By Costantine Sebastian, The Citizen Reporter
Tunis. Poor governance in the management of water sectors prevents millions of Africans from getting clean and safe drinking water despite years of mostly external financing to ensure equitable and reliable supply of the precious liquid, a new report points out.
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB) report, released on Tuesday, technical and managerial incompetence, lack of transparency and weak accountability systems also deny a majority of people, including Tanzanians, adequate and reliable sanitation services.
Its senior officials say one out of every two persons in Tanzania has no access to safe water supply, which means half of the country’s over 40 million people are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The AfDB which has had operations in Tanzania since 1971 has financed 12 projects, including four studies in the water and sanitation sector, at a cost of over $250 million (about Sh350 billion).
“Poor governance in the water sector prevents millions of Africans from getting clean, safe drinking water; and adequate, reliable sanitation, ten years into the 21st century,” reads part of the ‘Water Sector Governance in Africa’ report.
“This situation persists despite numerous and rigorous technical, financial, economic and institutional assessments in support of investments in the water and sanitation projects in Africa,” it adds.
According to AfDB Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration vice-president Bobby Pitman, contemporary literature on water sector financing mainly focuses on the mechanisms and challenges associated with funding tangible water supply and sanitation services.
He says the new study now draws attention to the importance of financing overarching water management and governance functions, from strategy, planning, policy-making and engagement with sector shareholders to water resource development, allocation and management.”
Other governance aspects that have made Africa fail to equitably provide its people with the indispensable commodity and sanitation services include absence of open information systems and sidelining stakeholders in the development of policies and decision-making.
There is also the issue of reliability, predictability and the rule of law as well as relying only on political and individual efforts of a leader and state power to spearhead development.
The report was officially launched on the eve of the 3rd African Water Week in Addis Ababa that ends tomorrow (Friday). The bank, which has put about $2.5 billion in Africa’s sector, has been advocating the need for innovative sources of funding water projects and sanitation services during the week in the Ethiopian capital.
“The report takes early steps to investigate whether poor governance has been a major contributory factor to the lack of sustainability in the African water sector,” AfDB notes in the statement.
Its current portfolio in Tanzania includes the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme (RWSSP), in two phases. Phase I (2007- 2010) was at a cost of $82.5 million, while Phase II (2011-2014) would cost about $95 million. The two projects account for about 60 per cent of AfDB water sector investments in Tanzania.
The AfDB support to RWSS focuses on increasing access to sustainable rural water supply and sanitation services. Recent projects in the water and sanitation sector completed with AfDB financing include: the Monduli District Water Supply Project, which cost $23.27 million funding and the Dar es Salaam Water Supply and Sanitation Project that cost $58.38 million.
The report identifies numerous but common governance risks, and shows that these are easily identifiable and preventable. It also finds that substantial gains would be made if government assessments became standard procedure and if governance criteria were introduced in donor project approval procedures.
The report notes: “While local and national institutions have the most visible role to play in governing the water sector, it is the sector’s underlying policies, legislation and regulations that provide the foundation for overall governance.”
Mr Tom Roberts, who coordinated the study, says some of the key roles that sector institutions and organizations need to fulfil in developing and carrying out the underlying legislation, policies and regulations include strategic policy-making and planning for water and related sectors. There is also the issues of conflict resolution and arbitration, as well as the regulation and monitoring of water users and service providers, he adds.
“The report addresses each of these roles and the various related approaches and principles individually,” he notes in the statement.