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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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 email@example.com.
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:
Public investment projects
Recurrent spending supporting ongoing operations
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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:
Permits and concessions: rights to use the resource
Subsidies: assistance or aid granted to the population for the use of the resource
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 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 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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Be transparent, share reliable information.
Act sustainably and with accountability. Emergency action can’t be an excuse for poorly planned or problematic practices that violate people’s basic rights.
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.
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.
manipulating procurement and operational processes.
influencing policy and regulatory decisions
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.
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)
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.
The World Bank made headlines with a report on elite capture of foreign aid. “The paper documents that aid disbursements to highly aid-dependent countries coincide with sharp increases in bank deposits in offshore financial centers known for bank secrecy and private wealth management, but not in other financial centers. […] The implied leakage rate is around 7.5 percent at the sample mean.”