A key objective of WIN’s new strategy is to support and target water integrity action more effectively by systematically assessing integrity risks and measuring change. Baseline studies in focus countries will be key elements of this strategy and the building blocks for further water integrity and governance programmes by WIN and partners. WIN and its partners GWP-PNE Benin and SNV have just launched the preparatory phases of a first integrity baseline study for Benin, focusing specifically on WASH services.
There are several challenges to developing integrity assessments, beyond the generally acknowledged difficulty of getting accurate information and data on corruption practices. Here are a few preliminary remarks on making the methodology TAP-proof (with Transparency, Accountability, Participation) and on our process so far. Your thoughts and comments are welcome below!
1. Getting understanding, support and buy-in from water sector stakeholders
The quality of results, and the way they will be received and used depends on the involvement of stakeholders from an early phase. The main methodology workshop for this first baseline study was held in March in Cotonou and chaired by the Secretary General of the Ministry for Water Jean-Claude GBODOGBE. It brought together stakeholders from government agencies and the civil society who agreed on the choice of sub-sector for the analysis and discussed adjustments to the methodology (for example, the sampling strategy was modified to better account for hydrological differences in regions).
2. Designing a comprehensive study with limited resources
The baseline study aims to produce a comprehensive description of the integrity situation in the sector with limited resources. We therefore designed it with three major components: background research, a household survey in selected regions, and focus group discussions.
The household survey has been designed to capture data on household perceptions of integrity and corruption levels in the water sector, as well as on their experiences with petty corruption in accessing water services.
The focus group discussions will be conducted with participation from the national water utility company, local governments and authorities, and other relevant stakeholders. We plan to use the Annotated Water Integrity Scan (AWIS) methodology to get more accurate and comparable results, building on the outcomes of the household surveys and the background research. The advantages of the methodology are that it is relatively quick, promotes dialogue among stakeholders through a participatory self-assessment, and helps produce an integrity risk map with scores across transparency, accountability, and participation – the three pillars of integrity. The AWIS methodology is in the process of being adapted to the local context following the methodology workshop.
3. Making sure all surveys and tools are adapted to local context, culturally sensitive, and inclusive
Developing a strong survey was the biggest challenge in the study so far. Finding the right length and tone, making it clear and modular were priorities for us in order to make it useable and to get results that are as representative as possible. We adapted the survey to the local context with inputs from the national consultants. It is designed to enable the analysis of the distributional impacts of integrity failures also on the poor, marginalized, and on households headed by women. For instance, it was decided that an attempt at direct measurement of rural household incomes in Benin would likely yield inaccurate estimates. National consultants therefore devised a proxy indicator of household wealth based on ownership of durable assets (e.g., a TV set, livestock, etc.) and other variables.
4. Avoiding data mishaps and errors
There is always a risk, especially with household surveys, that data is intentionally or unintentionally specious. Using automated systems and mobile apps with geo-referencing is a good way to avoid some of the most obvious pitfalls and make sure research protocols are strictly adhered to for data collection. The household survey for this baseline will be conducted among 300 households using Akvo FLOW on smartphones. Enumerators were trained to use the tool and follow the set methodology. The survey was then pretested in the field for comprehension and skip patterns, and improved based on the results.
The work on household surveys is now ongoing and we are looking forward to seeing the results.
In the near future, similar (adapted) baseline studies will also be carried out in other focus countries for WIN. We are also happy to support other assessments and monitoring exercises by partners. If you have surveys on water sector corruption or integrity in the pipeline, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.