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Planning and corrupting water resources development: The case of small reservoirs in Ghana

Jean-Philippe Venot
International Water Management Institute, Burkina Faso;
Marc Andreini
International Water Management Institute, Washington, DC;
Crossley Beth Pinkstaff
Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, NY;

ABSTRACT: Agricultural (water) development is once again at the fore of the development agenda of sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, corruption is seen as a major obstacle to the sustainability of future investments in the sector but there is still little empirical evidence on the ways corruption pervades development projects. This paper documents the planning and implementation processes of two specific small reservoir programmes in the north of Ghana. We specifically delve into the dynamics of corruption and interrogate the ways they add to the inherent unpredictability of development planning. We argue that operational limitations of small reservoirs such as poor infrastructure, lack of managerial and organisational capacity at the community level and weak market integration and public support are the symptoms -€“ rather than inherent problems €- of wider lapses in the planning processes that govern the development of small reservoirs in Ghana and worldwide. A suite of petty misconduct and corrupt practices during the planning, tendering, supervision, and administration of contracts for the rehabilitation and construction of small reservoirs results in delays in implementation, poor construction, escalating costs, and ultimately failures of small reservoirs vis-à-vis their intended goals and a widely shared frustration among donor agencies, civil servants, contractors, and communities. Such practices hang on and can only be addressed through a better understanding of the complex web of formal decisions and informal rules that shape the understanding and actions of the state.