"The wells in our village cost the donors a lot of money," says Lay Sa Em from Srey Knong village. "Why don’t we maintain and repair them with our own resources?"
Sustainably addressing water supply challenges means getting citizens and government to understand each other. A simple scorecard system is creating the right dialogue. SNV is continuing its work with government authorities in Chum Kiri district to strengthen water supply services through social accountability activities, including community scorecards and a complaints handling process.
Social accountability experts from the Cambodian NGO SILAKA conducted five days of training with province, district, and commune authorities. Social Accountability Facilitators were recruited from existing community focal points (including Community Health Volunteers and Commune Councils) and also joined in the training. Together they engaged in a variety of presentations, exercises, and role-play activities to learn about the concepts of social accountability and how they can be applied and facilitated at community level to improve water supply services.
After the training, the Social Accountability Facilitators took their newly acquired skills back to their respective communes. In each commune, two Facilitators ran a community scorecard activity with approximately 30 female and male citizens. People were then asked to prioritise the water supply issues that most affected their community. The top five issues were highlighted and all participants recorded their satisfaction about how these issues were being addressed via a five-point scale. "The wells provide a big benefit to us," said Lay Sa Em, noting that before the scorecard activity, there was no way to for citizens to voice problems. The activity accurately raised the priority issues from her community, she added.
The highest priority water supply issues raised by the citizens included:
- No functional mechanism to raise funds for well repair
- Authority and ownership over the infrastructure is weak
- No local resource person exists for well repair knowledge and advice
- Water quality from the tube wells is often poor
The highest priority issues raised by the government included:
- User groups for public water supply infrastructure are rarely present or active
- Lack of operation and maintenance knowledge at local level
- Poor practices related to household drinking water treatment
- Lack of willingness for users to contribute money towards well repairs
Back at the District Office, Provincial and District Rural Development (PDRD) officers were facilitating the scorecard process amongst local government officials. Subsequently, the supply (government) and demand (citizens) sides were brought together to share the results and to collaboratively propose actions and activities to address the key issues. These commitments will be disseminated throughout the programme area and monitored closely by provincial and district officials.By the end of the interface meeting, government and citizens agreed to conduct the following activities:
- Establish and strengthen Water Sanitation User Groups (WSUGs) for all 550+ public water supplies in the district
- Produce and implement a plan for water supply monitoring by local officials
- Select and train local well repair agents
- Install new wells in areas of need through activities proposed in commune investment plans
In the coming weeks, SNV and its partners will be working to disseminate the results from the community scorecard activity including the commitments made by local authorities. A complaints handling system will also be established so that situations where service levels are low can be raised to the attention of decision-makers.