”The Integrity Management Toolbox workshop has opened my mind to the mistakes related to low integrity we commit in our company”, said one of the participants of a workshop on integrity management in the water sector for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), organized in Lusaka, Zambia in early July.
The workshop, facilitated by WIN, CEWAS (International Centre for Water Management Services) and the Water and Sanitation Association of Zambia (WASAZA), aimed to make SME managers more aware of how they can make their business benefit from implementing integrity measures.
SMEs: crucial stakeholders for water integrity
Although the provision of water and sanitation services in Zambia is the responsibility of Commercial Water Utilities (CUs) owned by local authorities, private companies also play a significant role in ensuring and facilitating access to water throughout the country. They provide a wide range of services and products to the CUs and the local population, including consultancy, network and water storage facility construction, drilling, maintenance and more. These private companies, especially the smaller players, are particularly susceptible to being involved or affected by corrupt practices. One attendee of the workshop acknowledged that most stakeholders have indeed been confronted with illicit practices:
“We -small business- are exposed to so many risks, just because we are often desperate to get contracts.”
Corruption is a known practice in the water sector in Zambia, as in many regions. Still, it is a sensitive topic and it is challenging to talk about the lack of integrity in certain companies. Corrupt practices can include bribery or collusion to obtain a main contract award, the implementation of non-ethical working conditions, manipulation of documents, misuse of a fraudulent contractor’s qualifications etc. Most often, they lead to direct inefficiencies in water supply and treatment. Awareness of the impact of these practices is on the rise.
Recently, the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council in Zambia (NWASCO), the Zambian regulator for water supply and sanitation services, introduced Anti-Corruption and Integrity Guidelines for Water Supply and Sanitation Sub-Sector. This document is a tool to guide CUs in developing codes of conduct and ethics aimed at fostering good practices to reduce corruption in the water supply and sanitation sector. Unlike the CUs regulated by the NWSCO however, SMEs are rarely embedded in overarching regulatory structures that could oversee their own – and their competitors’- compliance to integrity standards and principles. This makes them even more vulnerable to corruption. Recognising this gap, the Integrity Management toolbox for SMEs, used as a baseline for the Lusaka workshop, enables these companies to better assess integrity risks, understand legal requirements, and encourage ethical behaviour to generate benefits for their business.
Integrity Management: tools to motivate SMEs to increase integrity
The workshop process, as it was implemented in Zambia, aims to motivate the management level of an SME to tackle integrity risks and change the current structures and processes for more integrity. The workshop methodology, the tools used to facilitate it, and the follow-up process are grounded in the concept of change management: an approach supporting the transition of individuals, teams and companies to a desired and envisioned state (Paton & McCalman 2008). A positive change approach is used throughout, focused on improving business models and turning identified integrity challenges into opportunities. Different concrete measures are suggested to support the implementation of planned activities. For example, Integrity Agents are appointed during the workshop to take responsibility for proper implementation of integrity instruments and process follow-up. Motivating change rather than moralizing stakeholders is central to the process.
Involving all water sector stakeholders: the next step to ensure success?
A further step to increase impact of workshops could be to extend the process to more water sector stakeholders. One participant enthusiastically supported the Integrity Management approach as a way forward to increase integrity, but cautioned that it is important to extend it towards the CUs, so that the efforts from the SMEs on transparency and accountability are valued:
“An SME can be very aware of integrity and be doing all it can to improve, but at the moment when it interacts with colleagues and partners who should be giving them a contract – there can be real misunderstandings and under-appreciation of their efforts.”
For now, four Integrity Coaches were trained during the Lusaka workshop to support the involved SMEs in implementing integrity measures in their businesses and to ensure follow-up and continuity of the process.
The Integrity Management toolbox has already been introduced among Kenyan water service providers and was used for awareness building exercises in Namibia, South Africa and the MENA region. The toolbox is also currently being adapted to different contexts and water sector structures, for example in Indonesia.
References: Paton, R. A., McCalman, 2008, Change Management: A Guide to Effective Implementation. SAGE, London.