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Published on: 09/04/2016

Wasted investmentsAt least ten percent of investments in the water sector disappears through corruption. This is the shocking conclusion of the report Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 that was published last month and will be presented this week in The Hague. The Water Integrity Network calls for combined action against corruption with which the water sector can save billions annually.

Every year, US$ 75 billion is lost as a result of weak governance and corruption in the water sector. Researchers estimate that an annual investment of between US$ 770 and 1,760 billion is needed for the global development of water resources and infrastructure. However, the alarming level of corruption needs to be reduced first to meet the Global Goal of sustainable access to clean water for all in 2030. The Water Integrity Network that published the report is a network of organisations and individuals promoting water integrity to reduce corruption and improve water sector performance. 

Cases of corruption

The Global Outlook 2016 mentions cases of corruption from countries around the world. In Malawi, a reformed public financial management system was misused to divert US$ 55 million from public funds to the private accounts of officials. In California, a member of the State Senate in 2015 declared a system of permits that allowed oil companies to discharge wastewater into underground aquifers to be corrupt.

Petty corruption – in which people pay bribes to officials or take water illegally - can also add up to major fraud. The Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company in Kenya loses 40 per cent of its supply to theft and leaks while poor residents are forced to buy water from vendors at ten to 25 times the price they would pay the water utility. In South Africa, eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal lost more than a third of its water in one year because of illegal connections and vandalism, costing US$ 44 million.

Influence on subsidies

Corruption in the water sector influences subsidy and financing. In Benin for example, € 4 million euro of Dutch funding vanished from the Ministry of Water in 2015. As a result, the Netherlands has suspended the development aid to the Ministry of Water of Benin

The report documents how whistleblowers and activists are subjected to intimidation and violence for their attempts to uncover corruption cases. Alarmingly, after eight years there has been no evidence that corruption has declined since the Water Integrity Network published the Global Corruption Report 2008 on water.

No evidence that corruption has declined

Repeated scandals suggest that corruption is as prevalent as ever, while the challenges the world faces to provide everyone with clean water and sanitation in 2030 are enormous. In 2015 there were some 663 million people without access to an improved drinking water source, and in the least developed countries only 37 per cent of the population had access to improved sanitation. Yet the vast majority of countries have no comprehensive system for tracking funding to water and sanitation – and fewer than half know how well services are reaching the poor. The urgent question that arises is how the sector can fight both corruption and incapacity effectively. 

Good Governance

The report that will be launched and discussed by the Dutch water sector on Friday 15th of April in The Hague, demonstrates that one of the key issues is governance. In many countries, authorities responsible for the water sector are often not effective. Capacity and coordination of the care of water resources and water services are painfully short of what is required. Yet integrity in water sector governance is key to the delivery of sustainable development, the human rights to drinking water and sanitation, and the SDGs. The report is a clear call to arms to policy-makers, governments, internationalagencies, and citizens to collaborate in order to build integrity in policies and investments. 

WIN integrity wall

Integrity walls can fight corruption and cement integrity as a core element in the water sector

An important issue the report addresses is the gap between policy and implementation that allow corruption to flourish. This can be partly bridged by collaboration between the water sector, anti-corruption groups, the private sector, public finance institutions and the judiciary. Properly defined and enforced policies, laws, guidelines, rules, rights and duties can reduce corruption, ensure credibility and give people the security to call upon their rights. Water integrity training has to become part of a long-term action programme of processes that build capacity, from grass-root to government levels, the authors state.

Another part of the solution is the so-called 'integrity walls' to keep out corruption and cement integrity as a core element of the water sector. The authors call on water sector professionals around the world to develop a flow of accurate and open information (transparency); hold decision-makers and implementers accountable (accountability); include all relevant stakeholders in decision-making (participation); and strengthen laws and regulations (anti-corruption).

Join the launch in The Hague 

IRC is partner of the Water Integrity Network and ambassador of water integrity. We support programmes to promote water integrity. IRC has a long track-record of pushing for a bigger role for monitoring and evaluation in the sector. We work closely with government to create effective water sector with a focus on service delivery. 

On Friday 15th of April, 4:15 pm in The Hague the publication will be launched in The Netherlands. Curious to read or hear more? Join us, and register here

15th Apr 2016, Time and date: 4:15 - 7:00 pm
Venue: 7AM, Buitenhof 47, 2513 AH, The Hague.
Free entrance

 *This meeting is organised by the Water Integrity Network and IRC, in cooperation with the Dutch Regional Water Authorities, the Netherlands Water Partnership and the UN-Global Compact-NL. 

*The Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 was co-published with the Global Water Partnership (GWP), The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), CAPNET and Transparency International (TI) and TI-Bangladesh hosting BAWIN.


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