This unfortunate situation in the sector is blamed on corruption as most of the investments made in the sector leak through corrupt tendencies. The baseline on integrity in the water sector indicates that on average about 10% of funds allocated to the sector are estimated to leak through corrupt tendencies. Empirical evidence has shown that accountability and transparency in rural water service delivery is weak hence influencing the willingness of water users to pay for services
Much as there have been considerable investments made by Government of Uganda and Development Partners to achieve 100% safe water coverage by 2015, recent statistics show national coverage for rural water supply standing at 65%, no change from the previous year (SPR 2010). The functionality of rural water supplies was estimated at 80% a drop from 83% in 2009.
This unfortunate situation in the sector is blamed on corruption as most of the investments made in the sector leak through corrupt tendencies. The baseline on integrity in the water sector indicates that on average about 10% of funds allocated to the sector are estimated to leak through corrupt tendencies. Empirical evidence has shown that accountability and transparency in rural water service delivery is weak hence influencing the willingness of water users to pay for services.
Corruption in the water sector
The situation has been exacerbated by a populace majorly in rural areas that is neither aware of their rights and responsibilities nor are they adequately empowered to pursue these rights and as such corruption in the sector has manifested in form of botched procurements, diversion of resources, influence peddling in allocation of water points and theft of equipment’s.
With the adamant lack of strong measures to bring culprits to book even when policies and laws are in place the communities have been left vulnerable to deal with the effects of corruption in the sector such as unfair location of water points near homes of local leaders beyond the reach of intended user communities, commissioning of sources before they are complete or ready, payment for non-existent sources, mismatch of planned and delivered facilities, shoddy work and low lifespan of the facilities, unaffordable water prices for poor communities, vandalizing and failure to maintain the water facilities and general lack of clean safe water.
Trying to deal with the problem
With over 100 registered Non-Governmental Organizations complimenting Government efforts in the supply of rural water, the situation has not adversely improved as water sector performance in terms of access as stagnated for the last 3 years.
It is against this background that Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda partnered with Twaweza to improve Governance in the water sector in Northern and Eastern Region of Uganda through “using the Geographic Information System (GIS) technology tostrengthen citizen’s capacity and voice to demand for Transparency and Accountability in water service delivery processes”.
The intervention has been piloted in the Districts of Oyam (Abersubcounty) and Kole (Balasubcounty) in Northern Uganda and Amuria (Kapelobyongsubcounty) and Kumi (Mukongorosubcounty) in the Eastern region with the objective of strengthening citizen’s capacity and voice to demand for transparency and accountability in water service delivery.
Through community based monitoring on access to safe water, functionality of existing facilities, water quality, accountability and transparency, and functionality of water user committees a number of governance related issues were identified.
The main source of water for drinking in villages is the borehole and most people rely on unprotected sources to draw water for domestic purposes and as such there is a large population of people consuming water from unprotected sources and therefore exposing themselves to various categories of water related diseases. This was found prevalent in areas with no access to a safe water source and several water sources were identified producing water with color and/or containing dirty/muddy particles with organic materials. Examples include; Unprotected well in Lo-Oyoceng village, Omwara parish in Bala sub-county and the unprotected spring in Okarwok village, Akaka parish, Aber sub-county.
Much as there is good existence of Water User Committees (WUC) charged with management of water sources, these committees are challenged with poor or weak linkages between community based structures, the Sub county Local Government and District Local Government. This situation is worsened by the fact that Sub county Local Government has no budget for water service provision and solely relies on District Plans and allocation of water sources. In addition most of the water user committees are weak and need training particularly on issues pertaining to accountability of funds. For example the WUC of the Akar A unprotected borehole in Akar A village, Adiegi parish, Aber sub-county.
In all sub counties of project implementation, the most popular mode of information transfer from service provider to water users is through community meetings .However, most community members do not attend community meetings hence don’t receive the required information .Whereas other methods are used such as Public Address System in public places and notice boards which are not exactly common,there is a recognizable weak communication structure between service providers and the water users and inevitably among service providers themselves. As such most of the information regarding water service remains within the community due to poor information flow and feedback mechanisms.
Lastly, there is a prevailing gap in governance of water services albeit the existence of Non-Governmental Organizations operating in the regions. This scenario is influenced by power play in allocation of resources, political interference and the lack of awareness among water users. The demand for accountability is very low leading to a number of cases around mismanagement of funds, fraud and extortion of funds by political leaders. For example in Omwara parish, wigweng village, Bala sub-county, the residents collected money for maintenance, but they claim that the LC III Chairperson, Mr.AndrewOree, being the caretaker of the protected spring (Amin-Elida) has never given them accountability of the funds they have been collecting.