Uganda has placed integrity in the water sector high on the development agenda by pursuing an explicit good governance strategy in the provision of water supply and sanitation services. In 2006, the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) established a multi-stakeholder Good Governance Working Group (GGWG) tasked with recommending specific measures to promote and monitor transparency, accountability and good governance.
Since 2009, GIZ has supported the GGWG with Technical Advisory services, such as those of current Good Governance Advisor Rosemary Nakaggwa, who has supported the sector in developing governance indicators. This is in addition to GIZ’s support for the development of an independent regulatory authority in Uganda.
To discuss their views on integrity and their take on the progress that the GGWG is making in promoting integrity in water in Uganda, we caught up with Rosemary Nakaggwa and Eng. Gilbert Kimanzi, the former chairperson of the GGWG and current Assistant Commissioner under Water for Production in the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Environment.
Why is it so important to work on water integrity in Uganda?
Gilbert: It is important to work on promotion of water integrity issues because you want to measure the effectiveness of delivery of services. If you do not promote integrity, there is a lot of leakage and wastage. We advocate to deliver: once we get the resources, we need to put them to good use, and this needs to be measured. We have to do this effectively and efficiently, because we are not anywhere near our targets.
Since you have begun working on promoting water integrity, what do you feel are the most significant changes that have occurred in the water sector?
Rosemary: There is more sharing of information and I see people trying to be more accountable at various levels. The issue of corruption is still a very big one, not only in the water sector, but also at a broader level in the entire country. Corruption limits the improvements in terms of Transparency, Accountability, and Participation, but at the same time, the work on TAP is reducing the breeding grounds for corruption.
Gilbert: The most significant change is the recent development of indicators on good governance and integrity. Specific indicators have been developed, against which we measure progress in governance in the water sector.
The other change that can be noted is that, over the years, we have developed a culture of measuring the cost of delivery of services. The sector is not very well funded, but the unit cost of the delivery of services needs to be checked. We check whether costs go up, and monitor why this happens. We have been doing this for the last 7 or 8 years. We also track grants that were sent to local governments. We now have an institutional framework to track those grants and to look at the effectiveness of the delivery of services using those grants. Those grants cover rural water supply and sanitation, operation and maintenance, work done in small urban centers. We are also looking to monitor grants for sanitation development.
What other specific activities have you been carrying out to promote integrity? Can you give examples?
Rosemary: In Uganda what has been done through the GGWG has been to first of all increase awareness on Transparency, Accountability, Participation, and Inclusiveness. This was done through trainings that were designed specifically for the water sector. We launched awareness campaigns with partners that have helped make governance a more common topic of discussion at meetings.
We also conducted studies to evaluate existing guidelines and to what extent they involve integrity components. For example, when looking at the allocation of grants, we evaluated whether there is equitable distribution of the grant to all regions. Guidelines were redesigned to take into account the conclusions on how inequitable the allocation was.
An integrity risk mapping was carried out too. Can you tell us more? What was the added value of such a mapping?
Rosemary: The risk mapping was done in 2009, to help better target resources and identify priority areas on which the sector should focus. The allocation of responsibilities was then also identified as a key issue.
The plan is to have another study to see to what extent we have achieved our targets and to see whether we still face similar risks as compared to the start. However, the focus will also have to be more on anti-corruption, even though corruption is a cross-sectoral issue that is therefore more difficult to tackle.
Gilbert: The first thing we developed is a baseline, indeed. If you are going to measure something, you better have a baseline. We established an action plan, which has actions for different sub-sectors which are monitored on a quarterly basis. Progress is then reported to water sector working group, where senior officials are involved. Monitoring per quarter has been a good practice and is significant.
We have also raised the profile of the leadership of the GGWG: the GGWG is now a recognized sub-sector working group. Recently, I handed over the chairmanship of the group to the under-secretary in charge of finance and administration in the Ministry of Water and Environment.
The GGWG has been trying to help set up an independent water regulator in Uganda. Where do you see the big challenges and opportunities with such an action?
Gilbert: I would say the biggest challenge is that the National Water Sewerage Corporation does not want a regulator. They feel they would be put under scrutiny. They deliver services but they don’t want to be accountable to the customer up to the last dollar. They do all sorts of things to delay the setting up of the regulator. However, every service of measure should be regulated. You need a good regulator who sets standards and tariffs, and ensures that the quality of service is monitored and budgets are approved. There is a big demand and opportunity for it, but we have been dragging our feet.
Rosemary: I think from my perspective, when you look at integrity and the totality of good governance, we definitely need to have contracts in place, and agree on guidelines and principles in a participatory manner. This can only happen if there is a clear separation of roles, from the service providers, implementers, policy makers, water providers, and water users. You need to have a body that tries to ensure that all parties involved do not compromise each other or do not end up abusing each other, because one party might be more powerful than the others. This is the regulator. The will to set up such an independent regulator is maybe not entirely there yet: Uganda as a country still has many challenges.
What are the plans of GIZ and the Ministry to assess the good governance indicators?
Gilbert: We are working with the focal point officers on the indicators on integrity. What we have done and continue doing is that every focal point officer needs to keep track of the progress made in implementing the recommendations in relation to these indicators. Someone from the GGWG meets with these officers to check what is being done.
Indicator 4 and 5 on budget allocation, for instance, are reported on on a monthly or quarterly basis. Someone from the secretariat checks the quarterly progress reports, and compares the data. We need to look at the sustainability, so that each sub-sector continues to provide the data. Sometimes we want to carry out a one-month assessment to see whether data is coming, but are limited by personnel and financing.
What are the next steps? How do we move forward for integrity?
Gilbert: Strengthening the secretariat of the GGWG is a first step. Not many people like to talk about governance, and good governance and integrity is not the first point of call. Strengthening the secretariat is one of the affirmative actions to bridge the gaps we still face. We have a lot of support from technical advisors, but it should also involve more financing to get tracking studies going. The key is to also strengthen the personnel and budget of the GGWG.
Moreover, raising the profile of the GGWG and work on good governance and integrity is also crucial, for instance by putting someone higher in hierarchy to take over the chairmanship of the GGWG.
And of course, we must continue to ensure that recommendations and progress reports are submitted to the sub-sectors.
Rosemary: We first focused on making sure duty bearers perform to the best of their abilities. Some still act irresponsibly and abuse is visible. It is a priority.
But now, I also see an increase in the awareness of right holders. More people are getting to know their rights. The challenge is for them to implement or demand for such rights given the environment.
We need to focus more on getting back systems of action, effective monitoring, rewards for good work and sanctions where necessary. As the duty bearers are trying their best to do their work, the right holders also should have the capacity to demand for better services. An independent regulator will in this regard be important.
(These interviews were edited slightly for clarity.)