The importance of integrity for water regulators

Interview with the chair of the Eastern and Southern African Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS)

‘Where water integrity exists, water services will not only be effective, but also sustainable.’

Engineer Magalhaes Miguel Mangamela (ESAWAS chair)

The Eastern and Southern African Water and Sanitation Regulators Association (ESAWAS) convened its annual conference on November 1-2 in Livingstone, Zambia. Regulators from Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Lesotho and Zambia as well as other stakeholders working in the region came together to discuss the main theme of the conference: Water integrity and SDG6 – designing appropriate regulation. They looked at case studies of integrity in regulation and the importance of effective monitoring for improved integrity.

The current Chairperson of ESAWAS is the CEO of the Water Regulatory Council (CRA) of Mozambique, Mr Magalhaes Miguel Mangamela. WIN’s Programme Manager, Lotte Feuerstein, spoke to the chairman at the ESAWAS conference to find out how he plans to continue promoting integrity in the work of regulators across the region.

 

What motivated ESAWAS to choose ‘water integrity and SGG6 – designing appropriate regulation’ as the theme for the annual conference?

Mr Mangamela: I can say that there are mainly two reasons for choosing this theme. The first reason is that there is a need for all of us, not only the regulators, but all players, to have integrity of character for what we do. In regulation, there is a need for integrity, in water provision, there is a need for integrity, with the consumer, there is a need for integrity and on the government or policy side, there is a need for integrity. It is what makes the sector or anyone trust what we do. By promoting integrity, we can become transparent, accountable and we can mobilize participation of all stakeholders in an honest manner.

As we heard at the conference from the Minister in his opening speech: ‘integrity is to be right when no one is watching you’. This is the aim.  We want everyone to do right, not because someone said so, not because the regulator or government has imposed it, but because it is right.

The second reason we decided to link this conference with SDG6, is because we, as a regulator, think that we are also a key player to promote and support the fulfillment of and compliance with SDGs.

 

Currently, when you look at the sub-sector you are regulating, where do you see the biggest challenges in terms of integrity gaps in reaching the SDGs?

I would like to choose two or three examples to illustrate the challenges we see.

We see that when consumers need a service, it’s not always clear how they can get that service. The water provider must be clear about what consumers should do to get services. When a customer has a complaint regarding the water bill that they should pay, it’s not always easy for them to understand what is on the bill. People complain about the high  invoice and don’t always understand how they reached that amount. We used to say you should bill the consumer on the meter reading, but this does not always happen. It means there is a lack of integrity there.

Another example that I can give you, from the regulator side, is related to how we enforce our regulation. How can we ensure that the provider and utilities, which we are regulating, can easily understand the rules and regulations and that there is no ambiguous interpretation? I think if we ensure that, we can ease our relationships and increase trust in what we do.

 

In taking this forward, how do you see the role of the regulator in promoting and safeguarding water integrity?

During the ESAWAS conference, we mainly mentioned how we as the regulators can first of all internally improve our procedures, how we can partner with other enforcing institutions, and also include civil society to make the water business run with more integrity.

 

Besides collaboration, an issue that was discussed at the conference was corporate governance, both of regulators and of the utilities that you regulate. When you look at corporate governance at utilities, how do you see the way forward?

I think that a regulator should play a kind of mentoring role on integrity and corporate governance, by coming up with guidelines. Guidelines is something that you are not obliged to follow, but if you do follow them, you do right. It’s kind of like a compass, which is always good to follow because you become more accountable and transparent on how you conduct your business. In that sense, I feel that the role of the regulator from here is to draw up these guidelines, which can help to conduct water business.

 

There was some good interaction at the conference with oversight and enforcement institutions such as  supreme audit institutions, anti-corruption commissions, and procurement authorities. How can these institutions help regulators, for example to target their inspections or follow-up more strongly on them?

As became clear, these institutions and the regulatory ones complement each other. In Zambia, the supreme auditor has more power than the regulator. This means that the partnership with these kinds of institutions will empower the regulator more strongly. I see real value in the complementarity of what we do. At the end of the day, we are looking for the same thing. We are looking for improvement of services, transparency of how we do the business, and accountability and participation. Having the Supreme Court is a way of empowering each other.

 

When talking about participation, during the conference, it came out that there is a lot of potential for collaboration between regulators, utilities and civil society. At the same time, it came out that there might be different understandings on certain issues. How do you see this going forward?

I think we have to really think as an association or individual country about how we operationalize what was discussed during the conference. For example for Mozambique, I am taking the lesson and homework to see how we can strengthen our participation and the participation of other stakeholders on regulation. I think others will also think about that and will think of a proposal on a sort of code of conduct of collaboration. If we really think that this is the right way to go, we need to mobilize support to draw up such a code of conduct. It is a way of empowering institutions.

 

Thank you!

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