The Annual Water and Sanitation CSO Performance Report, published by KEWASNET in collaboration with cewas and WIN, is a milestone report on how CSOs in Kenya contribute to the water and sanitation sector. It is an inspiring example of how CSOs can demonstrate accountability and practically act for water integrity. At the report launch in Nairobi in March, we interviewed the CEO of KEWASNET, Mr. Samson Shivaji, to discuss the report and its conclusions for CSOs, the government agencies, and donors involved in water service provision and water resource management in Kenya.
Listen to the entire audio interview here (15 min):
Full interview transcript:
Lotte Feuerstein (WIN programme manager): Could you tell us a bit about the CSO report you are releasing today and why it is important for integrity in the water sector?
Mr. Shivaji (KEWASNET CEO): It is a pleasure to be talking to you. The CSO performance report is the third in a series of reports. The first was produced in 2015 for the year 2014. This report, for the last two years, has been important in looking beyond the CSO contributions to the sector, into looking at performance, and more importantly, pointing out issues on integrity, quality, adherence and compliance to service provision. This year’s report is particularly important in the sense that it has gone deep into looking at the enabling environment for the working of civil society in the implementation of their projects.
One key issue that came out, are the economic losses that civil society organizations are experiencing with regard to the implementation and within the context of the enabling environment. In particular, noting that civil society organizations are losing up to 10% of their investments to fraud and corruption. This is a significant loss, which this report points out and which is a point for discussion for the rest of the year, in terms of tackling and reducing such losses, but more importantly of ensuring that other sectors also have a similar discussion. We cannot have the WASH and WRM sectors talking about integrity while other sectors remain behind.
WIN: What are the most important takeaways of this report for you?
Mr. Shivaji: There are several issues that come out of this report which are important. One is a traditional question which we ask in terms of the role of the civil society in the WASH sector.
When we look at the report, over three quarters of the contribution goes to direct service delivery. When we look at the structural arrangements, institutional arrangements within the Kenyan Water and Sanitation sector it is clear to us that it is not the primary role of civil society to provide services. One of the questions we ask, and which we have asked before, is: Are civil societies organizations investing their resources in the most prudent and appropriate manner within the sector? Or should they reallocate re-strategize and invest differently?
Another big issue that comes out from the report is the place of civil society within the broader context of governance and the interaction with different duty bearers. Indeed we are noting that one of the point of weakness within the report is compliance to government engagement and we are asking within the report: Are we giving sufficient attention to compliance, to regulatory provisions, are we well constituted in terms of how we approach the implementation the engagement with the sector?
This year just like last year we note that there are still significant weakness in terms of how civil society engages with the sector.
WIN: What has been the response so far to this report over the years both from the CSOs you work with and the government?
Mr. Shivaji: The government has received this report very positively, noting that it has helped fill an important gap, in the sense of primary collection of data and reporting from civil society. This is a gap that has existed within the sector for a long time, for almost a decade, since government began sector reporting. And therefore, this report has been an enabler for the sector to receive information and include it within sector wide reporting.
From civil society there is also a huge appreciation of the report, in the sense that the contributors are able to recognize their contribution within the wider space of civil society but also within the national context. When it is included in the sector report, they are able to appreciate that they are part of that change within the sector. There is also the fact that this report employs the use of the Integrity Quality and Compliance toolbox, which is a tool that enables the contributors to self-reflect, to be able to look at their own internal systems, to look at their level of engagement within the wider sector, and more importantly, to look at their levels of delivery within the sector. Generally speaking this report has been received very well, even as it looks continually to improve with the sector feedback.
WIN: In this year’s report conclusions, you emphasize the need for the donor community to actively support CSOs to engage with government and focus on project sustainability. Can you tell us a bit more about your recommendations and about how donors are responding to this report?
Mr. Shivaji: Indeed, one of the key questions that we have asked as a result of the report for the last two years is the question whether the manner in which civil society organizations operate is a derivative of donor conditions, donor provisions, donor guidance or an orientation of the civil society organizations themselves. We ask these questions because we feel that donors are always influential in terms of determining the direction that the recipients of funding take in implementing their projects. So we feel that these recommendations brings the donors on board in terms of interrogating:
- Is it them who are influencers of the manner in which organizations operate?
- Is it that donor provisions or requirements are being faulted and the donors are not making a follow up?
Because one of the issues that comes out in the report is that up to 25% of projects we surveyed are not having donor follow up. So is it a weakness on the part of donors or is it a weakness in the entire system within the sector? We were able to engage with the donor group (during the launch) of the water services technical group within Kenya. I think the report has been received very positively, being a unique report that the donor has not had for the sector around the civil society organization. We feel it will be taken up in the course of the year and that we will have a much deeper engagement of donors.
WIN: In your view, what are the biggest challenges for water integrity promotion in Kenya at the moment?
Mr. Shivaji: One of the biggest challenges is the issue of capacity, the fact that not all stakeholders are operating from the same point of knowledge or point of approach to integrity management. The honours is really on the promoters of integrity within the country to be able to develop a harmonized approach to reaching out to the different stakeholders. This is important in order to ensure that the issue of integrity management is properly institutionalized across the sector, so that it becomes part of a standard against which all actors are measured. That said, there is a recognition that the regulator has been able to put in place certain measures trying to promote integrity management within water service providers. Looking at the institutional reforms that have happened, especially after the evaluation, its important that the issues of integrity are well entrenched within the county government systems. This then becomes much more responsible for oversight at the level of implementation. If this is done, then we are going to see many more effective systems that really respect integrity management.
WIN: In your view, what are the priorities and most effective ways to support change for water integrity? Do you have advice for water integrity promoters in East Africa?
Mr. Shivaji: In my opinion, I think we must develop a functional community of practice. And indeed in Kenya, there is an attempt to bring this together. In the Kenyan context, we have already established an integrity management steering group which is supposed to drive this process to ensure the community of practice becomes functional, works together, plans together and implements based on a common framework. I think this would be the approach that most of the other countries need to take in order to ensure that even if we have tools or even if we have approaches, that they speak to each other and they roll out of these tools and ensures that there is momentum that is common to the different actors.
WIN: Can you say something about specific tools that you think are effective?
Mr. Shivaji: Of course I have already talked about the Integrity Quality and Compliance toolbox which is a toolbox essentially for civil society organizations working within the sector, but we also have two other tools which are currently operational:
- Integrity Management (IM) Toolbox for community managed projects, which is very important for rural water service providers, which are largely community-managed. It has also already demonstrated a lot of efficacy in terms of shifting the level of knowledge, improving governance and knowledge about compliance to the community groups that have been targeted.
- We also have the IM tools for water service providers, which has also been promoted and which is also the basis upon which regulators uses to measure performance within the sector.
So these different toolboxes are the ones I am talking about. They need to speak to each other and the promoters of them need to work together to ensure that there is a common approach and common understanding and efficacy in the implementation of integrity processes.
Thank you very much!