World Water Day: Corruption in the water sector’s costly impact

World Water Day: Corruption in the water sector’s costly impact

Each year, between US$ 770 billion and $1,760 billion are needed to develop water resources and services worldwide. Yet the number of people without “safe” drinking water is about as large as those who lack access to basic sanitation: around 32 per cent of the world’s population in 2015. How can so much be spent and yet such massive shortfalls still exist? One answer: About 10 per cent of water sector investment is lost to corruption.

Today, on World Water Day, the Water Integrity Network (WIN) releases a new report that documents the legacy of corruption in the water sector, revealing corruption’s costly impact on the world’s water resources. It also shows the degree to which poor water governance negatively affects the world’s most vulnerable populations – specifically women, children, and the landless.

While access to water and sanitation were formally recognized as human rights by the UN General Assembly in 2010, the reality remains far from this goal. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, some 663 million people lack access to so-called “improved” drinking water sources globally. This contributes to 1.6 million deaths annually, most of whom are children under 5 years old.

Although the UN’s new 2030 Agenda includes a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) on water and sanitation as well as a mandate for accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16), action is needed so that pervasive and systemic corruption do not continue to leak resources from the water sector.


In 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert US$5 million in public funds to the private accounts of officials.

In 2015, an audit of the €70 million phase II national water programme in Benin, which included €50 million from the Netherlands, revealed that €4 million had vanished. Dutch development cooperation with the Benin government was suspended thereafter to safeguard additional funds.

This Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016, or WIGO, shares examples of both corruption and good practices at all levels worldwide. WIGO demonstrates how improved governance and anti-corruption measures can win back an estimated US$ 75 billion for global investment in water services and infrastructure annually. It therefore highlights and draws lessons from those examples of where governments, companies, and community groups have won gains for water consumers and environmental protection.

“The report proposes to build ‘integrity walls’ from building blocks of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption measures” says Frank van der Valk, the Water Integrity Network’s executive director. “Urgent action by all stakeholders is required.”

The Water Integrity Network promotes integrity to eliminate corruption and increase performance in the water sector worldwide. Download WIGO at www.waterintegritynetwork.net/wigo or write to info@win-s.org 

Image credits: Joost Butenop, Pattabi Raman, Water Integrity Network

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No hay cambios en las percepciones pese a los avances en América

En los últimos años, América Latina y el Caribe lograron adelantos significativos en la lucha contra la corrupción. En muchos países de la región existen ahora leyes y mecanismos para contrarrestar este fenómeno, las investigaciones legales están avanzando y los movimientos ciudadanos anticorrupción han incrementado. Sin embargo, de acuerdo con el Índice de Percepción de la Corrupción (IPC) 2017, la región continúa con bajos puntajes.

A redefining moment for Africa

The newly released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) provides a good baseline for the African Union (AU) anti-corruption efforts in 2018. This year’s theme for the AU is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.” As the AU rolls out its plan, this is an important moment for Africa to take stock of the current situation.

Perceptions remain unchanged despite progress in the Americas

In the last few years, Latin America and the Carribbean made great strides in the fight against corruption. Laws and mechanisms exist to curb corruption, while legal investigations are advancing and citizen anti-corruption movements are growing in many countries across the region. However, according to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017, the region continues to score poorly for corruption. How can we explain this contradiction?

Slow, Imperfect Progress across Asia Pacific

While no country in the Asia Pacific region scores a perfect 100, not even New Zealand or Singapore, which both experienced their share of scandals in the last year, our analysis reveals little progress across the region.

Europe and Central Asia: more civil engagement needed

In 2017, authoritarianism rose across Eastern and South East Europe, hindering anti-corruption efforts and threatening civil liberties. Across the region, civil society organisations and independent media experienced challenges in their ability to monitor and criticise decision-makers

Rampant Corruption in Arab States

In a region stricken by violent conflicts and dictatorships, corruption remains endemic in the Arab states while assaults on freedom of expression, press freedoms and civil society continue to escalate.

Digging deeper into corruption, violence against journalists and active civil society

To mark the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, we analysed corruption levels around the world and looked at how they relate to civil liberties – specifically, the ability of citizens to speak out in defence of their interests and the wider public good.

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