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Published on: 18/05/2017

The First ever Water Integrity Forum for East Africa ended on Thursday 11th May 2017, with the conclusion that integrity issues in the WASH sector are important, real, and require action from governments, civil society organisations (CSOs) and private sector actors.

The three day event (May 9-11), was hosted by the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity in conjunction with Water Integrity Network (WIN), with the theme: Water Integrity in East Africa: Linking policy with practice. The event attracted participants from various countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and co-convening International and national NGOs.

Ethiopian State Minister for Water and Irrigation, Kebede Gerba, speaks to journalists at the Water Integrity Forum

Participants discussed key issues around integrity in water, including, monitoring integrity, managing integrity, building partnerships with regional and international bodies, generating evidence, capacity enhancement, as well as Knowledge Management for water integrity. The key question was: What more needs to be done to ensure integrity?

At the end of the three days, some key conclusions and recommendations were made by a panel of speakers, among them the Ethiopian State Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity, Mr Kebede Gerba. He said, "You can't sustain growth without integrity, accountability and transparency." Citing the Ethiopian experience, Gerba noted that there is a lot of investment in water projects including water for irrigation, for production of hydropower and for home consumption. "The successful implementation and management of these investments call for high levels of integrity," he said.

You can't sustain growth without integrity, accountability and transparency

Responding to participants' views that governments lacked the political will to improve integrity, Minister Gerba said that political will does not come by chance. It comes by force sometimes. "Societies must demand for governments to deliver on their promises. Democratization and empowerment are crucial. Communities must ask government to act," he urged.

Dr. Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary of African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) noted that indeed governments had expressed political will by establishing the necessary institutions for example: The Anti-corruption Commission in Kenya, the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG) and the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda, and many others.

Governments have also demonstrated political will by organizing and participating in forums like this one. "But corruption cannot be eradicated with political will alone," Kanangire said. "Political will should be translated into something that can be measured and monitored. We need to look into ways where institutions working at different levels can discuss integrity issues in relation with their mandates at different levels."

Panelists also urged CSOs to play their oversight role, especially with regard to implementation of policies. "Government cannot set and also oversee the implementation of its own policies," said Doreen Wandera, Executive Director of Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET). She urged CSOs to track budgets at all levels and gather evidence of how WASH money is spent and whether there is value for money. Such evidence should then be presented at common forums and used to give feedback to government and other actors.

Wandera further urged CSOS to reach out and contribute to community capacity building in terms of water integrity and governance. "CSOs should bring information to community level and help the people understand things. Some projects are documented and presented in high tech language which the common people cannot identify with. This leaves the people unable to participate in the governance of such projects," she added.She observed that one of the key challenges of CSOs is that their own integrity is under question. This means that they have no authority and confidence to engage with and oversee other actors.

Panelists urged CSOs to avoid the tendency to bypass government rules and regulations, make efforts to partner with government and work in a coordinated and harmonized way. "CSOs should have a paradigm shift especially in advocacy. Let's not build extremes where the government is on the defensive all the time," said Dr Kiprorir Sigi, Water Minister from Bomet County in Kenya.

Other recommendations to improve water integrity were:

  • Strengthen partnerships using a sector-wide, multi-sectoral approach to avoid fragmentation.
  • CSOS should critically reflect on how to engage with communities and local governments. They should also advocate with donors so that they understand how communities work.
  • Development partners should be ready to work with rather than bypass government systems. There is a tendency for donors to work in their own systems.
  • Development Partners also have a role to play in advocacy because they have high level access to their governments as compared to the CSOs.
  • There is still focus on infrastructure not on software. There is need to address software issues, including integrity.
  • Actors should not lose priority on software and capacity building even during emergencies. The tendency during emergency is to focus on infrastructure and pay less attention to integrity in order to resolve crises.
  • There should be continuous research; information sharing and knowledge management in order to build on what exists. Build linkages with other KM networks like RWSN, SUSANA
  • To ensure sustainability of interventions, there is need to institutionalise these policies and principles that guide water integrity and governance.
  • More resources are needed for the water sector as its often overlooked in the budget process.

"If we solve the problems in the water sector we solve problems in other sectors" Kenya's Kipkorir Sigi concluded.


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