Commercialisation as organised hypocrisy: The divergence of talk and action in water services in small towns in Uganda

Mireia Tutusaus
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands; mireiatutusausluque@gmail.com

Klaas Schwartz
IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands and Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam; k.schwartz@un-ihe.org

ABSTRACT: The topic of commercialisation in the water services sector has been subject to heated debate over the past years. By drawing on an analysis of the service of small towns by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation of Uganda, we argue that multiple interpretations of the commercialisation of services can coexist within a single water utility. Whereas the water utility claims to adhere to a model of commercial water provisioning, the implemented model shows significant deviations from the ideal. In this article, we elaborate on the organisational strategies that help sustain a dissonance between what is prescribed in the discourse and what happens on the ground and we mobilise the concept of organised hypocrisy to describe these strategies. We highlight that the water utility needs to show adherence to a commercial public utility model in order to access resources from donors and the national government, while it must at the same time provide actual water services to these towns. The collective celebration of the success of the discursive model of commercialisation, despite the deviations to the model during implementation, promotes the persistence of this model in the international policy domain.

KEYWORDS: Commercialisation, water supply services, organised hypocrisy, Uganda