Skip to main content

Published on: 10/10/2012

The European Commission (EC) maintains that most of the audited projects were approved before it had implemented quality control reforms.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) reviewed 23 projects in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania. The projects represent an investment of over 400 million euro of which the EU provided 219 million euro. Total EU spending on water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa between 2001 and 2010 amounts to over 1 billion euro.

In their report [1], the auditors warn that the majority of projects will not be sustainable unless non-tariff revenue is ensured and institutional weaknesses are addressed. Less than half of the projects examined delivered results meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.

Vice chairman of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee Nirj Deva called the ECA report a “stinging rebuke” which “must act as a wake-up call for the Commission”. “This kind of sloppiness gives it [EU aid] a bad name”, Deva said [2].

Other than admitting that “there is always a need for improvement”, European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs avoided addressing the main criticisms of the ECA report [3].

The response of the Commission, published as an annex in the ECA report, “is largely disappointing”, says IRC Programme Officer Stef Smits. [4]. The data presented in the report “would call for a more profound reflection on the approach taken”, he added.


Woman collecting water at a stand pipe (Burkina Faso). Photo: European Union

The auditors also criticise the Commission for not making good use of its existing procedures to increase the sustainability of EU-funded projects . When asked whether projects approved after 2005, when the EC implemented quality support groups (QSG), were more sustainable, ECA Member David Bostock replied it was too early to tell [5].

[1] European Court of Auditors, 2012. European Union development assistance for drinking-water supply and basic sanitation in sub-Saharan countries. (Special report ; no. 13/2012). Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union.  doi: 10.2865/10664

[2] Deva: Commission must stop squandering aid cash,, 28 Sep 2012

[3] Commissioner Piebalgs’ reaction to the Court of Auditor’s report on water and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa, EC, 28 Sep 2012

[4] Stef Smits, Don’t shoot the messenger, but embrace the sad stats, Water services that last, 9 Oct 2012

[5] Video streaming of press conference (Europe-by-Satellite), EC, 28 Sep 2012

Related web sites:


  • Audit questions sustainability of EU water projects in Africa,, 03 Oct 2012
  • Ethan Bilby, EU falls short on Africa water projects – auditor, Reuters, 28 Sep 2012
  • “Water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa – EU Commission could and should do better” – EU Auditors, ECA, 28 Sep 2012
Back to
the top