July ICYMI: Accountable Service Delivery and Corruption as an Operating System

In the heat of a DC summer, the city tends to empty out and event calendars tend to be less crowded. Things were no different here at Open Gov Hub, where many of our international members spend the summer months being out in the field. But we had two stand out events in July that we wanted to share with you all.

Promoting Accountable Service Delivery in Fragile Settings: Mercy Corp's Efforts to Improve Water Governance in the DRC

The IMAGINE program is a cross-sector, governance-related Mercy Corps program that helps improve access to water facilities for communities in Eastern DRC.

Three Takeaways:

  1. This project is the culmination of two main phases of infrastructure development that addresses poor access to water. Work started as a food for work water infrastructure/humanitarian project. Goal was to help reduce distance and wait time for users (~50 tap stand serving 150,000 people a day). It takes an integrated, multi-sector based approach (incorporating considerations about Governance, Gender, Service Provision, Infrastructure, and Behaviour Change)
  2. The governance component of this humanitarian and aid project is focused on improving feedback and communications on this water infrastructure and service provision between consumers, government, and public water service provider/operator (a private company, with public shareholders). The end impact goal is to significantly reduce diarrhea for children under 5 in this region.
  3. As part of this work, Mercy Corps performed a network analysis of public-private and civil society actors to build accountability and improve quality of service. What component of this etwork mapping is asking "who do you collaborate with (everyone over the past year)" of the wide variety of stakeholders involved in the full system of delivering water services.

Corruption as an Operating System

Carnegie Senior Fellow Sarah Chayes presented on her recent report on Corruption as an Operating System, based on her research and analysis of corruption networks in Honduras.

Three Takeaways:

  1. Corruption is best understood not as the aggregate phenomenon of many disconnected individuals with ill intentions, but rather as a coordination system and cross-sector, horizontally-integrated network that behaves in pursuit of what benefits the network. While this framework is based on research in Honduras, this Corruption as an Operating System model is relevant and can be applied to 60-70 countries in the world today.
  2. Because corruption is often facilitated through relationships between the state and private companies, public private partnerships can sometimes be a red flag/vulnerability to corruption. Similarly, private contracting to provide major public services like utilities and large-scale infrastructure are also often vulnerable to co-option (they are often a "honey pot" with major gains to be had) and key nodes in corruption networks.
  3. It is important to remember that nowadays in every context, corruption networks are transnational, with many layers of actors and incentives to consider. It is also important for CSOs trying to combat corruption to weigh the pros and cons of taking an insider vs. outsider strategy to engaging with their governments, either in confrontational and/or collaborative manners.