The Kenyan government has made a commitment to achieve universal access to water and sanitation services by the year 2030, yet service coverage for water and sanitation is still low (57 percent and 25 percent respectively) and has only marginally increased in the last couple of years. To improve and fulfil the human rights to water and sanitation enshrined in the Kenyan constitution, urgent action is required to ensure available financing is used efficiently and effectively, and to build the necessary environment to increase financing.
New research on public financial management in the WASH sector
Pipes, Policy, and Public Money is a report on new research by KEWASNET and WIN that shows how integrity in public financial management can be strengthened to increase WASH sector efficiency and accountability towards citizens. Developed in partnership with the Kenya Ministry of Water and Sanitation and the Council of Governors, the report considers in detail to what extent the sector’s rules, institutions, and processes for decision-making on the allocation and management of resources are transparent, accountable, participatory, followed, and contain safeguards to prevent and sanction corruption.
Pipes, Policy, and Public Money points to some of the integrity issues that are keeping the sector back and outlines the way forward for Kenyan water sector stakeholders to make good on their promises. Following the adoption of the Constitution in 2010 and the promulgation of the 2016 Water Act, the report provides insight for the first time on the key risks and ‘leaks’ in the system as it is now administered at devolved level. Bridging the gap between policy and practice, and between the WASH and public finance sectors, it also goes into unique detail as to why budget tracking is so complex, also in terms of IT systems, reporting, and responsibilities.
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Integrity risks and emerging accountability practices
The report identifies significant integrity risks. For example, the institutional arrangements are new and there is still distrust in the relationship between county governments and water service providers, especially because it is not yet fully clear to all stakeholders who is accountable to who and how this should be shown in practice. This leaves water service providers vulnerable to undue political interference and county governments scrambling for more information. Concerns regarding public participation also feature in the report: although public participation mechanisms are already strong especially at county level and especially at the planning phase, they lack consistency across the full budget lifecycle.
The core of the Pipes, Policy, and Public Money report is the inventory of emerging accountability practices and policy recommendations it highlights. There is more guidance required on public finance management, reporting, and division of responsibilities. Accountability mechanisms must be brought together and made effective, to link what the county does and what water service providers do, building on the stronger experiences of public participation at the planning phase. Ensuring that water service provider boards have the necessary expertise and knowledge, and are appointed through due process is also essential.
The report is meant as a resource and motivation to rally sector stakeholders towards improved coordination and more integrity. At the official launch of the report on July 31st 2019 in Nairobi, Joseph W. Irungu, CBS, Principal Secretary of the Ministry for Water and Sanitation said clearly that “business as usual is not good enough to live to our ambitions”. He added, speaking to a crowd of about 60 national and county WASH sector representatives, development partners and WASH and public finance CSOs that “the recommendations of the report are a call to all of us in this room to do our part in fixing the leaks in the systems. Changing practices on integrity won’t be done from one day to another, and rooting out corruption is a tall order. This administration has made it very clear that this is the order, and that has to be an effort across all sectors and all walks of society.”