5 Jul 2008

Water and Corruption

Transparency International has issued a report on the effects of corruption on water supplies worldwide:
When corruption occurs, the cost of connecting a household to a water network increases by up to 30 per cent, raising the price tag for achieving the Millennium Development Goals for water and sanitation by a staggering US$48 billion, according to expert estimates in the report.

Corruption in drinking water and sanitation emerges at every point along the water delivery chain; from policy design and budgeting to building, maintaining and operating water networks. It drains investment from the sector, increases prices and decreases water supplies. One result is that poor households in Jakarta, Lima, Nairobi or Manila spend more on water than residents of New York City, London or Rome.

Industrialised countries are not immune. Corruption has plagued the tendering of water contracts in cities like Grenoble, Milan, New Orleans and Atlanta. Likewise, cases of bid-rigging and price-fixing in water infrastructure provision have surfaced in Sweden, while in Chicago water budgets fell victim to misuse for political campaigning.
Corruption exists in many parts of life, but it's easiest when operations are opaque, competition is weak, and political interference is rife. Those conditions exist in water the same way they exist in education, defense, medicine, etc.

Bottom Line: Water management, whether public or private, requires careful oversight by customers. Without it, corruption results in poor service -- or even death.

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