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Uganda: Local dialogue helped improved WASH operations in three West Nile districts

Published on: 02/08/2011

A good governance and accountability project has served as a catalyst for decentralisation in three West Nile districts in Uganda, empowering grass root communities to demand water and sanitation services and actively participate in affairs that affect them. This is the main conclusion of an external evaluation by a local consultant on the EU funded Improved WASH Governance in West Nile through Local Dialogue project.

A good governance and accountability project has served as a catalyst for decentralisation in three West Nile districts in Uganda, empowering grass root communities to demand water and sanitation services and actively participate in affairs that affect them. This is the main conclusion of an external evaluation by a local consultant on the EU funded Improved WASH Governance in West Nile through Local Dialogue project. The project was implemented between December 2008 and December 2010. Its main objective is to give support in the development of accountable and responsive WASH services in selected rural communities in Uganda. See for its achievements http://www.irc.nl/page/61949.

Consultant Hilda Nankunda also concluded that the project has led to effective implementation and achievements of WASH policies. Latrine coverage has greatly improved since constructing toilets is a requirement for the provision of boreholes to the community under the Kampala Declaration on Sanitation. Greater emphasis is also being placed on proper hygiene practices and the safe water chain.

The project has intersected with related policy initiatives with similar objectives of good governance in the districts, including the Leadership Code, Clients Charter, Anti-Corruption Bill, and the decentralisation of the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG).

Community empowerment through governance and accountability

The project has greatly contributed towards community empowerment, getting the community to understand that they should raise their demands with service providers for them to be better served. The project has therefore laid a good foundation for these and upcoming policies. Sustainability will greatly depend on the vigilance of the Water Officer in coordinating other stakeholders and collaborating with other departments at district level to ensure the scaling up of the dialogue and action research approach with integrity and transparency.

Understaffing was an issue mentioned by respondents, even elected leaders. There is a need to strengthen the capacity of the Water Office at district level with qualified and competent officers. In Adjumani, the person serving in the position of Water Officer was a former pump mechanic, who had not been properly trained. This resulted in gaps in service delivery and frustrated the community representatives. Moyo district had an Acting Water Officer who was lacking in experience, and the department was badly understaffed. In two districts the project was appreciated and principles were adopted. However, respondents (mostly elected leaders) were uncomfortable with the operations of the water office and raised concerns about some integrity issues.

In Nebbi district, the Water Office embraced the project and was reported to be accountable to the stakeholders to a great extent. “He talks with others….he calls you and you plan together….maybe because he is new to the system.” (Elected Leaders)

The ultimate improvements in service delivery in the three districts depend on the cooperation and integrity of technocrats in availing a prompt response and ensuring quality of service to the communities.

The consultant advised donors and key stakeholders to organise another external evaluation of the Good Governance and Accountability Project after about five years to make concrete conclusions about the efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the project.

Other issues

A number of issues arose that would have improved the project if they had been addressed:

1. Some respondents observed that the good governance and accountability project was not adequately transparent to all stakeholders “….we did not know the details of the budget, it should have also been displayed on the notice board for us to study.... (Elected Leader)

2. The project should have been located in the local government structure for greater impact on district staff in areas such as time keeping and other good practices. “NGOs change but government is permanent....the processes should have been driven by the internal staff….maybe we would have done more.…for sustainability.” (Technocrat)

3. The study revealed the need to further empower community members to manage their resources so that they can improve their livelihoods. Some communities were reported to have raised Ug. Shs. 5m (€1,350) from water source users and they did not know how to use it when there was no need for borehole repairs.

Source: External Evaluation: The Relevance, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Sustainability of the WASH Good Governance and Accountability Project West Nile, Uganda Districts of Adjumani, Moyo and Nebbi, see http://www.irc.nl/page/64398

A consultancy commissioned by the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. Data collected 1st - 10th September 2010,

Dick de Jong