WASH spending needs better tracking to increase impact (4/4)

This fourth and last blog is part of a four-part blog series written by Jo Walker who manages the Government Spending Watch (GSW) programme. It reflects some of the conclusions outlined in the most recent Government Spending Watch report “Financing the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons from Government Spending on the MDGs”.  This week’s blog highlights the necessity to hold governments accountable for progress of financing the SDG commitments.

Of the sectors which Government Spending Watch (GSW) tracks, the WASH sector has the least budget information available, especially when compared to other sectors (say health or education). Only 31 countries in our 67 strong country database, less than half, had the kinds of budget information which meant we could analyse and track spending across the whole WASH sector – hardly any have standalone budget data available on sanitation. The target GSW uses to track WASH spending (1.5% of GDP spending) has two components. Firstly, the agreement in 2008, at the eThekwini meeting of African Union Ministers, to spend 0.5% of GDP on sanitation and hygiene; and secondly studies, including by UNDP, which have suggested that meeting the MDG water goal requires 1% of GDP annually.

In most countries, the fragmented institutional framework of the WASH sector is another challenge.  Water and sanitation activities are often spread across two or more institutions (e.g. water in infrastructure and sanitation in health) and implementation through multiple, different agencies for rural and urban services – makes it hard to piece together overall spending. Water, sanitation and hygiene activities are often located across two or more institutions (water in infrastructure, and sanitation in health) and in multiple different agencies for rural and urban services – making it hard to piece together overall spending. “Water spending” may also cover many non-SDG related activities such as waste water management, dams and infrastructure projects for industrial water or energy, rather than providing clean water and sanitation to the poor. It is nearly impossible to work out the spending on sanitation and hygiene component alone. This means that the element of government spending which is the most difficult to account for, is also the area which had by far the least progress over the MDG period. This must be improved to help to ensure governments can be better held to account for progress on the SDGs.

Tracking spending on WASH must be improved also as a matter of urgency. Disaggregating spending on sanitation is a top priority for action. It will also become even more vital to distinguish between spending which is increasing access, and spending which is only increasing water provision and infrastructure to those with access already.

Here at Government Spending Watch we stand ready to work with others who are committed to holding their governments accountable for progress of financing their SDG commitments. Our aim is to continue to track WASH spending – along with the seven other sectors we track.  At present  our online, free, open-source database is available for all to use (for the years 2012-14), for 67 low- and lower-income countries and we are currently in the process of expanding to another 10 countries over this year (to take us to nearly 80) and are updating 2015-2016 budgets.  We’re keen to work with anyone in country committed to improving their own country data or to use this information for advocacy – if you want to find out more, or discuss your country do get in touch.

This blog is part of four-part blog series written by Jo Walker who manages the Government Spending Watch (GSW) programme. GSW believes that there is an urgent need for a much clearer picture of government spending, and for citizens, and their representatives in civil society organisations, to have access to comprehensive and timely data, so that they can hold their governments to account.

-> Read last week’s blog in the series “A balance between government, donor and private funds” (3/4).



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