Fighting Corruption in the Water Sector: Comments Please

A mark of progress in the fight against corruption is the growing attention corruption fighters are paying to its nuts and bolts.  A bribe is a bribe: whether paid to rig a bid on a public works contract or duck sanctions for polluting a stream. And laws against bribery and appeals to those in both sectors to refrain from taking a bribe have their place.

But a strategy for preventing bribery in public works contracts, the water sector, or indeed any sector of the economy demands more. Where in the sector is bribery most common? Why do some public servants take them while others refuse? What are the economic incentives public servants and their private sector counterparts face? What social norms operate in the background? What’s the legal regime governing sector operations? In short, what makes the sector tick? 

Only when corruption fighters understand a sector can they devise means for preventing corruption in it and identify indicators (“red flags”) for when it may be present. Teaming an expert corruption fighter with an authority on the sector is the obvious approach, and that is exactly what the U.K.’s CurbingCorruption has done on producing 15 sector-level studies of corruption — from agriculture to education to health to local government to shipping and telecommunications.

A 16th, on corruption in water, is now in progress. The project team comprises Mark Pyman, co-founder of CurbingCorruption, and Laura Jean Palmer Moloney, a hydro-geographer, expert in coastal resources management now with Visual Teaching Technologies. Mark and Laura Jean are soliciting comments on a briefing paper listing what they believe are the key corruption issues across the range of issues in the water sector. Readers can leave a comment below or to write them directly: jean@visualteachingtechnologies.com and mark.pyman@curbingcorruption.com

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