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Improving Water Governance through Social Accountability

GPSA Knowledge Platform forums Discussions with Experts Improving Water Governance through Social Accountability

This topic contains 16 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of William William 8 months ago.

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  • #6188
    Profile photo of Blanche
    Blanche
    @blanchecotlear
    Peru

    Hi everyone and welcome to this GPSA Discussion called “Improving Water Governance through Social Accountability”. I am Blanche Cotlear and together with Ghazia Aslam and Charlotte Ornemark will be moderating this three-week Discussion and we are very happy to do so.

    As the title suggests, we will be discussing collectively how water indicators (quality, coverage, etc) and utilities’ performance can be improved by social accountability (SAcc) initiatives. This discussion is relevant since, over the last decade, governments and donors have increased budget allocations to water services and infrastructure in many countries around the world, but unfortunately this has not translated into proportionate results on the ground. Several governance constraints undermine effective water service delivery, notably low institutional capacity, poor incentives, information asymmetries between citizens and service providers, and weak accountability mechanisms. Against this background, emerging evidence indicates that strengthening the capacity of civil society to implement SAcc tools can play a positive role in overcoming governance challenges, which lie at the heart of poor service delivery.

    This Discussion aims to contribute to: (1) learning about the capacity of CSOs, citizens, water providers, and governments to implement SAcc strategies and tools to monitor and improve water service delivery; (2) understanding how citizen feedback can be used to inform the design and implementation of water governance projects; and (3) exploring how gendered approaches to SAcc programming in the water sector can be transformative for women and girls.

    The forum will last three weeks, from March 28th to April 14th. Each week, one of the moderators will be raising and discussing a specific question related to water governance and social accountability. At the end of the week, we will be summarizing the main points of the discussion and sharing them with you. All responses and contributions are welcomed and we encourage people to react and comment to each other’s posts as, at the end, the most important learning comes from sharing and exchanging among us. Do not hesitate to contact us through this email gpsakp@fundar.org.mx  if you are facing any technical challenge or if you have a doubt, we are here to assist you.

     

    To get the forum started, we would love to hear from you. We invite you to introduce yourself, who you are and where you work. After that, we kindly ask you to reflect and reply to the following question for the first week:

    To open the first week of discussion, we want to start saying that it is almost impossible to exercise social accountability if the providers don’t offer clear information and data that can be monitored by civil society. At the same time, civil society is the one that put pressure on providers to offer that information. That information should not be only about quality of water, improvements in coverage and tariffs. The water authorities in general and the water utility in particular should also provide information about many different aspects concerning the provision of the service, such as: criteria for the selection of the CEO; the evaluations done by regulator; contracts and concessions; the criteria to select personnel; conflict of interest of Board members; the financial situation of the water company, etc. All that should be done in a transparent way by the water providers, being this public, private or public-private. This is what we call “Corporate Governance”, and the first week will go around that topic.

    Corporate Governance in the water sector (CG) relates to the system by which providers are directed, governed, and controlled in a manner that is accountable, efficient and transparent, which in turn builds trust and confidence. CG can be very useful to establish standards of quality and performance as well as benchmarks for comparison among providers, which in turn can improve water coverage and services for citizens.

    Two consecutive studies from the World Bank have demonstrated that CG has a positive impact in performance results in the water sector. In 2011, the first study showed that overall CG is highly correlated with high levels of labor productivity and tariffs, with lower distribution losses and positive changes in in coverage and standards. The second study of 2013 concluded that “accountability emerges as the main governance aspect of state-owned enterprises. Accountability systems prevent discretional management (both from management and political authorities and create incentives for good performance”. The study also found that greater transparency in the overall process, financing, and use of funds is critical to safeguard against corruption at all levels and obtain greater popular support.

    Attached, you will find a table that describes the five components of CG. We ask you to look at it. After that, we ask you to reply to the following question:

    What are for you key actions/activities that water providers should put in place to be more transparent and accountable, so that civil society or citizens can effectively monitor or oversee its performance? Use the table with the five components of Corporate Governance to answer the question.

    Please share your perspectives related to the above question or any other thoughts related to corporate governance that you consider important. We look forward to hearing from you!

    Regards,

    Blanche Cotlear

    Attachments:
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  • #6194
    Profile photo of Blanche
    Blanche
    @blanchecotlear
    Peru

    Civil society organization are usually asked or expected to monitor water utilities. But in order to be able to do that, the water utility has to provide information. Today the question has been is how what the water utility/water provider can do to be more accountable. What type of information the water utilities have to share to be more transparent and accountable. We can start with a brainstorming and later, we will be able to organize those ideas in categories. So, please don’t be afraid of shooting ideas.

    • #6203
      Profile photo of Ibrahim
      Ibrahim
      @i-ahmed
      Sudan

      Hi dear moderators , and Colleagues, my name is Ibrahim Ahmed from Sudan, i am very happy to participate in this discussion, i have been working in the field of rural development and now in the private sector as administrative and financial manger.
      I would like to share some ideas:
      1- in our case in Sudan the first issue is the ownership of the water utility which is not clear in most cases.
      2- The revenue of the water utility the tariff, how to be collected, who will collect it and how it will be utilized.
      3- To what extent the beneficiaries and civil societies have the right to manage and monitor the utility.
      4- The regulations and laws from the responsible governmental bodies that govern the use and management of the utility some times are conflicting and not clearly conveyed to the beneficiaries and civil societies.
      Thank you so much

      • #6206
        Profile photo of Blanche
        Blanche
        @blanchecotlear
        Peru

        Hi Ibrahim, IBRAHIM @i-ahmed
        You have raised very important issues. I will comment your 4 points:
        1- As you mentioned, the ownership of the water utility is not clear in many cases, and the impact of that is enormous. If we don’t know if the utility is 100% public (national or municipal), or some percent private, or if a percentage belongs to users, it is very difficult to understand the rules. Taxes and responsibilities are associated to who is the owner. That is the first component of “corporate governance in the water sector”. If you check the table is attached for the discussion, you will see that the first thing that has to be transparent is the ownership of the utility. depending on who is the owner, we will know who they have to report to, which agency regulates it, etc.
        2- About how the tariff has to be collected and how the income has to be spent. The tariff, the money collected from tariff, and the way how it is spent have to be transparent. Everyone should know how much they pay for a gallon of water. In most countries the more water you consume, the more expensive the water should be, but those numbers have to be very transparent and clear for everyone. The consumption of you have a connection also must be transparent. I am referring more to urban areas when I talk about house connections. Water meters are very useful to make consumption transparent. Then, the collection of tariff has to be transparent. Only when collection of tariff is transparent, you can identify who is not paying for their water; and then detect corruption. Finally, the utility should be transparent in the way they spend that money. And we know the goal is to be sustainable.
        3- About the water users and civil societies to manage and monitor the utility, first we have to say that having access to water is a human right. It means that government have to do everything in their hands to make sure people have access to potable drinking water. That doesn’t mean that water should be free, but it means the governments have a responsibility in making water accessible. So, coming from that principle, citizens have the right to know what the government is doing to make water accessible to people. The right is there, but the capability of exercising that right varies a lot. Monitoring the water sector is not easy. It demands some technical knowledge and time. So, people have to be trained to know how. On the other hand even when people are trained, they need to get information about water quality and coverage and some other indicators to be able to monitor. So, this is a two sided commitment.
        4. You are completely right when you say that “the laws from the responsible governmental bodies that govern the use and management of the utility some times are conflicting and not clearly conveyed to the beneficiaries and civil societies”. The water sector is typically very fragmented, so there is a lot of overlap. That is way one essential challenge is coordination among different levels of authorities and institutions.
        I appreciate very much the 4 topics you raised. All of them are really important.

  • #6204
    Profile photo of William
    William
    @wt48
    US

    Thanks for the organizers of this discussion for showing the leadership to air this important topic for global input and interactions. This discussion aims for this event are noteworthy…

    I am currently working to complete a World Bank Group Community Manager certification, hoping to involve key inhabitants from the region where I live (Southern California – with close to 18 million people from some of the wealthiest communities on earth who are involved with more than 200 sister city projects in countries around the globe, and have expressed interest in how they can become involved helping to make successful SDG outcomes possible).

    The SDG Challenge is already way into its 2nd year. “…but unfortunately this has not translated into proportionate results on the ground” – turning good words into actions is always in need of a ‘few good men and women’ (not to speak of students and young professionals).

    Having worked in the ‘field’ throughout most of my career with the UN, I have seen how trust-building activities that promote collaborative discussions inclusively in local communities have helped improve “… effective water service delivery, (especially in communities that suffer from) notably low institutional capacity, poor incentives, information asymmetries between citizens and service providers, and weak accountability mechanisms”.

    Having always had access to ‘cutting edge’ technologies (including the internet, sat and cell phones, and an amazing amount of knowledge hubs and other platforms), I am more optimistic that ever by the works being promoted by a number of foundations and private sector business to improve access to the internet.

    Moving forward to help gainfully employ tech savvy young people in communities as facilitators to gather data and help community members to understand and access information and knowledge which can help them improve their own communities is critical. (certainly looking forward to possible inputs that might further explain the 5 components of CG in villages, towns, and cities that need to improve their water systems to provide more comprehensive access…

    • #6208
      Profile photo of Blanche
      Blanche
      @blanchecotlear
      Peru

      Hi William, @wt48
      You are absolutely right when you said: “I have seen how trust-building activities that promote collaborative discussions inclusively in local communities have helped improve “… effective water service delivery, (especially in communities that suffer from) notably low institutional capacity, poor incentives, information asymmetries between citizens and service providers, and weak accountability mechanisms”.

      Communication is a key element through the implementation of corporate governance principles and approaches. Without a good communication system among stakeholders there is no trust and a governance reform is not possible.

      I was involved in the preparation of a training at the World Bank mainly focused on making water authorities understand that the objective is not the only important thing. The means also matter. The words, the channels of communication, the messages, and also the timing.

      But each village, town, city has its own reality. We, the international organization, many times have made the mistake of applying recipes in the past. In the case of corporate governance, the Plan has to be designed taking into account the specificities of each place, always involving stakeholders.

      I have worked some years in rural water programs in Uganda and Kenya, where the most important type of communications was at local level. In those cases we used citizen report cards, community scorecards, and local meetings. But in those same countries, for the national water reform, you need to involve the ministry, donors, regulator, etc. So to promote governance at that level, we used national dialogues and meetings with donors.

      You can look at this link:
      https://www.wsp.org/featuresevents/features/communications-core-water-sanitation-reforms

  • #6207
    Profile photo of Blanche
    Blanche
    @blanchecotlear
    Peru

    If any of you have the chance to ready this study from the World Bank, I really recommend you do it. The title is :”Uncovering the Drivers of Utility Performance: This is the link: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/930191468242382506/Main-report

    This study demonstrated econometrically that there is a relation between corporate governance and better indicators in infrastructure sectors, especially in water. So, with this study we jumped from the ethical perspective of governance into the practical perspective of applying corporate governance mechanism .

  • #6210
    Profile photo of Ghazia
    Ghazia
    @gaslam
    United States

    Hi All

    Many thanks for participating in the forum and thank you for your informative responses. In the second week, we move on to another topic — Understanding social accountability in Water sector through a sectoral lens. The idea is to be able to come up with a framework that is specific to the water sector, and is able to provide guidance to practitioners in the water sector. In this discussion we will focus on the sub-sector of drinking water supply.

    Water sector has certain characteristics, however, that can complicate accountability relationships. For example, water management is capital intensive; large infrastructure and substantial resources are needed to provide services keeping small service provider out of the market. Decision-making in the water sector is also dispersed across many political and administrative jurisdictions, which makes the accountability relationships multi-tiered and complicated. Drinking water is also a collective good but at the same time highly targetable good and thus vulnerable to political patronage.

    Do you think these characteristics of drinking water supply have implications for planning and implementing social accountability approaches? If so, which characteristics are most relevant and how do they impact your thinking on using social accountability approaches in drinking water supply?

    Can we use social accountability approaches to change characteristics of water sector that make accountability relationships complicated? If so, what characteristics of water sector can be changed through social accountability approaches?

    Looking forward to your participation. I will be moderating the discussion and sending you materials to read.

  • #6212
    Profile photo of Alex
    Alex
    @alexgrumbley
    Timor-Leste

    Hi All,

    My name is Alex Grumbley, I am the Country Director for WaterAid in Timor-Leste. We have been supporting local civil society organizations to implement social accountability tools for rural water supply services, using an adaptation of the Community Scorecard (CSC) process. For the rural context in Timor-Leste, and for many other developing countries, water supplies are often community managed. In Timor the voluntary community management groups do receive occasional support from local government outreach workers.

    The CSC team have gathered all national standards and guidelines for the water supply sector in Timor-Leste and created a matrix of 20 key standards of ongoing service that rural water supplies should meet in consultation with the relevant national directorates. Through the CSC process we found that many community members, community management groups and the local government staff were not fully aware of the levels of service they could expect or are expected to provide. This was then a useful process of assessment and awareness raising on standards for service provision, where we grouped the voluntary community management group together with local government outreach staff as service provider.

    Through the CSC process the teams have facilitated a constructive dialogue between the users of rural water supplies and the service providers, in each case a joint action plan has been developed and implemented. Follow-up visits have found local leadership particularly appreciative of the approach and interested in taking it on as ongoing planning process to improve service delivery. We can see this process changing the characteristics of the rural water sector as it generates greater understanding of the needs for ongoing service delivery, helping shift the historical focus away from construction of new water supply infrastructure.

  • #6213
    Profile photo of Ghazia
    Ghazia
    @gaslam
    United States

    Hi Alex

    Thanks for your response, and thanks for sharing your experience in Timor-Leste.

    The CSC in Timor-Leste seems to have reduced information asymmetry — one of the characteristics of water sector that impedes accountability relations. You also mention the existence of community management groups. What exactly is their function? Did they exist before the CSC process? How did the CSC process mobilize them? Since water supply tends to be a communal good, do you think it is more difficult or easy to mobilize citizens/users around water service delivery?

    What has the experience of others been?

  • #6221
    Profile photo of DOSSE
    DOSSE
    @sossougadoss
    Togo

    Hello, Water Governance needs social structuration with water Governance committees creation in all place where is needed.
    I mean, create in all villages and cities SDG centers to manage the water Governance

    • #6240
      Profile photo of Blanche
      Blanche
      @blanchecotlear
      Peru

      Hello Dosse.
      I am attaching a case study that I wrote about the Kerala Rural Water Supply and Sanitation
      Project in India. This project broke new ground by institutionalizing the integration of local communities with Panchayats (local government institutions). By placing communities in charge of their own sanitation, the project supported the sustained delivery of adequate sanitation and water services in rural areas of Kerala’s four districts.

      Attachments:
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  • #6234
    Profile photo of Alex
    Alex
    @alexgrumbley
    Timor-Leste

    Hi Ghazia

    Within government policy in Timor, and many developing country contexts I have come across, rural water supplies are community managed. In Timor it is mandated that any rural water supply that is built should have a community management group set-up, often voluntary, that undertakes operations and maintenance and collects tariffs from users, a government guideline and law exists. In Timor the sustainability and effectiveness of the these groups varies significantly and they often lack the capacity to undertake all of their responsibilities as volunteers.

    The CSC process was then undertaken for water supplies that had been operating for at least a year and had a community management group. The CSC process brought the users, the management group and the support officers from local government together to plan for improving the service, where follow-up monitoring has found the plans being used and acted upon. There has been high demand and priority generally in rural communities for water supply services so it has been relatively easy to mobilize small rural communities around water service delivery.

    Alex

    • #6238
      Profile photo of Blanche
      Blanche
      @blanchecotlear
      Peru

      Hello Alex, I coordinated and supervised the implementation of a multi-municipal level program in Uganda that was based on the use of Community Score Cards. We monitored and evaluated Output-based Aid (OBA) comparing them with non-OBA water systems -in terms of water quality and provider’s performance- through various tools including, including community score cards and communication tools to allow dialogue between communities and water providers. We worked in partnership with WSP-Uganda, the Ministry of Water, local Water Boards, and FEUSE at the WB. The initial success of the program led to its rapid expansion to more towns. This program was selected within the Bank as the model for governance in the water sector. Water Aid as also used it as the case study that demonstrates that governance impacts in quality of water. The main achievement of this project was to demonstrate that when you monitor using clear and specific indicators, this helps to put pressure on water providers to show concrete improvements. So we used a baseline and then a second and third application of community score cards monitoring the same connections and tanks we monitored before. The conclusions were amazing. I wrote a case study for the World Bank about the experience. I am uploading the publication so you can read it. Yael Velleman from Wateraid was working on this project, then she moved to London. She wrote something about this project in a WaterAid Publication.

      WaterAid used this case study to expend the tool in other rural areas.

      Attachments:
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  • #6242
    Profile photo of Blanche
    Blanche
    @blanchecotlear
    Peru

    I am sharing here another case study. It is about how the municipal government of Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, gives citizens an opportunity to participate in development decision-making; in turn citizens enable the municipal governments to adopt and implement interventions such as the contributions-for-improvement which integrate their cash and free labor into necessary and appropriate social improvements programs. The contributions-for- improvement approach is helping to create an enabling environment for increased investment in public sector development in Honduras.

    The origin of this participatory tool was in the necessity of getting funds. The municipal government didn’t have enough money to install sanitation pipes in the city. So, the major offer to build the sanitation pipes if both the local government and the citizens agree on financing the project. The citizens were organized in blocks, and the coordinator of each block had to get the promise from every house of the block that they were going to pay monthly until fulfilling with their obligations.

    The results were impressive. The old city and many block around had sanitation pipes installed. Here I am attaching the pdf publication I wrote about this case study. I had the luck of monitoring this project and seeing how the local people worked so hard to make this happen.

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  • #6246
    Profile photo of Charlotte
    Charlotte
    @charlotteornemark
    USA (Sweden)

    Hi all,
    We’d like to spend the last few days of this discussion on the topic of gender in water services. It is well known that women, compared to men, are disproportionately affected by the quality of water management and supply. It is also clear that the burden of fetching water and coping with unreliable water quality in many developing and middle-income countries often fall on the women of the households. Consequently, their feedback and ability to influence the way water is collectively managed and used is critical for effective and accountable service delivery.

    – But what does it mean in practice to apply a truly gendered approach to water management – one which does not just push the decision-making onto women in spaces where they have little power or possibility to act, but one which helps break unequal gender patterns through mechanisms of holding decision-makers to account?
    – In other words, how, when, and under what circumstances does a gendered approach to water supply and management actually contribute to gender transformation, using social accountability as vehicle?

    I’m looking forward to any views or examples out there!

  • #6247
    Profile photo of William
    William
    @wt48
    US

    I took the liberty of encouraging women on the World Pulse global platform [ http://www.worldpulse.com ] to submit comments, and I’m anxiously awaiting whether this intervention might help to add input to this important discussion.

    INPUT NEEDED – IMPROVING WATER GOVERNANCE THROUGH SOCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY 13 April, 2017 
    Women interested in improving access to water in their communities are encouraged to visit the online discussion on the Global Platform for Social Accountability.  This is the final week of a 3 week discussion period:
    ‘Spending the last few days of this discussion on the topic of gender in water services. ‘It is well known that women, compared to men, are disproportionately affected by the quality of water management and supply. It is also clear that the burden of fetching water and coping with unreliable water quality in many developing and middle-income countries often fall on the women of the households. Consequently, their feedback and ability to influence the way water is collectively managed and used is critical for effective and accountable service delivery.
    – But what does it mean in practice to apply a truly gendered approach to water management – one which does not just push the decision-making onto women in spaces where they have little power or possibility to act, but one which helps break unequal gender patterns through mechanisms of holding decision-makers to account?
             – In other words, how, when, and under what circumstances does a gendered approach to water supply and management actually contribute to gender transformation, using social accountability as vehicle?
    I’m looking forward to any views or examples out there!’
    The Case Study attached is ‘…about how the municipal government of Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras, gives citizens an opportunity to participate in development decision-making; in turn citizens enable the municipal governments to adopt and implement interventions such as the contributions-for-improvement which integrate their cash and free labor into necessary and appropriate social improvements programs.’

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