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Keeping tabs on WASH sector financing in Uganda

Published on: 28/11/2019

An analysis by IRC Uganda and a CSO group reveals higher targets amidst reduced funding.

Investment in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector has strong links to outcomes in health, education, gender and social development, agriculture, and energy. The WASH sector contributes significantly to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to Uganda's Vision 2040, it has been estimated that investment in WASH has the potential to increase GDP per capita by 4%. It is therefore important for all sector actors to keep tabs on investment trends in WASH, not only to track progress but also to make recommendations where improvement is required.

With support from IRC Uganda, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) undertook an analysis of the performance of grants under the Uganda WASH sector in financial year 2018/19, with the aim of generating evidence to inform the WASH sector review process and budgeting for financial year 2020/21. The highlights of the analysis are captured below:

Targets and performance: Over financial year 2018/19 the WASH sub-sector set out to achieve a number of outcomes namely: increase access to quality safe water and sanitation facilities, improve water resources assessment, monitoring, planning, regulation and water quality management. However, most of the targets were either missed or only partially achieved. Under-performance was most notable in the water resources management programme, where the sector met less than 10% of its targets. The main reason for the under-performance was insufficient funding.

FY 2018/19
Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme
% of people accessing safe water supply within 1000 M72%70%
% People with access to an improved sanitation facility in rural areas 86%80%
% Increase in access to an improved sanitation facility86%80%
Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Programme
% of people accessing safe water supply within 200 M80%77%
% people with access to an improved sanitation facility in urban areas95%87.5%
% increase in access to an improved sanitation facility89%89%
Water for production programme
% of water for production facilities that are functional30%86.7%
Water Resource Management Programme
% increase in number of water resources related investments25%5%
% increase in number of water resources related investments from the approved catchment management plans implemented25%2%
Source: Ministry of Water and Environment 2018/19 Quarter 4 Performance Report

Expenditure performance: In financial year 2018/19 the Water and Environment Sector was allocated UGX 1.318.68 billion, which translated into 4% of the national budget. The biggest proportion amounting to UGX 1,037.75 billion was allocated to WASH, which translates into 78% of the entire Water and Environment Sector budget. It also marked an increment of 88.5% in WASH funding levels, compared to financial year 2017/18. Benefiting from supplementary budget allocations, rural water and water resources management received much more funding compared to urban water and water for production.

In terms of spending the released funds, WASH programmes registered high levels of performance, but there was a notable mismatch between budget performance and expenditure outcomes. For example, despite receiving more funds than was previously appropriated, water resources management under-performed on its outcomes. On the other hand, the water for production programme exceeded its targets despite receiving only 93% of its appropriated budget.

There are gaps in the promotion of sanitation and hygiene in schools. A review of the cumulative outputs at the end of the fourth quarter of financial year 2018/19 suggested limited effort and funding towards the promotion of sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, review of the education sector performance over the same year indicates that there are no performance indicators on the promotion of WASH in schools.

Expenditure performance at local government level: On average, local governments received all budgeted funds amounting to UGX 58.55 billion and spent 92% of the funds released to them. While 92% is a high absorption rate, the unabsorbed funds amount to UGX 4.66 billion. The unabsorbed funds were mostly attributed to limited capacity in the environment departments at local government level. For a sector with several unmet targets and funding gaps, its is imperative that the limited funds available are fully utilised.

Expenditure outlook in financial year 2019/20: The Water and Environment Sector was allocated a total budget of UGX 1,105.73 billion which marks a 16% reduction (UGX 212.95 billion) from financial year 2018/19. WASH programmes were allocated a total of UGX 828.8 billion, which marks a 20% reduction in funding from 2018/19. The reduction in WASH budget mostly affects the urban water supply and sanitation programme. The rural water supply and sanitation programme also suffered a 1% reduction in funding, compared to financial year 2018/19. Despite the reduction in funding for 2019/20, targets have increased across the WASH sector. For example, it is difficult to see how the sector will attain 96% access to safe water and sanitation facilities in urban areas considering the 36% reduction in funding. 

Considering the funding trends explained above, CSBAG and IRC Uganda make the following recommendations:
• Funding for the WASH sub-sector should be increased in the coming financial years, if the country is to meet its sustainable development outcomes. As empirical research has indicated, increased investment in water supply and sanitation has the potential to yield an extra 4% growth in GDP per capita by 2040. This has been quantified to amount to an extra USD 50 per Ugandan.

• The WASH sub-sector along with the Water and Environment Sector should start placing emphasis on the sector/sub-sector outcomes in their reporting. There should be a clear link between the expenditure and the sector outcomes. Currently, the reporting of the sub-sector still places emphasis on the outputs of the year despite the country implementing programme-based budgeting (outcome-based budgeting) since FY 2016/17.

• The WASH sub-sector should place emphasis on access to improved sanitation and hygiene facilities in schools by making it an outcome area of its own. A review of the cumulative outputs at the end of quarter 4 FY 2018/19 suggests limited effort and funding towards the promotion of sanitation and hygiene in schools.

• The Water and Environment Sector ought to ensure consistency between the budget and expenditure figures reported in all its budget documents. This will improve the quality of information available for the policy actors and makers in the sector.