WaterAid carried out analyses in 12 developing countries in Africa and Asia (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia) to identify some of the key blockages and systemic weaknesses that stand in the way of development finance reaching the local authorities who are responsible for delivering water and sanitation services. The research showed that in spite of policy commitments to decentralisation, local governments are consistently by-passed by those financing development, resulting in a high risk of duplication and inequitable coverage. In the countries studied, on average nearly two-thirds of capital expenditure for the water and sanitation sectors is outside of the local government budget and their direct control. This undermines governance and accountability at the local level. Local government’s own expenditure on water and sanitation barely gets above US$ 6 per capita per annum. And yet, even the simplest hand-dug wells cost US$ 30 per capita. National governments and donors in particular need to step back and allow local governments to make decisions (and mistakes) in response to local pressures. Recommendations are provided for the different stakeholders – national governments, donors, NGOs and local government – to improve financing for and governance at the local level.
Based on the research WaterAid has published a synthesis paper (“Think local, act local” by Laura Hucks, April 2008) and a full research report (“Financing water and sanitation at local levels” by Dinesh Mehta and Meera Mehta, Jan 2008).