By Babatope Babalobi
A team of Independent Evaluators have given low marks to the service delivery component of the European Union funded Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Reform Programme, Phase I (WSSSRP I) implemented in six focal states of Abia, Cross River, Gombe, Kebbi, Osun, and Plateau in Nigeria between 2005- 2009.
In a report, the evaluators noted that the actual service delivery improvement component of the WSSSRP I implemented through the Works Contracts for urban, small town and rural water supply and sanitation “was problematic”; adding that the “actual Works undertaken were not all implemented to a high standard, and many Works Contracts were not completed before the end of the Programme due to delays first in awarding the Works Contracts then in making timely transfers and payments for Works Contracts”.
“In many cases, especially in Yobe state, the Water Supply and Sanitation systems are still not operational one and a half years after the end of the WSSSRP I. The Federal Ministry of Water Resources, the National Authorizing Officer in the National Planning Commission, the European Union Delegation in Nigeria and state agencies all had some responsibility for the current
situation”, said the team of five evaluators led by Phillip Appleton.
The evaluation report compiled by the final evaluation mission of the WSSSRP I, was submitted to the EU delegation (EUD) in Abuja earlier this year.
The report which evaluated the performance of the WSSSRP in the six focal states (Cross River, Anambra, Osun, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe), plus additionally in Gombe State also noted that: “There were Programme design flaws which were never fully addressed during the Programme period leading to a lack of ownership at the federal level in the Federal Ministry of Water Resources (FMWR), role confusion, and the perception that the Programme was primarily concerned with service delivery improvement rather than sector reform and improved water governance at federal, state and LGA levels”.
The Water Supply and Sanitation Reform Programme (WSSSRP) Phase I, was funded with a budget of €119.63 million of which the EU under the 9th European Development Fund contributed €87 million; the three tiers of government and beneficiary communities in Nigeria contributed €31.43 million; and UNICEF contributed €1.2 million.
WSSSRP I provided support to institutional and policy reform and demonstrate innovative approaches to water supply and sanitation services delivery, including implementation of water supply and sanitation works projects. The overall purpose of the WSSSRP I now closed, was to increase access to safe, adequate, and sustainable water and sanitation services in the six European Commission focal states of Abia, Cross River, Gombe, Kebbi, Osun, and Plateau.
However, it was not all low marks for the programme as the Independent Evaluators noted that the WSSSRP I “positively changed the perception of water resources in the water sector in Nigeria and has, to some extent, moved forward the reform agenda as there has been a gradual shift within the water sector from a water supply delivery focus to one which is more based on improving governance and IWRM”
The evaluators also singled out Cross River State for commendation “for showing commitment and leadership towards sector reform”.
Some of the major recommendations of the report to improve future interventions by the EU in the water supply and sanitation sector in Nigeria, include the following:
1. Future water supply and sanitation reform programme should be designed with stakeholders’ inputs, where reform and governance are clearly articulated at the Programme Purpose level and indicators agreed with stakeholders.
2. Similar future water sector reform programmes should focus on encouraging and supporting federal, state and Local Government Area levels of government to use their available resources for improving governance and approaches to service delivery targeting the poor.
3. Consultancy firms employed as Technical Assistants under similar programmes in the futures should be playing more a facilitatory and advisory role than executing and decision-making. The State and its agencies should take a leading role for better impact and sustainability
4. In order to create greater awareness and understanding of a Sector Reform Programme, a dedicated Communication Strategy should be developed at an early stage to advocate with stakeholders and beneficiaries not only for greater awareness of the Programme in question but more generally on the need for sector reform and sector reform implications
5. Support to reforms at national and state level needs to be complemented by support to Local Government Authority (LGA) reforms, particularly the establishment of WASH Departments in LGAs.
6. Consideration should be given for future EU interventions not to require a Federal-level contribution for State and LGA level Works contracts as part of the cost sharing arrangements.
7. The existing Procurement Guidelines should be revised and simplified to provide for one single tender-evaluation and procurement process managed at State level with appropriate participation of all project partners in the procurement process. Additional training on procurement and contract management should be provided at State Level.
8. Dedicated support to Non-Governmental Organizations as tested under the Programme (Anambra) should be continued and expanded in other WSS sector interventionswith a focus on improving water governance advocacy and building capacity at State, LGA and community levels.