World Water Day: tackling corruption key to better water services

Since 1992, 22 March has been World Water Day. In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly declared that clean drinking water is a fundamental human right. Yet millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa still have no access to clean water.

Lack of integrity and low performance of water utilities and informal service providers can jeopardise peoples ability to access clean water. Addressing the issue of corruption is key.

The project Transparency and Integrity in Service Delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa (TISDA) carried out by TI and its national chapters in Kenya, Ghana and Senegal, shows that the problem is complex. The provision of clean water can be disrupted for many reasons. These include technical deficiencies and mismanagement but also political opportunism as well as regulators, who can become captured by politicians and providers. There is a lot at stake. Worldwide up to US$70 billion is spent on water resources.

The TISDA project aims at working with key stakeholders, mapping the situation and establishing what we call water improvement pacts. The project explores the performance of water supply provision and uses risk mapping as a tool to identify and assess the soundness of the services in terms of transparency, accountability, and participation (TAP). It also tries to come up with solutions.

We identify where the problems are and encourage all players to improve their performances and, if we have to bring in new partners, we try to do that too. The water improvement pacts will be an important learning tool as they structure the discussion between different stakeholders and allow them to jointly agree on problems and possible solutions. The pacts have another advantage in that they allow civil society to become involved. The pacts establish benchmarks which can then be easily monitored by civil society.

The results of our initial work will be published as National Water Supply Integrity Studies (NWIS) next May. We hope that the recommendations will provide useful tools to ensure that the fundamental right to clean water is enjoyed by everyone.

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