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Demystifying water integrity: from policy to practice using the Integrity Management Toolbox


By Jason Kirkpatrick, Water Integrity Network. Even organized with support from cewas.

Water utilities do not often feel they have enough practical guidance to deal with the integrity and corruption issues they actually face in their daily business. This is the case despite the high-level policies in place to tackle the challenges of corruption and poor integrity.

What do you do to make sure integrity risks don’t drag you down? What do you do when funds disappear or when vehicles and company resources are being used abusively for private purposes?

Integrity Management in the water sector is a change management approach to prevent and reduce unnecessary losses from corruption and to develop preventive measures to strengthen procurement, human resources, accounting, O&M and other work processes.

The Integrity Management Toolbox was developed to support such an integrity management process and transform challenges into opportunities. To date, the Toolbox has been used to support different organizations in over 20 countries, including large utilities in Bangladesh, Kenya, Albania, Ecuador, and Honduras.

WIN and cewas organized a webinar on the Integrity Management Toolbox on March 18, 2020 to discuss the Integrity Management methodology and share experiences from previous applications of the Integrity Management Toolbox. Here’s what we learned.


Assessing and tackling corruption and integrity risks in water utilities: the integrity management process

Erion Likaj of KfW Albania, a former Integrity Management (IM) coach for utilities and panellist at our webinar, explained that better revenues can be a positive result of good planning and discussed how the Toolbox has been used to support planning, to develop better performance targets, and to link these to investments.

Sareen Malik of ANEW, a former IM coach in Kenya, discussed the way institutions are increasingly seeing the water crisis as a governance crisis, not a technical one. Many see the need for a new approach even if they may at first fear digging into the corruption angle.

Panellists agreed there is real value in being prepared and having a good understanding of risks. Integrity management can ensure corruption problems are detected early and contained, without the need for external or costly interventions.

Lessons learned: what is needed to launch integrity management processes?

  • An enabling environment must be created if it doesn’t exist. Utilities must see the alignment of operational processes to integrity values as beneficial for the organisation’s performance.

  • There needs to be willingness at mid- or senior management level.

  • Lenders can require utilities to have performance targets before investment is activated. This has been the case in Albania for example.

  • There can be significant socio-cultural barriers preventing adoption of integrity management; the integrity toolbox may not automatically be well received. Communication is key for avoiding misunderstandings that could potentially damage the process. In Kenya, for example, utilities willing to address integrity issues pulled out at last minute of the process with WIN, for fear they might be accused of having corruption problems in the first place. Context-adapted communication could have pre-empted such issues.

Lessons learned: assessing integrity risks and choosing the right tools to address them

  • Each specific context will require a different risk assessment (looking at what regulations are in place, what institutions, etc.). It’s partly why cookie-cutter approaches will generally be less effective.

  • Encouraging behaviour founded on integrity principles can be done through rewards.

  • There needs to be a structured process for addressing emerging issues.

  • It’s key to be clear about who is doing what, and when.

  • If corrupt activities are protected and propagated at top management level, it will be of little use to address integrity issues from within the organization itself. Instead, different strategies would have to be adopted: supervisory boards or administrative councils can be very influential and steer an organization towards integrity. Third parties addressing integrity or external oversight mechanisms can also influence an organization.

Follow the full webinar:


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