Bribes for illegal (re-)connections

Staff might use knowledge and equipment to set up illegal connections in exchange for bribes.

Risk type: Practice

Risk driver: Internal; External


Utility staff members know how to set up water connections and have good knowledge of the distribution network. Using this knowledge, they may set up illegal connections in exchange for payments. For a bribe, technicians may also illegally re-connect customers that had been disconnected for not paying their bills. Furthermore, bribes might be paid to avoid the reporting of illegal connections. Such connections to the utility’s network increase the level of unaccounted-for water, and reduce revenues available to the utility. The customer might collude with field staff to get (re-)connected or get pressured by field staff to pay bribes.


  • High levels of non-revenue water
  • No or very few illegal connections reported in areas with high non-revenue water and where illegal connections could be expected
  • Few re-connections in comparison to reported disconnections


Davis, J., 2004, Corruption in Public Service Delivery: Experience from South Asia’s Water and Sanitation Sector. World Dev. 32, 53–71


Illegal connections through private plumbing market1

Target group: Utilities

Location: South Asia

In one city, we learned about a vigorous private plumbing market in which a household can obtain a water supply connection for roughly half the official fee charged by the public provider. Recurrent costs of service for an illegal connection are simply the costs of maintaining it and concealing its existence, perhaps including payment to a line worker who discovers it.

Illegal connections by licensed plumbers in India2

Target group: Utilities

Location: India

In one Indian metropolis, water services are provided by the Water Department. However, connections may be made by ‘licensed plumbers’, who are independent contractors, not department staff. The licensed plumbers are authorized to make legal connections for slum dwellers and other citizens. However, the ‘licensed plumbers’ systematically delay making legal connections, instead being paid directly by slum dwellers to make illegal connections. This is exacerbated because the licensed plumbers must pay the Water Department for their licences. Thus Water Department employees have an incentive to be slow in approving legal connections to the slum dwellers, in order to sustain the illicit business of the licensed plumbers (and hence the licence ‘fee’ payments to themselves).


  1. Davis, J., 2004, Corruption in Public Service Delivery: Experience from South Asia’s Water and Sanitation Sector. World Dev. 32, 53–71
  2. Halpern, J., Kenny, C., Dickson, E., Ehrhardt, D. & Oliver, C., 2008, Deterring Corruption and Improving Governance in the urban Water Supply & Sanitation Sector: A Sourcebook, Water Working Notes, Note No. 18, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development &The World Bank
Last updated 12 April 2019

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