Water Governance in Malaysia
Monday, April 5, 2010 Mohamad Mova Al'Afghani
A new paper from Chan (2010) about water governance in Malaysia argues the importance of stakeholder participation, transparency and accountability. Chan opined that the current move towards the centralisation of water services provision in Malaysia should be reconsidered as it well have an impact towards participation and transparency in the water services sector.
Below is the abstract:
Currently, it is widely believed that many water companies are linked to powerful politicians, making the awarding of contracts, tariffs and other management aspects non-transparent and ineffective. Ideally, politicians that govern should act on the professional advice of the water managers and not the other way around. Another area of water governance that needs to be intensified is the war against corruption. In the water sector, there should also be an all-out war on corruption at all levels of governance, in both the public and private sectors. Government should make all contracts in the water sector awarded through open tender with public consultation to ensure professionalism, fairness, transparency, accountability and good governance. Equally, all contracts and other relevant documents drawn up between the government and private companies should not be "classified" but instead be public documents available to the public for discussion, review and improvement. Another area to ensure better governance is for the government to engage and actively involved all stakeholders in the water sector, especially civil society and NGOs. Finally, the Federal Government should reconsider its plans to centralize the water sector by taking it over from State Governments. This is because, centralization would be contradictory towards involvement of all stakeholders and also pose problems to many states that had already privatized the water sector. Finally, governance of the water sector should be based on Integrated Water Resources Management which is the logical way forward in ensuring sustainable development.
In my paper for the Journal of Water Law (forthcoming), I discuss in specific the problem of transparency in the water sector and explore how institutions and legal framework could tackle them. I agree with Chan that tarrifs, contracts and tender should be transparent. At page 151 he argued:
To achieve the above objective, the government should make all contracts in the water sector awarded through open tender with public consultation. This would ensure professionalism, fairness, transparency, accountability and good governance. Equally, all contracts and other relevant documents drawn up between the government and private companies should not be “classified” but instead be public documents available to the public for discussion, review and improvement.
The condition is similar in Indonesia. In my March 30th newspaper article, I wrote:
When a Jakarta citizen asks to what rights are they entitled as a water customer, there’s not much that the 1992 and 1993 bylaws can answer because the 1998 privatization has changed the landscape of accountability from Jakarta’s local government and PAM Jaya to its concessionaires.
Some of the answers could be provided in the concession contracts. Unfortunately, the concession contracts are said to contain a confidentiality clause and therefore are never to be found in the public domain.
It appears that both Malaysia and Indonesia faces similar problem with respect to the transparency of contracts and operations. Fortunately, Indonesia have a Freedom of Information Law which will be enforced starting from next month and we do not have (yet-- and hopefully never will have) an Official Security Act (OSA). I red in Malaysiakini that some of the water deals are actually covered by OSA.
Read Chan's full paper here.