Alternative Approaches To Identifying And Combating Corruption In The Water Sector

John Butterworth, 12th IACC, Workshop report, Natural Resources

Main Issues Covered


This workshop focused on how corruption impacts upon service delivery in water and sanitation and the governance of water resources. It brought together experiences from a panel of representatives spanning global organisations in the water and sanitation sector (WSP), water resources management (the Global water Partnership) and in the specific case of Colombia, Transparency International-Colombia highlighting how self-regulation reduces corruption in procurement of water pipes.

It considered:

  • The need to strengthen the fight against corruption in the water (and sanitation) sector

  • methodologies used for identifying and combating corruption in the water sector: specific tools for combating corruption in the water sector, such as the integrity pacts, citizens’ report cards and sectoral pacts in the private sector

  • forming alliances and networks between the public sector, the private sector, civil society and the donor community to combat corruption in the water sector.


Main Outcomes


Anti-corruption actions in the water sector

Anti-corruption activities in the water sector have been limited to date. Until recently the issue has been largely ignored (and only talked about over a beer in the bar). There needs to be much more advocacy to reduce corruption through actions to increase transparency and accountability, based upon evidence of its impact (leakage of money which subtracts from service delivery to the poor in particular).

Stumbling blocks impeding reduction in corruption

The fact that corruption in the sector is ignored, and its role in the scandal of poor performance in the sector is downplayed (lack of access to safe water and sanitation services, lack of access to water resources, pollution etc that impacts upon poor people in particular) is itself a major stumbling block. Challenging the performance of public sector institutions (the water and sanitation sector being fundamentally a public service) including the highlighting of corruption problems, also risks being seen as support for privatization (which has largely failed in the sector). We need to move on, and recognize anti-corruption activities as a fundamental issue in improving the delivery of public services and public sector performance, not a call for privatisation.

Effective solutions and strategies

A key step in moving forwards is better research to understand the extent, types and impacts of corruption in the water sector. At the same time, alliances are needed to take forward concrete anti-corruption activities bringing together organizations in the water sector with anti-corruption and other civil society organizations (including public sector unions).


Main Outputs


  • Summaries of presentations, presentations, linked background papers and a report on the session are available at

  • The Water Integrity Network (WIN) was only recently formed in 2006 to stimulate anti-corruption activities in the water sector worldwide, and this workshop was the first opportunity to discuss its objectives with a grouping of anti-corruption and governance organisations. It has led to wider awareness of this initiative, and many new applications for membership of the network.


Recommendations, Follow-up Actions


  • The formation of the water integrity network (WIN) responds to the major needs identified in the session. Implementation of the network’s planned activities, and crucially the participation of all in WIN, are what will make the difference to address corruption in water. All are encouraged to join and actively get involved in WIN.

  • The Global Corruption Report 2008 which will focus on water is a major opportunity to highlight the issues of corruption in water, including research and documentation by TI country chapters who are encouraged to focus on water in their country case studies.

  • WIN programme activities will be publicised through including a major session at the 2007 Stockholm World Water Week (12-18 Aug 2007).


Workshop Highlights (including interesting quotes)


In the water sector “behind friendly faces, there are some hidden secrets”. Widespread corruption and its impact on total failure of the public sector in Africa is one of them.

In the rush to try and meet the Millennium Development Goals, money is being thrown at the problem and without stronger action in anti-corruption and capacity building much may be mis-used.

Trends in the water sector including decentralization and sector wide approaches in development are in some cases leading to increased costs. Is this due to corruption?

Your participation in WIN will make the difference” (in whether it has impact on corruption in water)

docAlternative Approaches To Identifying And Combating Corruption In The Water Sector

Brazil 2012

Brazil 2012

IACC Video

IACC Video