July 31, 2009—More than 1 billion people around the world live without access to safe, potable water, in part because of poor governance and corruption, including embezzlement, bribes for access to illegal water connections, manipulation of meter counters, and collusion in public contracts. Illegal connections and substantial water losses caused by deferred maintenance have sapped the revenues of water utilities, leading to a downward spiral in performance.
WBI and Transparency International collaborated to produce Improving Transparency, Integrity and Accountability in Water and Sanitation, an unconventional book by WBI staff and others that provides both theory and practical approaches to fighting corruption on the ground.
“We work on water supply and sanitation because, as a sector, it is especially vulnerable to corruption,” says Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute (WBI). “This vulnerability is greater where institutional capacity is low. In such cases, the water sector is a target for those who seek ill-gotten gains. Anti-corruption tools need to be well thought-out to be up to the challenge,” he added.
Kick-backs, collusion, and substandard work increases the cost of water provision by 25 to 45 percent, raising the cost of meeting the water-related targets of the Millennium Development Goals by almost US$50 billion.Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International
Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International, noted that the 2008 Global Corruption Report estimates that bribes, kick-backs, collusion, and substandard work increases the cost of water provision by 25 to 45 percent, raising the cost of meeting the water-related targets of the Millennium Development Goals by almost US$50 billion.
“The book we are launching today…can be used by multiple stakeholders, and particularly by consumers and civil society, to learn the processes and techniques that can help promote transparency, integrity, and accountability in water supply and sanitation,” said Ms. Labelle.
The manual provides concrete tools to help design, improve, and implement policy reforms to fight corruption in the water sector at the local level. It also seeks to create an environment in which stakeholders such as mayors and civil society representatives, can work together to develop action plans that lead to measurable results.
Designed as a hands-on learning tool, the manual uses country examples and provides measures and checklists for diagnosing and remedying systemic corruption that negatively affects customers, the health of the sector itself, and society at large. Colombia’s pipe manufacturing project and Singapore’s public water utility reform serve as examples of good practices like transparent procurement.
By showcasing examples of effective teamwork and stakeholder participation, backed up by strong political will, Improving Transparency, Integrity and Accountability in Water and Sanitation promotes a multi-dimensional approach to helping the developing world provide greater access to one of its most precious public goods.