New report highlights global corruption in water sector

Benin is one example featured in the report with regards to corruption relating to a national water programme © David Stanley

Better governance combined with integrity and anticorruption measures could win back an stimated US$75 billion annually for global water investments, according to the Water Integrity Network (WIN).

The network’s latest Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 report, or WIGO, documents global cases of corruption and its costs to water resources, including the degree to which poor water governance negatively affects the world’s most vulnerable populations–specifically women, children, and those with no property rights.

“The examples [in the report] show that outright corruption or the lack of transparency, accountability, and participation are enormous obstacles to achieving human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Frank van der Valk, Executive Director, WIN.

One example listed in the report comes from Benin. In 2015, an audit of the $70 million phase II national water programme which included $50 million from the Netherlands and $20 million from the European Union, revealed that $4 million had vanished from the Benin Ministry of Water. As a result, Dutch development cooperation with the government of Benin was suspended to safeguard additional funds from misuse. And in 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert US$5 million in public funds to the private accounts of officials.

In 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert US$5 million in public funds to the private accounts of officials

A lack of transparency, accountability, and participation in water service delivery has also contributed to costly inefficiencies and failures in the West. In the United States, residents of Flint, Michigan are still recovering from the high levels of lead contamination in the city’s water supply, blamed largely on inaction by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency responsible for ensuring safe drinking water.

The network says that although the UN’s new 2030 Agenda includes a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG6) on water and sanitation, action is needed so that pervasive and systemic corruption does not continue to be a significant barrier to achieving universal and equitable access to drinking water and sanitation.

“The report proposes to build ‘integrity walls’ from building blocks of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption measures,” added Van der Valk. “Urgent action by all stakeholders is required to stop the ongoing waste of resources.”