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West Africa Civil Society groups tackle corruption in Water sector

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Civil Society groups from the West African region recently converged in Accra, Ghana to deliberate on measures to curb corrupt practices in the delivery of water and sanitation services.The two day organized by Ghana Integrity Network and International Water and Sanitation Centre (IRC) with the support of the Water Integrity Network, http://www.waterintegritynetwork.net drew participants from Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. 
“Corruption occurs within three set of actors, namely between public officials and the private sector, among public officials themselves, and between Public officials and the consumers’, said John Butterworth of IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre .
According to him, “Corruption involving Public officials and the Private Sector include Procurement Collusion, Bribery, and Construction fraud; Corruption among Public officials involves Diversion of resources, unjustifiable appointments and transfers, embezzlement and fraud in Planning and Budgeting; while falsification of Water Bills and meters and illegal connections are common occurrences of corrupt practices involving the Public officials and Consumers”.
Proffering measures to curb corrupt practices between Public officials and the Private sector, Dr. Butterworth suggested simplified tender documents, biding transparency, independent tender evaluation, technical auditing, citizen auditing, public hearing and bench marking.

To stem corruption among Public officials, Butterworth advocated Policy and Tariff reform in policy regulation, Performance based staff reforms, Transparent and competitive appointments, Technical audit and Participatory planning and budgeting; while Citizen monitoring and oversight, complaint redressal and reforms in customers interface are some of the measures to curb corrupt practices between public officials and consumers.

Also making a presentation at the Accra meeting, Mrs. Linda Ofori-Kwafo of Ghana Integrity Initiative said corruption is a manifestation of institutional weakness, poor ethical standards, skewed incentives and insufficient enforcement. According to her, corruption includes a wide range of offences, from high-level embezzlement of public funds to the petty corruption of Traffic Police or Authorities selling Licenses.

Using the 2007 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) document which ranked 180 countries according to perceived levels of corruption as a reference, she said, “Almost 75% of the countries scored below 5 out of a clean score of 10. This indicates a high level of perceived corruption globally”. Moreover, “76 countries scored less than 3 on the CPI indicating a perception of severe corruption in these largely poor and developing countries.”

Using GII partnership with Transparency International as a case study, Mrs. Ofori-Kwafo outlined advocating change, developing measurement tools, working with civil societies, public education, release of corruption index reports, and lobbying and advocacy for Freedom of Information legislation and as some of the anti-corruption strategies that can be used to inhibit corrupt practices.

In his paper titled “The role of donors in tackling sector development Corruption”, Dr. Grit Martinez of Water Integrity Network (WIN) cited transparency, accountability participation, audits, safeguards and contractual clauses as some of the measure that donors can use to tackle corruption in the mismanagement of funds.

According to him, Donors should apply tools for transparent tendering and procuring systems to the water sector as well as effective sanctions and the inclusion of civil society participation in the Project Implementation Phase.

Bread of Life Dev. Foundation, a Lagos based NGO, also made a Presentation at the workshop on “Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Water Sector Reform Projects; Lessons from Nigeria” which gave an overview of its efforts aimed at ensuring accountability in the implementation on the $220 billion second National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (2nd NUWSRP) in Nigeria.

According Mrs. Bukola Babalobi, who represented the NGO, “the chief reason for the failures of government and donor financed water projects in Nigeria is corruption by government officials; She advocated for training of Civil society groups and Journalists that work or report on Water and Sanitation issues to enable them monitor the implementation of Water sector projects and also carry out investigative reporting

OLUWASANMI FALOBI
WASH Officer
For: Bread of Life Development Foundation.