Fighting corruption with the Water TAP plus A

Water Justice report from World Water Week Day 3

23 August 2011

Using research, workshops and local user's committies to help tackle corruption in the governance of private and public utilities - a case study from Kenya.

Among the highlights of yesterday’s seminar on ‘Benchmarking Governance of Private and Public Utilities in Urban Settings’ were the presentations on the experiences of public water companies from Kenya. Mharuku Vyakweli of Nairobi Water Company and Mosses Kenya of MONBASA Water and Sanitation Company in Kisumu presented the efforts made to tackle corruption. Through benchmarking, water operators make performance information publicly available. Such information is key for users to increase the space to participate and hold water operators accountable, reducing the risk of corruption. The Kenyan speakers stressed that good governance is a pre-condition for efficient water provision.

‘Benchmarking’ may sound very technical and even boring. But it was very interesting to hear about the efforts of public water operators to increase transparency and tackle corruption, including benchmarking exercises, independent research on corruption, organizing workshops among stakeholders, meetings with local users’ committees, reporting to the city council, get recommendations from the anti-corruption committee etc, etc. The seminar convincingly made the case for the slogan “Water TAP plus A”: Transparency, Accountability, Participation and Anti-corruption in water management.

Least convincing I found the presentation by Alexandre Brailowsky from Suez Environment. Brailowsky mentioned that Suez as private water operator has an internal integrity, transparency and ethical code. I was quite surprised when he proudly presented that Suez made new one million connections in Buenos Aires and argued that communication with the users was a key for success. Suez had to leave Buenos Aires in 2006 when the public authorities decided to terminate the contract. I am sure if Suez had a good policy on transparency, this would not have happened. Private water management is generally very secretive. In Berlin, for instance, citizens were not allowed to see the privatization contract with Veolia, until civil society groups managed to force the private operator to disclose the contract via a referendum. In fact, I have my doubts about how private water operators could be made genuinely accountable and whether this is possible at all.

Photo by Thomas Henrikson/SIWI

About the authors

Satoko Kishimoto

She was an environmental activist and active in the youth environmental movement in Japan in the 1990s. She began working with TNI in 2003, at the time of 3rd World Water Forum held in Kyoto, Japan. TNI successfully organized a seminar on Alternatives to Water Privatisation, which was the starting point of the Water Justice Project. In 2005, the Reclaiming Public Water (RPW) Network was created with the contributors to the book 'Reclaiming Public Water'. TNI serves as the coordinating hub of the RPW network and Satoko is the coordinator of the network. The RPW network connects activists, trade unionists, researchers, community activists, and public water operators from around the world, and advocates progressive public water reforms and Public-Public Partnerships as the key elements for solving the global crisis in access to clean water and sanitation. 

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