First East Africa Water Integrity Forum 2017

The Inaugural East Africa Water Integrity Forum was convened by the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Irrigation in partnership with Water Integrity Network (WIN) and attended by a number of International and national NGOS on the 9th to 11th of May 2017. The three day event that was held at the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa ran under the theme; ‘Linking policy with practice’ and attracted delegates from various countries including Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, and host Country Ethiopia.

Key issues around integrity in the water sector made highlights during the plenary sessions and the breakout sessions led and represented by different organizations at the Forum. Issues such as building partnerships with regional and international bodies, managing integrity, monitoring integrity, generating evidence on integrity, capacity enhancement, as well as Knowledge Management for water integrity surfaced as areas of interest among the conveners and the delegates. From the deliberations during the sessions it was clear that a lot more needs to be done to ensure that integrity in the water sector is upheld.

 

Ethiopian State Minister for Water and Irrigation, Mr Kebede Gerba noted that it is almost impossible to sustain economic growth in a country without keenly looking into the issues of accountability, integrity and transparency. Citing the Ethiopian experience, Gerba highlighted that there is a lot of investment in water projects including water for production of hydropower and for home consumption and water for irrigation but emphasized that for the projects to succeed, there needs to be high levels of integrity.

While responding to the delegates views that most governments lacked the political will to improve integrity, Minister Gerba said that political will does not come by chance, it comes by force sometimes. “Societies must demand for governments to deliver on their promises. Democratization and empowerment are crucial. Communities must ask government to act,” he urged.
The Executive Secretary of African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) Dr. Canisius Kanangire, highlighted that governments had expressed political will to enhance integrity in the water sector by establishing the necessary institutions for example: Ministry of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda, the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG) and the Anti-corruption Commission in Kenya among many other integrity institutions. He added that Governments have also demonstrated political will by organizing and participating in forums like the WIF. He was however quick to let the delegates understand that corruption cannot be eradicated with political will alone; he insisted that political will should be translated into something that can be measured and monitored. “We need to look into ways where institutions working at different levels can discuss integrity issues in relation with their mandates at different levels.” He said.
Panelists also urged CSOs to play their oversight role, especially with regard to implementation of policies. “Government cannot set and also oversee the implementation of its own policies,” said Doreen Wandera, Executive Director of Uganda Water and Sanitation NGO Network (UWASNET). She urged CSOs to track budgets at all levels and gather evidence of how WASH money is spent and whether there is value for money. Such evidence should then be presented at common forums and used to give feedback to government and other actors.

Wandera further urged CSOs to reach out and contribute to community capacity building in terms of water integrity and governance. “CSOs should bring information to community level and help the people understand things. Some projects are documented and presented in high tech language which the common people cannot identify with. This leaves the people unable to participate in the governance of such projects,” she added. She observed that one of the key challenges of CSOs is that their own integrity is under question. This means that they have no authority and confidence to engage with and oversee other actors.
Panelists urged CSOs to avoid the tendency to bypass government rules and regulations, make efforts to partner with government and work in a coordinated and harmonized way. “CSOs should have a paradigm shift especially in advocacy. Let’s not build extremes where the government is on the defensive all the time,” said Dr Kiprorir Sigi, Water Minister from Bomet County in Kenya. “If we solve the problems in the water sector we solve problems in other sectors” Kenya’s Kipkorir Sigi concluded.

in a bid to enhance water integrity some key conclusions and recommendations were made by the panel of speakers and in the sessions, among them were;
As the three day forum came to an end, some key conclusions and recommendations were made by the panel of speakers and in the sessions in a bid to enhance water integrity. They include;

 CSOS should critically reflect on how to engage with communities and local governments. They should also advocate with donors so that they understand how communities work.
 Strengthen partnerships using a sector-wide, multi-sectoral approach to avoid fragmentation.
 Development partners should be ready to work with rather than bypass government systems. There is a tendency for donors to work in on their own systems.
 Development Partners also have a role to play in advocacy because they have high level access to their governments as compared to the CSOs.
 There is still focus on infrastructure not on software. There is need to address software issues, including integrity.
 Actors should not lose priority on software and capacity building even during emergencies. The tendency during emergency is to focus on infrastructure and pay less attention to integrity in order to resolve crises.
 There should be continuous research; information sharing and knowledge management in order to build on what exists. Build linkages with other KM networks like RWSN, SUSANA
 More resources are needed for the water sector as its often overlooked in the budget process.
 To ensure sustainability of interventions, there is need to institutionalize these policies and principles that guide water integrity and governance.

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