A weeklong capacity training course for West African stakeholders, intended to restore integrity in the water sector, has ended in Monrovia with participants vowing to go back home to fight corruption in the water sector of their respective countries.

About 30 participants from Liberia, Gambia and Nigeria underwent the intensive weeklong participatory, knowledge and experience-sharing training course that climaxed with the awarding of certificates.

During the closing ceremonies at the Royal Palm Hotel, where the training took place, participants noted that they were equipped with knowledge and techniques that would help them meet the objective of the training.

On behalf of the Nigerian delegation, Joe Goldface-Irokajibe, Professor of Water Resources Law, extended profound gratitude to the host country for the hospitality and the organizers for the excellent training syllabus.

Prof. Goldface-Irokajibe said it was an opportunity not only for them to attend the workshop but to also interact with fellow participants and stakeholders in the water sector of participating countries. He said they were going home with “quality information and knowledge” to help improve the water sector of Nigeria.

“As we come to the end of this training, we will be carrying back an indelible impression from the training which has exposed us to new ideas and new concepts that will take us to new horizon to ensuring integrity in the water management sector, especially that aspect of corruption which has a very negative impact….”

The Nigerian Delegation head noted that South Saharan Africa has been held back not because it lacks resources and technology but because it lacks proper management of its resources, backed by corruption. “This kind of training will help us improve management in the water sector more transparently, more efficiently when we go back to our respective countries,” the Professor averred, adding, “Water is life and whatever lesson we take home from here is the lesson of life.”

“There would have been no other time better for this workshop than now,” Mr. William E. D. Wanner, Coordinator of the Water Supply and Sanitation Commission said on behalf of the Liberian participants.

Wanner stated that corruption was a serious problem not only affecting other sectors of society, but also the water sector which is very essential to life.

“There is too much corruption in the water sector; there is strong need for accountability and transparency… there is a need to bring integrity to the sector,” Wanner insisted.

He described the weeklong Water Integrity Network (WIN)-organized training as an excellent way of creating awareness and grooming stakeholders in the water sector to restore integrity.

He said the Liberian delegation learnt significantly from the experiences of the two other countries, especially Gambia, that would be integrated into the Liberian program.

The water sector of Liberia, he said, remains fragmented, and this poses a serious challenge in the area of Integrated Water Resources Management.

Yusupha Bonjang, Gambia’s Focal Person for Integrated Water Resources Management, like his colleagues, extended gratitude to the organizers, sponsors and facilitators of the training.

He said the training has given them (Gambian participants) new resolve in ensuring that integrity exists in the water sector in their country. “We have learnt new ideas and knowledge and we will implement them,” the Gambian delegation spokesman noted.

Liberia’s Deputy Information Minister Norris Tweh, who made the official closing remarks, told participants that the Liberian Government was committed to making Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) issue a priority.

Tweh stated that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, appointed Africa Goodwill Water ambassador in 2009, is aware that there must be quality WASH for all, and her government is committed to that happening in Liberia.

Tweh admitted the high level of fragmentation in the water sector (many groups and institutions doing similar water projects) of Liberia and that the President has insisted that sector be defragmented for budgetary considerations.

“In order to ensure a clear focus in the WASH sector,” Tweh disclosed, “President Sirleaf will sign an Executive Order to end the fragmentation in the …sector.”

He applauded the organizers of the training and charged participants to make better use of the knowledge acquired in restoring integrity to the sector, said to be very highly corrupt.

The water sector is reported to be rocked by rampant corruption, and stakeholders were trained to return home to help restore integrity to the sector and make it more beneficial to the larger public.

The Regional Water Integrity Capacity Building Program in Sub-Saharan Africa was sponsored by the Water Integrity Network (WIN) and ECOWAS’ Water Resource Coordination Center (WRC) among other international partners, organizers said.

Introduction to water governance, institutional frameworks for water resources and services, Corruption in the water sector, the impact and cost of corruption, were among few of the many topics being facilitated by Drs. Daniel K Yawson and Jacob W. Tumbulto.

The two facilitators said they were please with the conduct of the workshop in a friendly environment, lauding the involvement of the participants. “I am convinced that the participants learnt a lot and they now need to go and implement what they have learnt,” Dr. Tumbulto stated in an interview. “They were trained to become water integrity ambassadors in their respective countries, to fight corruption and ensure integrity, and from what I saw during the training, they are taking away some from here,” Dr. Yawson added.

The training was jointly organized by the Ghana Integrity Initiative and the Center of Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), and was third in a series of five regional capacity development training on water integrity for the West African Region, officials said.

The World Bank and other transparency bodies estimate that about 40% of resources intended for water resources management is spent erroneously, mostly due to corruption.

Currently, clean drinking water remains unobtainable for nearly 884 million people around the world, with Africa accounting for a huge chunk of the number, principally as a result of corruption in the sector.

Organizers of the training course said corruption threatens and undermine investments made in water with many African countries lagging behind in reaching the MDGs. They said corruption slows down development progress which implies that it will take much longer time to reach the MDGs and at a much higher cost, unless concerted actions are taken by states to fight the vulnerability.

It is reported that despite recent progress in democracy and human rights in a number of African countries, corruption remains one of the biggest challenges throughout the continent, and the water sector is no exception.

“Water is a fundamental resource for sustainable development and is essential to eradicate poverty, to secure food and energy,” Madam Franciose Nicole Ndoume, WIN Program Coordinator for Francophone and English Capacity Building said in her opening address of the training.
“In most countries,” she noted, “water crises are not due to resource scarcity but primarily to governance failures” and corruption.

At the close of the training, Ndoume said she was excited because the training was successfully conducted and that participants have vowed to implement what lessons they have learnt.

The WIN executive said her organization is committed to working with major stakeholders to ensure that integrity exists in the water sector which is very cardinal to life.

According to the Global Corruption Report of Transparency International and Water Integrity Network, almost US$48 billion are diverted every year from the water sector because of corruption practices, she said.

“It is high time to take a line of action and reverse the status quo so that funds for the water service delivery worldwide and particularly in Africa are utilized for the correct purposes,” Ndoume asserted.

She observed that fragmented institutions obstruct accountability in a sector with high investment and aid flows, making the water sector particularly vulnerable to corruption. “Lack of water-related integrity incurs huge cost for societies, lost of lives, degraded resources, just to mention a few,” said.

Among other things, the overall objective of the training program was to develop capacities of different stakeholder groups and government levels to improve transparency and accountability practices in the water sector in Africa. Writes D Kaihenneh Sengbeh, dakasen1978@yahoo.com, +231886586531, Liberia’s WASH Journalist Network

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