A novel method to measure corruption in urban water and sanitation

Launching the Water and Sanitation Sector Integrity Risk Index 

Is corruption a real threat for water and sanitation services in our city? Is the situation improving or getting worse? How does our city compare with others? Can we even do something about it, and how do we start?

These questions are often asked but are actually difficult to answer with objective and reliable evidence.

 

Can you improve what you can’t measure?

Corruption is a concealed act by definition. It doesn’t easily lend itself to measurement. It’s nonetheless costly and dangerous, as it skews planning, diverts resources, and protects incompetence. In the water sector, corruption can be deadly.

Existing measures of corruption tend to focus on country-level reports of perception of corruption, provided by sources such as the Political Risk Service, International Country Risk Guide, and Transparency International’s Global Corruption Index. These are important tools to raise awareness and guide research but they are less useful when trying to examine and improve integrity in a given sector.

To ensure sustainable and resilient water and sanitation services across cities, local governments and sector decision-makers need a better understanding of the corruption risks that undermine their efforts. They need reliable measures that can guide practical action.

We couldn’t find this, so we’re building it.

 

Leveraging increasing data availability and advances in analytics to develop new measures for integrity

Big Data and advances in analytics are making new kinds of measurements of corruption and integrity risks possible. WIN is collaborating with the Government Transparency Institute to take advantage of these innovations and develop a Water and Sanitation Sector Integrity Risk Index (WIRI) for urban areas.

The Government Transparency Institute has a proven track record in applying innovative quantitative and qualitative methods to researching and advocating good governance. They recently won the IMF Anti-corruption Challenge with an intelligence tool which uses big data to spot corruption risks in public procurement processes. WIRI partly draws on the methodology applied in this award–winning project.

WIRI is a composite index, which is constructed by applying Big Data analytics to administrative data and survey datasets. WIRI offers insight across the three main integrity hotspots in the water and sanitation sectors:

  1. Public investment projects
  2. Recurrent spending supporting ongoing operations
  3. Client-utility interactions

In developing WIRI, we benefitted from continuous feedback from an advisory panel of experts, including Cetina Camilo (CAF – Development Bank of Latin America), John Dini (South African Water Research Commission), Kasenga Hara (ESAWAS), Ricard Gine (SIWI), Sanjeev Narrainen (GCF), and Vincent Lazatin (CoST).

Our new working paper explains the building blocks of WIRI and presents results for selected cities.

First results are very promising. The working paper shows that corruption risks in a particular city tend to change over time. WIRI enables us to capture even small variations in risk levels, thanks to the precision achieved by measuring corruption at the transaction level (such as contracts, customer interactions, etc.). In contrast, the measures of corruption perception widely employed in other indices tend to be persistent over time. The results in the working paper also show that corruption risks can differ significantly across different cities within the same country. This makes us cautiously optimistic about the prospects of selectively preventing corruption at the local level through carefully designed interventions.

 

Water Integrity Risk Index
The index captures even small changes in risk levels over time

WIRI preliminary results – from GTI-WIN Working Paper

 

An actionable index focusing on sector-specific corruption risks

What makes WIRI a useful tool? Firstly, we have aimed to capture a comprehensive list of sector-specific corruption risks. Moreover, unlike other existing measures of corruption that predominantly focus on perceptions, WIRI relies on direct measurement of corruption risks. Finally, WIRI results are comparable across time and space, which enables policy-makers to track progress and benchmark different cities.

These properties of WIRI make it a useful tool for:

  • monitoring, auditing, and investigations of corruption risks;
  • informing sector-wide policy decisions, for example on regulation and oversight; and
  • supporting civil society and other stakeholders to hold governments accountable and advocate for better services

 

Building integrity in cities: WIRI for your city?

In 2021, we aim to support a number of cities in applying WIRI. The aim is to support decision-makers get insight on how to improve integrity in the water sector and enable better service provision. We’re always seeking out new partnerships.

Want to know more? Interested in applying WIRI in your city? Contact us with your questions – uallakulov(at)win-s(dot)org.

 

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