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TI report hails water privatisation

NAIROBI, June 26 – A new report by Transparency International indicates that privatisation in the water sector was the most important change made to curb corruption.

The report, launched on Thursday, states that barring local authorities from running water and sewerage services was a good step in improving water governance.

The Global Corruption Report 2008 revealed that water providers were facing a challenge in stemming corrupt practices that migrated with operational structures and staff inherited from local authorities.

Lawrence Gikaru, consultant who worked on the report, recommended that inefficiency be targeted in strategies to fight corruption in the services sector.

"When we address inefficiencies, there is less incentive to pay a bribe. You put confidence in the consumer to use your product in the right manner," Gikaru pointed out.

Gikaru added that fighting corruption must also be holistic in approach.

"The most effective way to fight corruption is through a systems approach. It is not through piecemeal changes," he stated.

"It is not simply sacking an employee or a manager who has been involved in corruption."

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The government’s National Water Policy of 1999 envisages universal access to safe water by 2010.

To address the almost total collapse in the water sector, the government approved the Water Act 2002 as a vehicle for addressing inefficiency.

Although the Ministry of Water and Irrigation remains at the helm, the act created new bodies with explicit roles.

The most important change was to bar local authorities from running water and sewerage services. To conform to these requirements, water providers, modeled on commercial principles, sprang up in every corner of the country.

In the case of the Nairobi Water Company, a recent survey showed that 62 per cent of consumers had witnessed petty corruption in relation to water service provision.

A Citizens’ Report Card in May 2007, based on a survey of almost 3,000 households in Kenya’s three largest cities (Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu) returned mixed results.

Although few households reported paying incentives outside official billing, the report indicated increased reliance on landlords to pay water bills, opening the prospect of bribery at the interface between them and water companies.

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