Published on: 30/04/2014
M&E are key to improving both the performance and the sustainability of WASH services. But how much do they cost and how should it be paid for?
From 7 to 9 April 2014, an international seminar was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the monitoring and evaluation of water supply and sanitation services. The international symposium brought together more than 200 participants, all convinced that monitoring and evaluation are key to improving both the performance and the sustainability of WASH services thanks to better informed decision making not only locally but also nationally and globally.
Monitoring and evaluation costs money, and the participants discussed what the cost should be and how it should be paid for.
One initial conclusion is that, apart from small piped water systems managed by professional operators who ensure technical and financial monitoring as part of the service and recover the cost through the tariff, we remain largely in the dark about what the overall cost of a monitoring and evaluation process would be. Furthermore, having users carry the entire cost is subject to criticism in that certain monitoring and evaluation processes fall within the remit of the local and national authorities, and could therefore be covered by taxes.
The information available clearly indicates that this cost is significant in proportion to the overall operating costs of these services
Various cost elements were shared by the participants throughout the seminar. Fabrice Agognon reported that the monitoring of village water services (supply via hand pumps) in the Commune of Gorgadji in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso cost 1 million FCFA ($US 2,000) in 2013. Since the commune has 16 villages and 136 hand pumps which supply 37,000 people, the monitoring and evaluation costs amount to 62,500 FCFA per village per year ($US 125) or 27 FCFA per person per year ($US 0.05) or 7,353 FCFA per hand pump per year ($US 15). In absolute terms this may seem negligible, but in relative terms it is significant, representing 10% of the annual contribution each user makes towards hand pump repair and maintenance or 75% of the annual amount allocated to preventive hand pump maintenance ($US 20). Furthermore, the monitoring and evaluation process comprises not just the technical and financial monitoring of infrastructure (functionality, length of outages, collection of user fees, repair and maintenance spending, payment of repairmen etc.) but also the evaluation of institutional regulatory compliance. Compliance control is a Government responsibility: they should use their own resources to ensure that the communes have carried out the necessary formalities with the village water service managers and repair-artisans, and that the latter comply with nationally-specified legislation. In theory, there is no reason the cost of this compliance control should be paid by the users. The evidences provided by Mr. Agognon are the results of an action-research project conducted by IRC, as part of the WA-WASH program funded by USAID.
Still focusing on Burkina Faso, Jean-Mathieu Bingbouré reported that the monitoring and evaluation carried out annually by the Water Resources Directorate (DGRE) costs 260 million FCFA ($US 520,000). This is limited to monitoring infrastructure construction, its geographical location and its functionality across the country's 302 rural communes, totalling around 8,000 villages. This process is entirely financed from transfers and therefore focuses on assessing the investments made during the year, which condition sector budget support.
While it is legitimate to integrate monitoring cost into the tariff, activities relating to service evaluation fall within the remit of the Government or local and national regulatory authorities, and should thus be funded through taxes
Bernard Collignon shared his experience of the cost of monitoring and evaluation for 360 small piped water systems in Chad: 50 million FCFA in 2007, in other words 100 FCFA per person per year ($US 0.2) directly covered by users through tariffs. In Senegal, monitoring of the same type of system costs 10 FCFA/m3, and in Mauritania 15 FCFA/m3 (respectively $US 0.02 and $US 0.03), to be compared with a production and distribution cost of $US 1/m3. A water supply monitoring and evaluation operator in Mali, Boubacar Macina, stated that monitoring and evaluation activities are carried out in parallel with advisory support services by the same entities and that the latter subsidises the former: the cost of technical and financial monitoring and evaluation of small water systems would, in reality, cost almost 100 FCFA/m3 ($US 0.2), in other words a fifth of the cost of producing and distributing 1m3 of water.
None of these monitoring and evaluation processes includes the monitoring of water quality. The quality of water supplied at modern water points (hand pumps etc.) or by piped systems is not monitored by any certified public authority such as a public health laboratory, and the estimates for systematic monitoring amount to several billion FCFA per year!
In conclusion, it would appear that while there are still gaps in our understanding of the cost of monitoring and evaluating water supply services, the information available clearly indicates that this cost is significant in proportion to the overall operating costs of these services. Users cannot carry the full cost of monitoring and evaluation. While it may appear legitimate to integrate monitoring activities directly aimed at improving service quality into the tariff, activities relating to service evaluation fall within the remit of the Government or local and national regulatory authorities, and should thus be funded through taxes. A review of all the different components of monitoring and evaluation and their costs would help to specify the level of public funding that should be mobilised in each country to evaluate water supply services and improve both performance levels and sustainability.
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