funds disbursed to help fight the virus are used well and benefit those who need them most.


Follow news on the campaign on Twitter: @cespadkenya

For more information, contact the WIN Programme Officer for this initiative:
Nagnouma Kone, nkone[at]win-s.org

The post Ensuring COVID-19 relief funds are used with integrity in Nakuru and Makueni counties appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Water-related commitments in Mexico’s Open Government Plan

This blog was written by Cartocritica, as a contribution to the Community of Practice on Water and Open Government.


Access to water is a right that affects various aspects of life: environmental, social and political. It is essential for the conservation of biodiversity, to maintain hygiene, and to support health and livelihoods.

In Mexico, water is considered the property of the nation and the government is responsible for guaranteeing the right to its access, its availability in sufficient quantity and quality, and access to safe sanitation. However, what can be seen in Mexico is desiccated landscapes, polluted aquifers, and communities that lack water access. Even in cases where water is available, quantity and quality are often inadequate. Much water is lost or polluted by excessive toxic discharge, large concessions for industries, and irregular system operation.

When one tries to review official data on volumes of water available, extracted, licensed under a concession, or polluted, it becomes clear that there is little or no information available, and that most of what is available is in restricted access.

Such opacity prevents interested users, especially territory and human rights defenders, from accessing key information that would allow them to know what the state of water resources is in their localities or to promote citizen participation in water management.

This is why more transparency and accountability in the water sector are urgently needed. Incorporating water-related commitments in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) process is a means to address this and enable dialogue between government and civil society.


1. Context: the first water-related open government commitments

Introducing water in Mexico’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plans

Mexico has been a member of the OGP initiative since its creation in 2011. It has to date adopted four National Action Plans. While the second National Action Plan (2013 – 2015) included the governance of natural resources as one of its commitments, it was not until the third National Action Plan (2016-2018) that water was specifically included as a thematic focus. This has to do with the fact that this action plan was intended to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of the water-related commitment in the third National Action Plan was:

  • To measure both volume and quality of water consumption and discharges, as well as to promote water reuse, zero discharge of large-scale users and to supervise treatment, making information transparent in order to facilitate citizen participation in monitoring.

Its principal line of action was described as:

  • To promote inter-institutional coordination and the active participation of citizens in order to establish a system (public and open platform and other means of communication), to make up-to-date information available on water volumes extracted and granted in concession, as well as on discharges, based on available and newly created information.

To act on the commitment, the National Water Commission (Conagua) launched a website where documents on water quality were published, although not in line with the original objective (see evaluations on compliance with third plan here and here) and only till early 2018. Documents were then replaced by a link to a web platform featuring a real-time map of installed water meters in the country,  including information on volume extracted at each measurement point, but not on the volume of granted concessions or of discharges. However, the option for downloading open data was difficult to use and the platform ceased to be updated in March 2019.


Mistrust between stakeholders leads to the interruption of work on commitments

Unfortunately, the implementation and monitoring of the commitments made in the third Plan were interrupted in May 2017, following allegations of espionage directed at journalists and human rights defenders, some of whom were active participants in the OGP process. The Núcleo de Organizaciones de la Sociedad Civil (Nucleus of Civil Society Organisations, NOSC) then decided to withdraw from the OGP coordination board, known as the Tripartite Technical Secretariat (STT), on the grounds that there was a lack of trust and no enabling environment for the promotion of dialogue needed to continue the process. The government tried to get support from new CSOs to continue with the implementation of the third Action Plan but did not succeed.

In mid-2018, presidential elections were held in Mexico. The opposition won the election, taking power at the end of that year. In this new scenario, the OGP process was resumed in 2019, with the publication of the fourth National OGP Action Plan on December 10th, 2019.


2. A new commitment

Preparing a fourth National Action Plan with a commitment for water

Following the transition process into the new administration, the Ministry of Public Administration contacted members of civil society and academia (including UNAM, CartoCrítica, Agua para Todos) to review the most relevant issues on their agendas and consider them for future commitments. At that time, transparency and accountability in natural resources management had not shown many signs of improvement. Several civil society organisations were thus making efforts to promote access to natural resource data.

During this new round of meetings, CSOs pointed out that the situation in Mexico was characterised by over-exploitation and pollution of aquifers, vulnerable communities having little access to drinking water, a lack of transparency regarding the volume of granted concessions and of real extraction, and a lack of information on fees paid by private entities and by the real beneficiaries of those concessions.

Such a lack of access to information on the state, management, and protection of water limits the possibilities for constructive public debate and inclusive citizen participation. This lack of access to information also hinders the improvement of public policies that promote equity, efficiency, and sustainability in access to and use of water resources.

Around the time of the meetings, a group of CSOs (Causa Natura, Reforestamos Mexico, the Fund for Environmental Communication and Education, and CartoCrítica) were already working on the design of a Natural Resources Transparency Index (ITRN in Spanish), a tool to measure transparency of public information regarding the management of forests, water, and fishing resources. In this work, recommendations were made for the development of commitments on open government.

Proposals were then made to develop a commitment for water resources, to be integrated in Mexico’s fourth National Action Plan (2019 – 2021). The commitment would identify areas of opportunity to promote openness and dissemination of information in efforts to achieve SDGs (6, 14, 15 and 16), with the joint participation of three parties – government, civil society and the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI). An OGP Coordinating Committee replaced the STT and promoted meetings with the CSOs developing the ITRN, as well as with the government entities involved in natural resource management. In the water sector, these were Conagua and Semarnat (Ministry of the Environment).

The meetings resulted in an agreement to include the Index in the fourth OGP National Action Plan, under commitment number 10: Strengthening transparency in forest, water, and fisheries management. The commitment covers two main developments: the implementation of recommendations from the transparency assessments carried out through the ITRN, and the creation of a participatory mechanism called Transparency Monitoring Groups (Grupos de Monitoreo de la Transparencia), to follow up on the progress of this commitment.


The Natural Resources Transparency Index (ITRN): input for the OGP Action Plan Commitment

The ITRN involves an analysis of transparency in the forestry, water, and fisheries sectors, through indicators for three types of data -categorised as active (required by law), proactive (voluntary, useful and available online) and reactive (requested). The ITRN examines these in three axes, or areas, of resource management:

  1. Permits and concessions: rights to use the resource
  2. Subsidies: assistance or aid granted to the population for the use of the resource
  3. Inspection and surveillance: compliance checks on resource-related obligations



The indicators are assessed based on a set of variables (required data) according to their availability and usefulness. A set of variables (and their components) is foreseen for each data or transparency category (Active, Proactive, and Reactive), in each area of management (concessions and permits / subsidies / inspection and surveillance). In order to identify these variables, both officials and users from each sector were involved. Vulnerable groups with direct links to the resources, who are defenders of territories and the main users of the data, in particular women, indigenous peoples and small-scale producers, were also involved in this process.

To date, the variables identified are in the process of being evaluated. For example, one of the variables identified in the Active Transparency category and related to permits and concessions is: information on concessions for the exploitation and use of national surface waters. This variable is broken down into various components such as type of use, concession volume, validity period and location of the authorised point of extraction. A value of 1 is assigned to the variable if the components are available online, 0.5 if incomplete, and 0 if not available.

With the results obtained, specific recommendations will be made for each sector to improve transparency and information access. The commitment made in the OGP Action Plan is to implement these recommendations.


Moving forward with the new commitment

A roadmap was developed to ensure implementation and follow-up of the commitment. This roadmap contains key actions that make it possible to identify the state of the commitment process at any point in time. The creation of the Monitoring Groups is a milestone in this process. These groups are public, inclusive, and have an open follow-up mechanism. They include participants who are also decision makers, and who verify and ensure that recommendations are implemented. They also provide feedback for the future, including new needs, new participants, and new commitments to be monitored.

In the ongoing ITRN assessment of variables related to water resources, several issues have already been identified in terms of transparency and accountability. There is for example too little updated data on quality, extraction volumes granted and effectively withdrawn, and availability of environmental flows.

After this first assessment, it is expected that not only will the information gaps identified be filled and that data will be made available in official websites in a timely and reliable manner and in open formats, but also that this data will be usable by different stakeholders: for a researcher studying the behaviour of a basin as well as for users defending their territories, and their rights.



The post Water-related commitments in Mexico’s Open Government Plan appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

WIN statement in support of Black Lives Matter

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in the United States of America has thrown a spotlight on the systemic racism and discrimination that affect the lives of Black people every day, across the world.

The Water Integrity Network is not blind to the role that structural arrangements play in producing racially disparate access to adequate water and sanitation. The persisting and often invisible legacy of white supremacist institutions like slavery, apartheid, and Jim Crow segregation entail that race still serves as marker of service delivery in many countries.

WIN is committed to exposing and fighting against the ways in which Black communities and communities of colour – particularly in the Global South – bear the brunt of climate change induced environmental disasters. Now more than ever, we are committed to exposing and fighting against the corrupt forces which contribute to inadequate water and sanitation provision.

Dignified and adequate access to clean water is a matter of life and death and a human right. The Water Integrity Network is dedicated to a world in which equitable and sustainable access to clean water and decent sanitation are not threatened by corruption, greed, dishonesty and wilful malpractice. This world cannot be achieved until Black lives are given equal weight to all other lives.

Racism and injustice breed inequalities to access to water and sanitation, impacting on the health and well-being of Black communities, and on their ability to enjoy equal economic and social opportunities compared to other communities.

WIN supports the call to dismantle systemic racism,  discrimination, and stigmatization wherever it occurs. Meaningful change must challenge existing structures that privilege whiteness and deconstruct barriers facing Black people. In this, we commit to ensuring that the processes that we facilitate with governments and civil society are inclusive. We commit to ensuring diversity in our staff and governance structures, amplifying Black voices and providing a platform for contributions from the Global South.

Radical systemic social change is required for the eradication of the racial injustices Black people face. Through our work, we strive toward a world in which Black lives mattering is a lived reality.

The post WIN statement in support of Black Lives Matter appeared first on WIN - Water Integrity Network.

Putting integrity and accountability at the heart of government response to COVID-19, especially in the water sector

Posted by the Water Integrity Network, WaterAid, IRC WASH, GWP, SIWI, IWMI, Water Witness International, End Water Poverty, Shahidi wa Maji, and PNE Benin, BAWIN, and Sanitation and Water for All, with contributions by Sareen Malik (Coordinator and Secretary to the Board, African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation), and Robert Gakubia (CEO, Water Services Regulatory Board, Kenya).


The COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the vulnerability of the millions of people whose human rights to water and sanitation have not been realised

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the stark realities of people who still do not have access to reliable supplies of clean water, and do not have decent houses in which they can safely isolate themselves from infection. There are two messages about how to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus: keep your distance from other people, and wash your hands with soap and water frequently.

“Washing your hands is such a simple act, and yet such an essential step in halting infectious disease transmission and saving lives”

– Oliver Schmoll, Programme Manager for Water and Climate at the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health in Bonn, Germany.

And yet, globally, one in three people does not have access to safe drinking water and nearly half the population does not have access to decent sanitation, at least in part due to corruption and mismanagement in the sector.


Governments across the globe are stepping up measures to slow down infections

During this crisis, many individuals and organisations have stepped up to fill gaps in services and increase availability of clean water and soap for regular handwashing, to prevent further spread of the Coronavirus. While these innovative responses and solidarity are commendable, governments as duty bearers have primary responsibility for managing the crisis, including in facilitating access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

For example, governments in a number of countries have taken targeted measures to either suspend or pay water bills and/or block disconnections for poor families. And a number of countries are taking action to improve access to WASH for vulnerable communities in particular. Currently, billions of dollars are being invested in emergency packages in response to the COVID crisis, including in the water sector. In Kenya, interestingly, proceeds from anti-corruption programmes by the government have been dedicated to providing water and other essential services to vulnerable communities in this crisis.

But governments face formidable challenges in quickly implementing such measures for populations that have no piped water systems, poor hygienic conditions, and are often times not reached by formal service providers. Increasing access now – to help control the outbreak – and sustainably for the future after the pandemic has subsided, are both fundamental, and require international support, as well as due attention to good governance, integrity, accountability and transparency.


If this is how you get your water every day… How do you physically distance? Will you get enough for your family? Will you get enough to wash your hands?

Photo: Hossain Ismail, WIN photo competition entry 2011


Integrity matters, especially in a time of crisis

Integrity requires that state powers and resources are used ethically and honestly, in this case, for sustainable and equitable water and sanitation services. There are four pillars to integrity: transparency, accountability, participation, and anti-corruption activities. Around the world, corruption and lack of integrity have contributed to the failure to deliver services to those most vulnerable, reinforced existing inequalities in access to water and sanitation, diverted resources from where they are most needed, and reduced the quality, availability and sustainability of services.

Over recent decades, considerable work has been done to improve accountability, participation and transparency in the water and sanitation sector, and to reduce corruption. The challenge in this time of crisis is to defend and build on those advances. Past and present experiences shows that the threat is both severe and very real, not only in countries with weak government accountability systems: the US Government Accountability Office estimates that about USD 1 billion in emergency response funding was improperly used or fraudulently obtained after Hurricane Katrina. German authorities had to temporarily shut down emergency COVID-19 response grants for small businesses due to massive fraud risks. Others use emergencies to prey on the weak and vulnerable.


The approach taken can either exacerbate or reduce integrity risks

In order to provide services in the COVID-19 crisis, governments and state agencies, quite correctly, invoke regulations which are designed to enable speedy delivery in the face of an emergency. However, delivery under emergency conditions can, either unwittingly or deliberately, open the door for corruption, lack of integrity and reductions in accountability and transparency practices that may have been built up over years.

According to U4, “there has already been a wave of corruption-related incidents, decreasing transparency and accountability, as well as manipulative political propaganda from all over the world.” In Brazil, as just one example, media reports raised questions over government emergency procurement buying surgical masks at 12 times the market value from a company with ties to the president, despite other companies offering lower prices.

It is all too easy, in a time of crisis, for the elements of good governance to fall by the wayside, or, indeed, for the crisis to be used by those with particular vested interests to force through changes, not necessarily for the long-term good of the people.

This then raises the question as to what can be done to ensure sustainable delivery of water supply and sanitation to the most vulnerable in both rural and urban areas, based on the four pillars of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption.

“The lesson for us duty bearers in the WASH sector is that we must create a new normal, characterised by ’outrage’ against continued inequities in WASH service provision that make public health messages not make sense, but also demand that actions be founded on integrity and accountability among other values.”

– Robert Gakubia, CEO, Water Services Regulatory Board, Kenya


Maintaining accountability, transparency, participation and social inclusion during the response

We have highlighted some actions for governments to ensure that accountability and integrity are at the least maintained, and at best improved, during and after this emergency, and that they form part of a programme of meeting the human rights to water and sanitation for all.


1 – Develop responses with affected communities:

Developing response mechanisms with affected communities is inclusive and recognises their agency. It brings a greater ability to address specific cultural, social and religious challenges and to effectively meet the needs of people with disabilities and other marginalised groups. Creative solutions can be found to doing this distantly and in languages that people understand.

The Asivikelane programme in South Africa provides a remarkable example of people in informal settlements monitoring delivery of water and sanitation services in their areas and thereby holding government accountable. The resulting information is provided to relevant organs of state to facilitate improvements. The tool holds potential not only for holding government accountable during the COVID crisis, but also going forward into the future.


Asivikelane Dashboard (South Africa) - example - inclusive WASH responses to covid19
Photo: Screenshot of the Asivikelane Dashboard (South Africa)


In Ethiopia, EthioTelecom has introduced a recorded message every time a phone call is made about COVID-19 prevention.

In South Sudan, the great majority of people has no easy access to internet, television or newspapers. Radio Miraya is available across over two-thirds of the country, and 80 per cent of those it reaches listen to it every day. Radio Miraya runs public service announcements (PSAs), including recently written songs by popular artists on the best practices to prevent any eventual outbreak from starting or spreading, such as handwashing and physical distancing.

Finally, inspired by lemiwashmyhands.org, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific is persuading tech giants to create a handwashing emoji and help spread the importance of handwashing for years to come. Scientists Nasim Lotfinejad et al state that hand hygiene emojis may strengthen infection prevention and control in different aspects such as raising awareness with no language barrier.


2 – Maintain transparency standards in emergency public procurement:

Government agencies must publicly disclose information on emergency procurement including how much (unit and total price) money is spent, for what (goods and services are acquired) and whom (target population and need), how (procurement procedure used), and to whom it goes (contractor).

Emergency measures should include complaints mechanisms to report corruption, misuse and other malpractices. While complaints from the public can be very effective against misbehaviour in frontline service delivery, whistle-blowing from staff is key for detecting irregularities in administrative processes including procurement, payments and accounting. This why robust whistle-blower protection in public institutions is crucial. Since customer service centres may be locked due to the confinement situation, alternative channels should be offered for ensuring communication between utilities and users such as websites, social media channels, etc.


3 – Establish a national oversight task force to monitor integrity and accountability in the COVID-19 response:

Consisting of experts from anti-corruption and accountability bodies (including investigations, procurement, audit, civil society watch dogs) and sector institutions (health, water, economic affairs), such a body can oversee budgetary allocations, monitor red flags in their use and launch special investigations and real-time audits as needed, and report to the public on the same.

This task force should also

  • Follow up and monitor cash transfers from government to service providers
  • Follow up and monitor cash transfers from government to households (universal versus targeted support to vulnerable households, how they are targeted, specific conditions)
  • Follow-up and monitor how service providers invest extra resources (e.g., cash transfers from government, donors, etc.) in improving services

The task force should also have oversight of the significant financial investments being made by donors and development partners into improving access to water and hand washing facilities. The use of these funds should be tracked and a clear commitment made to delivering sustainable and affordable solutions.

After the acute emergency phase, response measures need to be subject to the public reporting, auditing and review standards and processes and other government operations. This includes making sure that audit institutions, other oversight bodies and sector institutions (including their internal audit and compliance functions) are adequately resourced to carry out additional audits, conduct reviews, and produce diligent reports.


4 – Take measures against emergence of new water cartels in emergency water supply:

Systems should be put in place to prevent new cartels developing, or existing cartels taking control of emergency water supply arrangements. Such systems might include GPS tracking and identification of tankers, complaint mechanisms, widespread distribution of information on tariffs/free availability of water, and rotation of tanker drivers. Where possible, government should work with informal water suppliers to enhance the service that they provide and to build greater transparency and accountability into their service provision.


Strong WASH systems are the first line of defence and the path to resilience to crises, pandemics and climate change included. Corruption and lack of integrity in the water and sanitation sector undermines these systems and the human rights to water and sanitation. We call on government around the world to ensure that the water sector becomes an island of integrity, during and after this crisis, starting today.


Further reading:

Five human rights principles that put people centre stage in water, sanitation and hygiene responses to COVID-19 (Wateraid)

Public Integrity for an Effective COVID-19 Response and Recovery (OECD)

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Sector and its response to Covid-19: Initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean (SIWI)

COVID-19 and rural water crisis: putting pressure on Burkina Government (IRC WASH)

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Demystifying water integrity: from policy to practice using the Integrity Management Toolbox

Corruption and poor integrity can be a big drain on the resources, reputation, and effectiveness of key water sector players, service providers in particular.

There are some high-level policies in place to tackle the challenges of corruption and poor integrity but water utilities, for example, don’t often feel they have enough practical guidance to deal with the issues they actually face in their daily business. What do you do to make sure integrity risks don’t drag you down? What do you do when funds disappear or when vehicles and company resources are being used abusively for private purposes?

Integrity Management in the water sector is a change management approach to prevent and reduce unnecessary losses from corruption and develop preventive measures to strengthen procurement, human resources, accounting, O&M and other work processes. The Integrity Management Toolbox was developed to support such a process and transform challenges into opportunities. To date, the Toolbox has been used to support different organizations in over 20 countries, including large utilities in Bangladesh, Kenya, Albania, Ecuador, and Honduras.

WIN and cewas organized a webinar on the Integrity Management Toolbox on March 18th 2020 to discuss the methodology and share experiences from previous applications of the toolbox. Here’s what we learned.


An Integrity Management Toolbox to assess and tackle corruption and integrity risks in water utilities

The webinar was kicked off with a new video introducing the tool. It shows that there are business-savvy management tools to tackle corruption and describes the basic implementation process for the Toolbox, from the preparation, through the description of an organization’s business model, the assessment of risks, and the development and implementation of an integrity action plan.



Panellists discussed their experiences with integrity management. For example, Erion Likaj of KfW Albania, a former Integrity Management (IM) coach for utilities, explained that better revenues can be a positive result of good planning and discussed how the Toolbox has been used to support planning, develop better performance targets, and link these to investments. Sareen Malik of ANEW, a former IM coach in Kenya, discussed the way institutions are increasingly seeing the water crisis as a governance crisis, not a technical one. Many see the need for a new approach even if they may at first fear digging into the corruption angle.

Panellists agreed there is real value in being prepared and having a good understanding of risks. Integrity management can also ensure corruption problems are detected early and contained without the need for external or costly interventions.


Lessons learned: what is needed to launch integrity management processes?

  • An enabling environment must be created if it doesn’t exist. Utilities must see the alignment of operational processes to integrity values as beneficial for the organisation’s performance.
  • There needs to be willingness at mid- or senior management level.
  • Lenders can require utilities to have performance targets before investment is activated. This has been the case in Albania for example.
  • There can be significant socio-cultural barriers preventing adoption of integrity management; the integrity toolbox may not automatically be well received. Communication is key for avoiding misunderstandings that could potentially damage the process. In Kenya, for example, utilities willing to address integrity issues pulled out at last minute, for fear they might be accused of having corruption problems in the first place. Context-adapted communication could have pre-empted such issues.


Lessons learned: assessing integrity risks and choosing the right tools to address them

  • Each specific context will require a different risk assessment (looking at what regulations are in place, what institutions, etc.). It’s partly why cookie-cutter approaches will generally be less effective.
  • Encouraging behaviour founded on integrity principles can be done through rewards.
  • There needs to be a structured process for addressing emerging issues.
  • It’s key to be clear about who is doing what, and when.
  • If corrupt activities are protected and propagated at top management level, it will be of little use to address integrity issues from within the organization itself. Instead, different strategies would have to be adopted: supervisory boards or administrative councils can be very influential and steer an organization towards integrity; third parties addressing integrity or external oversight mechanisms can also influence an organization.


Follow the full webinar:


Interested in hearing more? Sign up to receive updates about integrity management updates and other events or webinar.


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Integrity and urban water and sanitation: photo competition winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WIN photo competition on integrity and corruption in urban water and sanitation!

Thank you to all who participated and reflected on the impact of corruption and the ways integrity can support water and sanitation services in cities and urban settings. Special thanks also to the judges for their support, time, and contributions. We received over 200 stunning photos to judge and the selection was very difficult.


The impact of corruption and the role of integrity in urban water and sanitation

With COVID-19 bearing down, these are very trying times all over the world. The pandemic has made it painfully evident how essential strong WASH systems and practices are for the health and livelihood of millions. We are also seeing how inequitable systems are and who bears the brunt of poor planning and poor service when crisis hits. Water and sanitation infrastructure and services have been chronically underfunded for decades. Almost three-quarters of the population of Least Developed Countries lack handwashing facilities with soap and water. We are poorly prepared.

The top images of this year’s competition on corruption and integrity in urban water and sanitation emphasize these concerns. They mostly show the impact of poor integrity, poor planning, and laissez-faire. They show inequality and the vulnerability of many to crises, runaway pollution, and climate change, especially in dense urban areas and informal settlements. Nearly 7 out of 10 people will live in urban areas by 2050. As the urban population booms, it is a major, and urgent, challenge to ensure provision of sustainable water and sanitation services and to realise the human rights to water and sanitation for all.

Strong WASH systems are the first line of defence and the path to resilience to crises, pandemics and climate change included. Corruption in the water and sanitation sector undermines these systems and our human rights to water and sanitation. The sector must be protected from such practices and become an island of integrity, starting today:

  1. Be transparent, share reliable information.
  2. Act sustainably and with accountability. Emergency action can’t be an excuse for poorly planned or problematic practices that violate people’s basic rights.
  3. Leave no one behind, set inclusive targets.



Best Artist – First Place: Mohammed Shajahan

Water Vendor.
A water vendor is collecting water from the deep tube wells on the other side of the river for sale to people with low incomes living on the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong.Bangladesh.


Best Artist – Second Place: Mahbubur Rahman

Since decades, people are languishing in 116 ‘Bihari settlements (Pakistani Refugee)’, located largely in urban Bangladesh. The settlements are generally overcrowded, have inadequate water and sanitation, and poor or non-functioning waste and sewage disposal systems. Women and children are the main victims of this crisis. Here at Mirpur Settlement, they are sharing a well with men for bathing and fetching water. Sometimes, they need to fight for a little amount of potable water.


Best Artist – Third Place: Supratim Bhattacharjee

Toxic Environment.
School child and other locals walking through Hazaribagh tannery area of Dhaka. Dhaka, currently home to 20 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in Asia. Repeated electrical blackouts, insufficient clean water supply, poor sanitation and hygiene, poor governance, air pollution, unreal traffic jams, etc. are looming large. Every year, a huge portion of the population, including many children, succumbs to deadly waterborne diseases. By 2030, it is estimated the population will reach 30 million, making Dhaka the fifth largest city of the world. Water supply and sewerage must be improved, especially in informal settlements.


Special Prize – Best Young Artist: Vu Thi Thanh Thu

Money Controls Clean Water. The uneven supply of clean water at different locations in the city. In poor household areas, people are waiting for clean water supply as if waiting for rain in the desert, while some water supply managers direct services to specific groups for more money.




Sudipto Das. Street Saloon

A customer gets a quick shave at a street-side makeshift saloon in waterlogged Amherst Street area in Kolkata, India. During the monsoon, after heavy rain, the area will become waterlogged for the next three days. This is a common problem suffered by the local residents. Lots of money is spent to rebuild sewerage lines in that particular stretch known for waterlogging but due to lack of planning and corruption, the problem persists. A recent article in the ‘India Water Review’ mentioned that due to high corruption and despite the huge amount of money spent on various water and sanitation programmes by the state government, conditions are still the same.


Azim Khan Ronnie. Brick Factory.

The breathtaking scale of Bangladesh’s brick-making industry is captured in this photo which shows the piling-up of bricks in thousands as manufacturing processes wreak havoc on the surrounding environment. It is estimated that one million people churn out a staggering tens of billions of bricks each year across 7,000 separate kilns. In the capital of Dhaka, pollution from brick factories and dyeing plants increasingly turn water in the River Turag green with algae. Brick kilns are also the top air polluter in the country.


Pranab Basak. Water and Life.

Prolonged monsoon brings floods and chaos to many parts of India such as the city of Kolkata. The reasons are complex but experts cite unplanned urban development that has destroyed the wetlands around the city as a prominent reason. Flooded cities like Kolkata are also affected by shortages of drinking water during heavy monsoon.


Mac Mullengz.  Untitled

Four Nigerian children collectively trying to fix a broken water pipe on their return from school after having a drink from it. This shows they know the value of water and the importance of clean water in a clean environment.


Nafis Ameen. Untitled.

Dhaka is the second least liveable city in the world because of pollution. People in the city’s informal settlements are living surrounded by waste and polluted water.


Guillermo Gutierrez. The Inequality in Distribution of Water.

A young boy stands at the summit of the hills in San Juan de Miraflores, a precarious settlement in Lima, Peru. He is watching how a tanker truck with a long pipe is taking water to a top reservoir behind him. The Peruvian coastal area has the largest population concentration and an increasing water deficit. In the capital city, more than one million people lack drinking water. By 2040, it is predicted this deficit could affect 70% of the population. Corruption, demographic expansion, inefficient management and distribution, and climate change result in inequity in the distribution of water. Families in the periphery of the city end up paying six times more than those with access to this resource in the rest of the city.

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Weakened public governance enables abuse and corruption to flourish in South Africa’s water sector

Corruption in the water and sanitation sector in South Africa has put the water security of businesses and households, and indeed the entire country, at risk. The impacts are severe.


Money down the drain: Corruption in South Africa’s Water Sector

On March 12, 2020, Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network released an important report, Money Down the Drain: Corruption in South Africa's Water Sector, which examines the extent and drivers of corruption in the water and sanitation sector and makes recommendations on actions to be taken to address such corruption and maladministration.

The report highlights the extent to which corruption has become systemic, involving all levels of society, and rife in both the public and private sectors.

So while formal rules, policies and laws appear to be in place, in reality, informal rules prevail.

The report describes a number of cases which reveal the involvement of a vast array of players, from plumbers, tanker drivers and senior officials, to mayors to ministers, and the many private businesses that benefited richly from corruption, and in some cases, actively promoted it.

Although the behaviour of public sector officials and politicians comes under particular scrutiny, the report also makes clear how the actions of private individuals and businesses, who deliberately exploit weaknesses in the public sector, have an acute impact on water security and on the human right to water. Some companies have actively created conditions which serve their own ends, and in which corruption flourishes.


From corruption in procurement and policy to institutional control

The three broad areas of corruption are characterized in the report.

  1. manipulating procurement and operational processes.
  2. influencing policy and regulatory decisions
  3. taking control of key institutions.

The report suggests that the much-lamented lack of institutional capacity in many water sector institutions is the result of deliberate institutional weakening in order to facilitate corruption. It is notable that between 2009 and 2015 the average term of office of the director-general in the Department of Water and Sanitation was only 11 months. Coupled with this are deliberate attempts to weaken mechanisms for oversight of institutional performance, thus clearing the way for the removal of constraints on illicit behaviour.


A wicked problem, but one we can act on

The report presents a set of recommendations that encompass an overarching strategic approach, and drill down into more specific interventions. These include:

  • Designating the water sector as an ‘island of integrity’;
  • Ending impunity and instilling a culture of consequences;
  • Ensuring the appointment of honest, ethical and committed leaders to run key institutions;
  • Improving and strengthening procurement systems and practices, as outlined in the National Development Plan, including integrity pacts, e-procurement, open contracting data standards, and red flag monitoring;
  • Facilitating transparency in regulatory decisions;
  • Addressing broader environmental factors; and
  • supporting the media and civil society to uncover corrupt activities and pursue them until appropriate remedial action is taken.


Full report


Executive summary


Media release


Enquiries? Please contact:

Phemelo Khaas PhemeloK[at]corruptionwatch.org.za

or Claire Grandadam cgrandadam[at]win-s.org


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Selected links – February

Here are links to some of the most striking stories we’ve been reading about in February 2020. Please share your views in the comments or get in touch to share information and material for the next round-up. Thank you!

The links here go to original material on external websites. WIN is not responsible for the accuracy of external content.


Anti-corruption and water issues are topping the charts (or at least the surveys)

The World Economic Forum has been putting water crises and issues in the list of most pressing global risks for nearly a decade already. Interestingly in 2020, the Forum’s youth wing, the Global Shapers (a network people aged under 30) put water crises even higher on the list, especially in terms of impact.

What else are youth concerned about and what might contribute most to progress? In the African Youth Survey 2020, respondents put anti-corruption at the top of their list, and access to basic services not far behind.


survey results - source African Youth Survey 2020 - what in the next five years will be most important for Africa's progress: 1. reducing government corruption, 2. creating new jobs, 3. Achieving peace and stability in Africa, 4. Increasing access to basic services...


Is this a sign that water integrity is the key issue of the future and an essential strategy to achieve our development goals? 🙂

We think so of course and the results of the 2019 RBC Global Asset Management Responsible Investment Survey suggest that institutional investors may agree: “About two-thirds of about 800 institutional investors surveyed in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia said concerns over water factored into their investment decisions, placing it behind only cybersecurity and anti-corruption as a top Environmental, Social and Governance consideration” said the Vice President of the organization in a post.

And there’s reason to be concerned. A practical example from the water sector came up in another interesting study from February, in which RWSN and Skat Foundation concluded that the biggest challenges water well drillers face are: “(i) lack of capacity in the drilling industry , (ii) inappropriate contracts and standards, (iii) lack of transparency in the procurement process, (iv) finance resulting from unrealistic pricing and delayed payment by the government, (v) corruption in the bidding process, (vi) lack of data, (vii) logistics (long distances between contract locations) and (viii) the non-availability of quality spare parts, which is common to five countries (Angola, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda)” (emphasis is ours).

We’re taking note!


Diverted Resources: the Dynamics of Capture

Water integrity means ensuring resources and services go where they are intended – and most needed – so that water is fairly and sustainably managed.

When resources go astray or are inadequately distributed because of undue influence, we have failures of integrity. These can have dramatic consequences. This past month we’ve seen a number of examples that shed light on the dynamics and scale of capture.


More links and case information

These articles also caught are eye and we’re keen to hear more about the issues and initiatives. Please don’t hesitate to share more links and resources with us.


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Selected links for January 2020

February 12th 2020 at 09:05

“Corruption violates the core human rights principles of transparency, accountability, non-discrimination, and meaningful participation in every aspect of the community. Conversely, these principles, when upheld and implemented, are the most effective means to fight corruption.”

-Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in 2013


Gearing up for the 10th anniversary of the General Assembly resolution 64/292, recognizing human rights to water and sanitation

Efforts to combat corruption and realize human rights are always mutually reinforcing: both are necessary. This means that this year’s 10th anniversary of the General Assembly resolution 64/292, recognizing human rights to water and sanitation is also a milestone in promoting integrity for the sector.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr Leo Heller, has launched a campaign to celebrate the anniversary. He is making his most important reports accessible and different resources available, focusing on a specific theme each month. His first post is a straightforward reminder on monitoring and assessments of the water sector with a human rights lens, to be paired with a report on different types of water supply service.

It’s interesting to think about what this might mean for stakeholders who are not the usual suspects. There is value to combining the corruption and human rights frameworks for action, also for companies and service providers. On this, this post over on the FCPA blog makes the case for how anti-corruption and human rights efforts will converge in 2020.


A climate adaptation, human rights, integrity nexus

This year’s focus will also be on climate change for many stakeholders. Taking a human rights lens to this issue is crucial to better target climate adaptation efforts. Taking an integrity lens is also key as corruption is both a driver and form of human rights violations. IUCN published an important report that brings this to the fore very clearly with a focus on gender and gender-based violence in relation to climate change and environmental degradation. The report shows how the climate crisis is leading to increased violence against women and has a specific section on sextortion only for land, although conclusions have broad implications.


Challenges of networks of anti-corruption authorities

This overview by U4 of challenges and achievements of different network organizations operating in the anti-corruption space provides insight on lesser known anti-corruption actors and the value and challenges of working as a network. Food for thought for all anti-corruption practitioners and networks in particular!


Taking accountability seriously: governments, please pay your bills!

In a post on IRCWASH, Regina Rossmann of GIZ, discusses utility debt and the under-the-radar issue of government not paying their own utility bills. This issue of unpaid bills shows accountability is a two-way street. When a utility is starved of resources it cannot improve services for its customers and deliver on its promises. When we push utilities to be more accountable towards their users and government, we must also hold government accountable to support utilities, and perhaps start by just paying their own water bills?


Please don’t hesitate to share your views in the comments or get in touch to share information and material for the next round-up. Thank you!

The links here go to original material on external websites. WIN is not responsible for the accuracy of external content.


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Mar Menor, Spain: deep story of a disaster

February 10th 2020 at 09:07

We supported investigative journalists Datadista in 2019 to take a deep dive in the circumstances leading to increasing pollution in the waters of the protected Mar Menor lagoon in southern Spain. What they found is a chilling call to action.

It starts with grand plans and ends with three tonnes of fish dying on the shore. There are suitcases full of money and secret underground pumps. But the most striking piece of the story is thirty years of laissez-faire by authorities, despite foreseeable and dramatic consequences.

In December, the Global Investigative Journalism Network picked this story as one of its top picks in Spanish for 2019. The whole investigation has just been translated into English.

Take note!


The original investigation published in Spanish: https://datadista.com/medioambiente/desastre-mar-menor/

The English version: https://datadista.com/medioambiente/desastre-mar-menor/eng/


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Tools to assess integrity and prevent corruption in water: working groups

February 2nd 2020 at 10:25

At WIN, we support partners and water sector stakeholders to better assess integrity risks and develop action plans to address them. Integrity tools have been developed and tested to support these processes. These tools are in constant evolution as we test and use them in different contexts and with different stakeholders.

For example, in 2020, we are working on new methodologies to assess integrity risks in utilities with concrete and actionable indicators. We’re also piloting an index to compare integrity risks in water and sanitation at city level, using surveys and big data.

We’re building toolboxes for organizations to develop action plans to prevent corruption in water and improve accountability lines between stakeholders. This year in particular, this work is focused on improving the tools at hand for utilities, regulators, rural water committees, and public institutions in the water sector.

These WIN tools represent a small fraction of tools and techniques organizations recommend to prevent and reduce corruption in any sector. How do we make sense of it all? And how do we ensure we are working with and promoting the most effective measures? How do we continue improving tools and what are the minimal conditions for using them?

We’re eager to discuss the way forward with partners and are setting up a loose Community of Practice to pursue the conversation.

Some of the key questions we are asking ourselves include:

  • How can integrity help attract investment and build trust in the water sector?
  • What are they biggest integrity risks in urban water and sanitation?
  • What are the key integrity risks utilities face and which ones should they prioritize for mitigation?
  • What are they key accountability and integrity dynamics between government/duty bearers/suppliers?
  • How is climate change affecting the water sector in terms of corruption risks?
  • What is the extent of sextortion in the water sector?
  • How can integrity contribute to ensuring effective and efficient infrastructure planning and investment?
  • What constitutes a strong open government or disclosure commitment for the water sector?
  • How do we leverage big data and AI to better assess corruption risks and costs?
  • How do we improve integrity tools and make sure they work?
  • Which resources and materials are we missing to facilitate implementation?

Get in touch to share ideas!

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Research: Integrity and corruption in urban water and sanitation

February 6th 2020 at 14:22

The Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO 2016) demonstrated a growing recognition of the need for measures to improve integrity and to eliminate corruption to enhance performance in the water and sanitation sector. It emphasized the use of transparency, accountability, participation, and anti-corruption measures (TAPA) to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water and sanitation. WIGO 2016 also demonstrated the need for stronger data and evidence on the extent and impacts of corruption in the sector to guide the development and implementation of pro-integrity/anti-corruption programs.

WIN aims to establish the WIGO as a regular publication, which will become a medium for collecting and sharing evidence, knowledge, experiences, ideas, policy options, and good practices on improving integrity in the water sector. Each upcoming volume of the WIGO will unpack the concept of water integrity within the context of new selected theme. The next WIGO, focusing on integrity in urban water and sanitation, will be published in 2021.

We are inviting all interested water sector stakeholders (international organizations, government and regulatory agencies, academic and research institutes, service providers, civil society organizations, associations, and others) to contribute to the upcoming publication.

We are looking to collaborate on new research, case studies, and data collection initiatives on corruption and integrity in urban water and sanitation.

Please send your suggestions or queries to Umrbek Allakulov, WIN Research and Evidence Coordinator, via our contact form.

We look forward to discussing opportunities!


Download publication concept note and call for contributions:

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How does corruption actually work in the water sector, what can we do about it?

February 15th 2020 at 11:51

Every year, at least 75 billion dollars of investment vanishes from the water sector. In every project, that could be anywhere between 10 and 40 per cent of money gone and dramatic consequences.

What does that actually mean?

At the Stockholm World Water Week 2019 we asked participants to share their experiences of corruption and what they did about it. Here’s what they told us.





See the individual interviews here:

Lourdes Valenzuela, from the organization AGUATUYA (Bolivia), spoke to us about the topic from a gender point of view and explains why women are usually the most affected:


Peter Njaggah from Water Service Regulatory Board in Kenya, talks to us about the positive impact that the shift to Integrity Management had in his organization and how the staff learned they could all gain individually for collective changes:


Brian Felix Kwena, from Kenya Water for Health Organization, spoke to us about how he has personally been affected by corruption, the importance of the inclusion of marginalized groups and why being informed is key to avoid being victimized by the issue:

Joseph Oriono Eyatu, Commissioner for Rural Water Supply & Sanitation at the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda, explains, how the degradation of the water service because of corruption can affect the ability to maintain and sustain the water supplier system and how the best way to fight corruption is by involving the community in the process:

Herbert J. Kashililah, from SHAHIDI wa MAJI (Tanzania), how the existence of a law is not enough when it is not actually enforced and the challenges of taking action when there is no information available:

Mohammad Zobair Hasan, from Development Organization of the Rural Poor in Bangladesh, highlights the importance of making space to listen to the demands of the community and how participation leads to good governance, among other resources:

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2019 water corruption and integrity highlights and what they mean for our work in 2020

January 28th 2020 at 21:19

The Global Impact of Corruption in Water

Estimates are that at least 10 per cent of water sector investment is lost to corruption and in some places is may be up to 40 or 50% This means that every year, more than 75 billion dollars – meant to protect rivers, keep clean water flowing and toilets running – vanish into the pockets of the few instead of benefiting the many.  The consequences can be devastating. In 2019, there’s been no shortage of cases of corruption and mismanagement to illustrate this.

A few examples: in the United Kingdom, the Water Services Regulation Authority imposed a £126 million fine on Southern Water for serious failures at sewage treatment and gross misreporting.

In East Africa, the highly-publicized arrest of Kenya’s Finance minister and other treasury officials over fraud charges concerning a multi-million-dollar project to build two mega dams, has already proven to be the tip of the iceberg of cases, and has triggered a wider discussion on the state of corruption in the sector.

Datadista’s investigative reporting on the Mar Menor crisis in Spain in October found that it was the product of decades-long build-up of dubious governmental practices which have led to overexploitation of underground water reserves, and eventually, the massive destruction of marine life. Earlier in the year, fish were dying en masse in the Murray Darling basin in Australia for similar reasons.

These are not isolated issues, nor are they contained in a handful of fragile regions. There are concerns of corruption in the water sector across the globe and the impact is severe. We cannot and should not dismiss this.


Leaving No One Behind? Not Yet…

Reports by the World Bank and WRI have highlighted that water quality and water scarcity issues are both seriously underestimated. The poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable suffer the most in relation to both. Importantly, as highlighted in the World Water and Development Report of 2019: “apart from derailing policy implementation, corruption also reinforces existing inequalities, since payments trickle up to those with more (discretionary) power.”

Policy and support mechanisms are not up to standard. Another World Bank report published in 2019 found that water and sanitation subsidies are disproportionately benefitting the better-off: across a number of low and middle-income countries 56 percent of the subsidies are captured by the richest fifth of the population, while only six percent flow to the poorest fifth.

Many communities are still consistently left behind or forgotten. As international attention shifts to the new theme of the year for water (climate), the timely reminders from SERI to consider the needs of disabled women in informal settlements or from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Stockholm World Water Week on the importance of respecting the rights of indigenous communities and activists, must not be forgotten.


Women in Water: Continued Exclusion

2019 yielded much-needed additional research that shed light on the ways in which women are left behind in water, and how corruption and anti-corruption measures affect them specifically, also in the water sector.

First for example, the 2019 World Bank report on women in water utilities acknowledges that despite women being largely responsible for procuring and using water for household purposes, the sector is yet to fully appreciate the benefit from women’s contributions as water managers and providers. The report echoes the urgency of closing the gender gap in water sector employment in order to achieve adequate water and sanitation for all.

Second, Transparency International has started including survey data on sextortion for its Global Corruption Barometer. The first numbers from both Latin America and the MENA region, suggest at least one in five women experience some form of sextortion when accessing public services, including water.

There’s still work to do to mainstream gender in our work. This type of data is a helpful starting point.


The Changing Role of Civil Society

2019 witnessed a peak in attention on the vital role of civil society in holding governments accountable and the precarious conditions that burden civil society activism. The publication, in May, of a humbling evaluation of transparency and accountability programmes in health in Indonesia and Tanzania, made it necessary to rethink the purpose and outcomes of many social accountability initiatives.

We see citizen oversight in the water sector as a key barrier to corruption, it’s therefore essential that, in 2020, we follow the ongoing discussions on collective action and the ways to bridge growing divisions and distrust between governments and people.

It’s also important to put these discussions in context of the latest annual State of Civil Society Report by Civicus, which analyzes civil society’s response to contemporary major challenges. The report cites the growing power of anti-rights groups and the incessant attacks on civic spaces of excluded groups as some of the key trends that impacted on civil society in 2018 and continued into 2019. What’s in store for 2020?

The trends are worrying, especially as we believe more attention needs to be awarded to grassroots activism to further amplify community voices, especially this year as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the UN resolution on the human rights to water and sanitation. More access to information on water and sanitation projects must be granted to civil society actors to pursue accountability efforts in water sector planning and expenditure.

Echoing this sentiment, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace entered the new year with a report stressing the need to bridge the gap between technocratic NGOs in the field of anti-corruption and grassroots activists, recommending joining policy analysis with mass mobilization. And, End Water Poverty has already launched the #ClaimYourWaterRights campaign globally to mobilize people to claim their human rights to water and sanitation.

Can we make this happen for integrity? How can/is technology help(ing) these developments? And what kind of data and research will we need to make this kind of collaboration effective and to support accountability mechanisms? What information needs to be open? These are some of the questions we’ll be looking to in 2020.


Moving Forward in 2020

As a first step, the WIN team and partners will be focusing on supporting the development of better open government commitments for the water sector.  We’re working with a community of practice of organizations to strengthen input from water sector stakeholders into the Open Government Partnership processes. Join us to share knowledge and experience and take part in the development of an Open Government Declaration for the Water sector at a workshop in Brasilia Februrary 10-11, 2020.

We’ll also be working on the topic of water sector finance and how integrity measures can support creditworthiness of water service providers. For example, we’ll be focusing on mutual accountability in the build-up to the Finance Ministers’ Meeting of Sanitation and Water for All. How can we support utilities to be more accountable towards their users and government? How can we hold government accountable to support utilities, and even just pay their own water bills?

The key lessons we learn throughout the year will contribute to the development of our next Water Integrity Global Outlook, which will focus on integrity challenges and paths for action in urban water and sanitation. The Outlook will be published in 2021 and we welcome contributions, case studies, and partnerships as we develop the content this year.

We are particularly excited about the ongoing development of a integrity index, focused on corruption risks in urban water and sanitation. 2020 will see the development of the index methodology, and pilot testing in at least three cities. The index will draw on a combination of big data and questionnaires to reach those places and issues that don’t feature in the big data sets. Get in touch to share ideas!

We’re expanding the team to support the development of these new initiatives. Check our opportunities for more information.

We look forward to working with you in 2020!

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