Calling the World to Action on Water Integrity

The Water Integrity Global Outlook on tour

Launched at a series of events worldwide, the Water Integrity Global Outlook is pushing the issue of corruption in the water sector into the open and helping water sector stakeholders come to grips with how integrity can be linked to their work.

The WIN secretariat team has been travelling the world, presenting its latest publication, the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO), which highlights the scale of the issue of corruption in the water sector and takes stock of what can be done to reduce risks and improve performance. During our presentations, government officials, water sector contractors, civil society representatives and development professionals, are contributing to the discussion and helping to build an action plan for integrity that we can tackle together as a diverse network.


Yes, we can talk about the elephant in the room

‘Corruption is a blind spot in the sector.’

Thilo Panzerbieter, Chair of the German WASH Network at the WIGO launch in Berlin on World Water Day, March 22, 2016

This is so often true. Even if stakeholders know that the water sector is vulnerable to corruption, many simply avoid the topic or focus on other priorities. Often, corruption doesn’t come up at all or is brushed off as an unavoidable fact.

However, because the timing is better, because the elephant is growing too big to ignore, and because there are books and events about the subject, we’re noticing a growing willingness, in certain contexts, to acknowledge corruption risks and the scale of the issue.

‘Anywhere where there are big investments, then there is this risk of corruption’

Peter Glas, Chair of the OECD Water Governance Initiative at the WIGO launch in Berlin on World Water Day, March 22, 2016

WIGO estimates that every 10% of losses in financial resources due to corruption would already represent a staggering loss of over 75 billion dollars per year; money that could have be used to deliver water and sanitation services to those in need and manage water resources more sustainably. And, 10% is a conservative estimate; some guesstimates put potential losses many times higher. A willingness to discuss and pinpoint losses in terms of integrity issues is a big step in the right direction.

‘About two thirds of non-revenue water is due to integrity issues. […] The integrity contribution is the highest in terms of dealing with water losses.’

Eng. Robert Gakubia, CEO of Water Services Regulatory Board, at the WIGO launch in Nairobi, June 2, 2016


New entry points to promote integrity for water

Once the topic is acknowledged, more actors can make connections between integrity and the issues they see. More importantly, they can make connections to the work they are doing. This is how we will find new entry points to tackle the issue, minimize corruption risks, and improve performance in the sector.

‘I did not realize till now that my case study on water metering [in Zimbabwe] is actually also a case study on integrity.’

Mucha Musemwas from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg at a SaciWaters workshop in Hyderabad, May 25, 2016

At our WIGO events, participants discussed water integrity in relation to sustainability, to the realization of human rights, to climate change adaptation, and to the achievement of SDGs. We cannot and should not dissociate water integrity from these topics.

‘But it is clear that the issue of integrity, the issue of corruption is basically essential to achieve any single of these SDGs. Because if you support programmes for example in the water sector but the funds you allocate for these programmes are not used well, basically you will never achieve your targets.’

Kees Rade, Head of Inclusive Green Growth at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the WIGO launch in The Hague, April 15, 2016


The need for more data and more information on good practices

To systematically and professionally tackle the lack of integrity in the sector, even with new entry points, we need more information.

‘Value for money studies do show that it’s almost impossible to link the money flows with the services being provided and the number of people. And while we are not able to link these three we cannot actually understand the size of the problem. But yes, I have evidence that the size of the problem is quite large.’

Dr Catarina Fonseca, Head of Innovation and International Programme at IRC at the WIGO launch in The Hague, April 15, 2016

The WIGO also points out this need for better data on the extent of corruption in the water sector and its economic and social impact. Our discussions with partners in Dhaka, London, or Cotonou, also show that we need more information on good practices, in addition to what is already presented in WIGO. Gathering data and more good practices to inform the development of our tools is a next action point for the WIN secretariat team and the wider WIN network.


We can act now for more integrity, on a personal level and in our organizations

‘Ensuring integrity requires strong systems’, said IRC CEO Patrick Moriarty at the WIGO launch in the Hague. Now is a good time to start looking at systems before installing pumps. Many organizations are working on new initiatives and new strategies within the framework of Agenda 2030, and imagining ‘the future architecture of water governance’ as pointed out by Dr. Tania Roediger-Vorwerk, Deputy Director-General of BMZ in Berlin. Integrity has a role to play here. The Integrity Wall described in WIGO is a global framework for inspiration and action.

But beyond these major initiatives, we can also each begin to contribute at our level. How? By taking the lead from the organizations and people we met on our WIGO tour who are already actively contributing to improving integrity in the sector.

  • We can start ‘…where we lost it: many of the corruption cases happen in civil society. […] We have lost the moral authority to challenge the government on corruption’ said a civil society representative in Nairobi. KEWASNET, a network of water sector organizations in Kenya is developing exemplary tools for this. They launched their latest CSO water sector performance report alongside the WIGO in Nairobi and are building an Integrity, Quality and Compliance Toolbox to improve project management within CSOs in the water sector.
  • Even in regions where corruption seems entrenched, we can aim to build ‘islands of integrity’, an expression coined by our partners in Bangladesh.
  • We can spread the word like our partners in Stockholm.

  • ‘We can look at partnerships as the driver for improving integrity’ as pointed out by Rose Makenzi, a Policy Officer at Dutch Embassy in Kenya, at our event in Nairobi. We can share information and especially good practices.
  • We can think on the long-term and implement requirements for sustainability in the projects we participate in or fund, like our partners explained in The Hague.
  • We can encourage our colleagues to stop being blind to corruption, as Laura Gosling, Programme Manager for Principles at WaterAid, did at the WIGO launch in London.
  • We can take simple decisions with integrity and in an inclusive manner.

‘Integrity is about the person who has the power to make a decision. That person should have integrity. That is where we need to start.’

Eng. Suresh Patel, CEO of Elekea ltd. and chairman of the environment, water and natural resources committee of the Kenyan Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)

How are you acting for water integrity?

This post is based on discussions held at events to promote WIGO:
In Berlin on March 22; with PNE Benin in Cotonou in March; with IRC in The Hague on April 15; with End Water Poverty in London on April 18; with Transparency International Bangladesh and BAWIN in Dhaka on May 11; at the IADB in Washington DC on May 12; with Khulna Water and Sewerage Authority in Khulna on May 16; at a saciwaters workshop in Hyderabad on May 25, with KEWASNET in Nairobi on June 2; with SIDA, SIWI and GWP in Stockholm on June 7.

Thanks to all the partners who helped make these events possible and who are contributing to the debate on water integrity.

dhaka wigo launch 2016
nairobi - wigo launch -2016

Left: WIGO launch in Dhaka, May 11; right: WIGO launch in Nairobi, June 2

What can you do?

You can take simple steps to launch an integrity change process. Here are the tools to help you.

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