The water sector stakeholders of Benin validated a new governance and integrity charter in June 2016. This tool and the operationalization mechanism that goes with it are a practical demonstration of the willingness of different stakeholders to act in favour of integrity with a view to achieving the SDGs. The development of the charter is an inspiration for such processes for integrity.
He shared his experience and his thoughts on the future of integrity promotion in Benin.
What big changes have you observed in Benin in the last few years in terms of integrity?
Since the launch of our work on integrity in Benin supported by WIN, we have seen a real transformation in how different stakeholders understand and are receptive to the topic.
At first, we would almost get chased away. Now, the stakeholders are with us and we have a minister of water that has voiced his willingness to become an ambassador for the water integrity charter.
To reach this point, we had to bring added value to the ongoing work of the sector stakeholders and build tangible tools responding to their priorities. You have to start with concrete action, everything starts there.
It helps to concentrate primarily on the promotion of integrity and not only, not directly anti-corruption. There are institutions for that, there is justice. We are in preventive work and we support the sector stakeholders to sweep in a changing dynamic. That requires resources and patience. It isn’t always easy.
Could you tell us more about the water governance and integrity charter?
The idea of the charter to promote water integrity was first examined by the multi-stakeholder water integrity coalition of Benin. We thought of putting forward a voluntary engagement process for sector stakeholders, which we believed would be more consensual and beneficial than an imposed process.
The charter has its roots in the national regulatory framework and the existing anti-corruption mechanisms. It was developed after a quick integrity scan of the sector and an analysis of the strong points and weak points of existing charters in Benin.
Other national charters have not always been so successful when it comes to implementation. To avoid this kind of problem, the integrity charter was developed from the start with an operationalization mechanism agreed on by each stakeholder group.
How was the charter developed?
It was essential that the process be progressive and participatory. Consultations were initiated with different stakeholder groups of the water and sanitation sector — state actors, civil society organizations, private sector, municipalities, technical and financial partners — to finalize a text with engagements that will be adapted and integrated into individual implementation plans for each stakeholder group. Regulation and anti-corruption authorities were invited to participate in the process, as were the institutions in charge of controlling procurement processes and the general audit authorities.
The charter was then validated in multi-stakeholder workshops. It was recommended that all stakeholders adhere to the charter at the annual sector review.
We opted for a voluntary process rather than an obligatory one. This was controversial but we bet on the active and positive engagement of the stakeholders. Although there still is an observation committee and a few sanction elements in the charter.
The Minister of Water, Mr Dona Jean-Claude HOUSSOU, is committed to being an ambassador of the charter. We are now moving towards the publication of a decree authorizing the institutions reporting to the ministry to fully adhere to the charter.
What are the next steps for the GWP Benin?
After the decree is taken, we will have a lot of work raising awareness and explaining the charter. We have to make it accessible, promote it and encourage everyone to adhere to and work by it. We’ll be accompanying different stakeholder groups in detailing their implementation plans. And we’ll be fundraising, to finance all this work.
You’re also working on several other water integrity promotion initiatives. Could you tell us more about those?
Yes, that’s right. There are several other initiatives ongoing. We advocate for integrity at different levels. We’re working on an assessment of integrity and corruption for Benin. In the long run, we aim to set up an early warning system for governance issues to minimize the impact of poor governance and avoid wasting the resources that would allow us to realize the human right to water in Benin.
We’re also working with the National Water Institute, developing higher education training syllabi on integrity. We have syllabi for bachelor's degree students now and are working on course syllabi at the master’s degree level.
We’re also launching a very interesting project at the municipal level. With a citizen audit and an annotated water integrity scan, we identify good and bad practices in water point leasing to farmers. We’re already seeing that there regularly are issues with the payment of licence fees. There are false declarations and disparities between the information the municipalities have and the realities on the ground. There is not enough monitoring of quality, service levels, price, and failures. It’s a key question for decentralization. We have already made an assessment in 2 municipalities and are looking to extend this programme to at least 10 other municipalities in 2017.
WIN helps us mobilize the technical expertise required to implement our activities and facilitates knowledge sharing among partners. It is useful to see what’s being done elsewhere, to present our ideas, and get feedback from the network. We heighten our credibility by showing that our activities are part and parcel of a global dynamic.