The Importance of Integrity in Rural Water Supply

An Interview with Sean Furey from the Rural Water Supply Network

“The use of ICT among many actors in rural water supply and WASH is making it easier to implement integrity mechanisms.”

The Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) is a network of professionals and practitioners with the vision to achieve sustainable, safe and affordable rural water services for all. Core partners include the African Development Bank, IRC, Skat, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) UNICEF and WaterAid. The network has a strong focus on enhancing knowledge and evidence, technical and professional competence, practice and policy in rural water supply, specifically through innovation, documentation, research and capacity building.

At the Stockholm World Water Week 2017, WIN shared a booth with RWSN.  Both RWSN and WIN are networks sharing similar ways of working, with a strong focus on documentation, research, and capacity building. Our missions also complement each other for the rural water sub-sector.

To find out more about RWSN’s work to promote Transparency, Accountability, Participation and Anti-Corruption in rural water supply, we spoke to Sean Furey from the RWSN secretariat.

 

Why is it important to promote Integrity in Rural Water Supply?
To achieve universal access to safe, affordable domestic water, there is a need for more investments: investment which delivers results. That means money must be used efficiently and invested in high quality water supply services that work for the benefit of everyone.

 

What current activities are being conducted by RWSN and partners to promote integrity in your work?

Perhaps the main area in which we are active is drilling professionalization in Sub-Saharan Africa. RWSN has been patiently working on this topic for more than ten years and we’ve produced a number of publications, including a new UNICEF guidance note.

We have worked in many countries, including Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Over the next year, we will also be working in Angola, Burkina Faso and Zambia as part of RWSN’s collaboration between UNICEF and Skat Foundation. Within this effort, a strong emphasis is on open and fair procurement and contracting processes, and on drilling supervision, as ways of ensuring that water users end up with boreholes that last a lifetime, and don’t dry up within weeks.

 

As part of your webinar series, WIN was able to organize a session on Corruption in Rural WASH. Do you encounter instances of corruption in Rural WASH when dealing with partners in countries?

Not openly. I personally haven’t had direct experience of problems but we regularly hear stories about people and organizations stealing money, overcharging for materials, or creating fake invoices.

 

To what extent have you noticed that RWSN partners are increasingly focusing on ensuring that the right mechanisms are in place to promote integrity in their projects?

Early in 2017, I did an evaluation of Bangladeshi WASH organisation called HYSAWA who target marginalized and hard-to-reach communities, such as Hindu minorities and villages in the coastal south west. What impressed me was their online and written systems for project budgeting and spending on WASH interventions. This was done through the Union Parishad, the lowest tier of local government. HYSAWA was saying:

“Here’s the money, but you need to report everything you do and spend to us on the online system, and to the citizens in your Union both in meetings and on a large noticeboard outside the meeting hall”.

Not only did this strengthen the capacity, confidence and sense of ownership in this local government tier, but it meant that the HYSAWA budget stretched further so they could reach more people than a conventionally funded programme. In general, the use of ICT among many actors in rural water supply, and WASH, is also making it easier to implement integrity mechanisms. There are still many challenges, but the direction of travel generally appears to be positive.

 

Where do you see opportunities for WIN and RWSN collaborating f to achieve more transparency, accountability and participation in rural water?

We pride ourselves as a network of professionals and integrity is a core part of what being a professional means and a core behaviour.  We want to work with WIN to find out the best way of making that happen, particularly on a practical, service-delivery level where most of our members work.  We need to do it in a way that doesn’t come over as patronizing or preachy and that’s where we hope to draw on expertise from WIN. We also hope to collaborate on documenting some success stories of minimizing corruption.

 

What are the plans of RWSN to promote integrity in the work you are doing?

We are developing our network strategy for the next three years (2018-2020) and integrity is a cross-cutting issue across all our themes – groundwater, self-supply, sustainable services, mapping & monitoring and equality, non-discrimination and inclusion. We need to find a way to be more strongly involved in these discussions, in the same way that we are trying to encourage rural water professionals to include the Human Right to Water and gender sensitivity as everyday norms in how they work.

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