The 2020 Asia Water Development Outlook (AWDO), the just released flagship publication of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), introduced governance as a chapter and applied the OECD Water Governance Principles across AWDO’s five key dimensions of water security.
Among the Water Governance Principles, the 9th principle focuses on Integrity and Transparency. Based on a survey undertaken by OECD which provides a snapshot of governance gaps in the Asia Pacific area, AWDO underlined the low adoption of integrity practices and tools among the member states. It further establishes that less than 20% of the countries in the region have implemented relevant international conventions or institutional anti-corruption plans.
Poor integrity in water governance and management is a major barrier for achieving water security and resilience, which have been stated to be objectives of key sectoral stakeholders, including the ADB for the Asia Pacific region. For the first time, AWDO has specifically called for “mainstreaming integrity and transparency practices across water policies, water institutions, and water governance frameworks that are key for greater accountability and trust in decision-making, and effective implementation of water policies”. WIN welcomes AWDO’s initiative of highlighting the urgent need to strengthen integrity within the water sector processes among member states.
AWDO’s report points towards the need to address integrity and corruption in the capital-intensive water sector. At least US$75 billion is siphoned off annually from critical water projects for every 10% of investment lost to corruption. This significant risk, if not tackled, leads to misuse of the investments coming into the sector and further hampers more investments from diverse sources. Poor integrity tarnishes the reputation and creditworthiness of water sector entities and overall, the economic, social, and environmental ramifications are enormous. Mitigating corruption risks can lead to substantial savings across the sector.
WIN has worked with numerous development sector partners, donors, and government agencies to promote integrity and good governance in water and sanitation. We have also established a set of Integrity Tools and practices, useful in strengthening institutional integrity, improving performances and taking measures that prevent corruption. Applying these tools in collaboration with government agencies and water utilities in the Asia Pacific region, has led to valuable lessons and practices that can be scaled up within countries and in the region.
Addressing integrity concerns requires each stakeholder to equally collaborate; otherwise, it can be very challenging to establish good governance. We encourage ADB and other regional partners to support the implementation of the AWDO recommendations on good governance, especially on integrity among the member states.