Uganda showed the way to go with regards to monitoring matters yesterday at the “Sanitation and Water For All” partnership meeting in Johannesburg. Uganda, Liberia and Sierra Leone had taken giant strides to ensure that there were good monitoring systems in the WASH sector as well as transparency.
Uganda had taken the brave step to look at what is happening in its sector, documented results and reflected on what these results meant for the water and sanitation sector in the country. This gave a true meaning of both monitoring and aid transparency.
Uganda has been publishing a document called the “Country Sector Annual Review” for a number of years now. The review is powerful, its frank and it highlights progress made in the country without shying away from exposing the challenges faced in sustaining water supply and sanitation infrastructure and investments. The report is particularly clear on the challenges Uganda faces with tariff collection and financing for operation and maintenance (O&M). Sanitation still has some way to go before Uganda reaches full coverage.
The report focuses the Ugandan water and sanitation sector keenly on results. The data is Uganda’s, the ownership of the implications are held by the country and the sector will continue to improve because they are asking hard questions about sustainability and coverage.
Because Uganda and a few other countries are showing what monitoring is about in practice. Monitoring is about asking hard questions on results and having the courage to rethink your previous decisions and investments based on the analysis of these results. Uganda and these and other countries have a tremendous opportunity to actually improve sector performance because they have invested time and energy to determine what seems to be working in their countries and what aspects of their work and investments need to be reconsidered. And they will ask these questions over and over again as future monitoring results will guide them, which in time should lead to better results for villages throughout their countries.
Uganda is also showing what transparency is all about. Its not fooled by the silliness of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) and it’s growing list of agencies that seem to think that transparency means throwing meaningless spreadsheet-numbing data onto a web page (filled with equally meaningless data from other agencies) and having donors and bloggers anoint them as truly transparent.
Transparency is not about unanalyzed data puke. Transparency is about being open, honest and forthright about the results of investments made – it’s about saying that these investments led to these results (good, bad, unclear at this stage…). Anything less is simply fog!
This in a true sense indicates that Uganda is not worried if it’s indicators are the same as each other. Its not worried on how it’s data fits in with global monitoring frameworks. It’s under the IATI radar. It’s simply focused on improving performance so that water flows and people can take a dump in a functioning toilet. The work is hardly perfect, and challenges of course remain in not only sustaining momentum for monitoring but also in ensuring that future investments in water and sanitation are done in a way that take seriously the lessons highlighted. Donors, implementing agencies and governments will need to change and adapt in ways they may not be comfortable with in the short- (or long-) term.
But if monitoring advances and Uganda continues to analyze and show results transparently then changes will most certainly come, as good practices will shine and bad practices will run out of excuses. And that will be good for people throughout the country. Exactly what good monitoring and transparency should actually do.