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Luxembourg, 28 September 2012

"Water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa - EU Commission could and should do better” - EU Auditors

The European Union provides development assistance for water and sanitation throughout the world, including sub-Saharan Africa. Safe drinking water and sanitation improve health, and thus lead to faster economic growth and reduced poverty.

The ECA examined 23 projects in 6 sub-Saharan countries. The Court found that EU support had increased access to drinking water and basic sanitation, using standard technology and locally available materials. On the other hand fewer than half of the projects examined satisfactorily met the beneficiaries’ needs. And for a majority of projects results and benefits will not continue unless non-tariff revenue can be ensured.

“Access to drinking water and basic sanitation are important development objectives. EU support has made a valuable contribution to meeting them. But the Court’s audit revealed problems in a considerable number of the projects which we examined. It also indicated that the Commission was doing less than it might to maximise success and, in particular, to maximise the chances that projects will be sustainable – go on yielding benefits in the long term. The Commission should apply its existing management procedures more rigorously, and give more attention to whether and how projects can be expected to have access to the funding they need to ensure that they go on helping to improve the life and health of people in the countries concerned”. said David Bostock, the ECA Member responsible for the report.

Notes to the editors:

European Court of Auditors special reports are published throughout the year, presenting the results of selected audits of specific EU budgetary areas or management topics.

This special report 13/2012 (“European Union Development Assistance for Drinking-Water Supply and Basic Sanitation in Sub-Saharan Countries”) is a performance audit that aimed to assess whether the Commission has managed EU development assistance for drinking water and basic sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa so as to lead to effective and sustainable results.

The Court examined a sample of 23 projects in six countries, which represent a significant part of the aid delivered to that region, to see whether project results had been delivered and were likely to be sustained over time.

The principal findings of the audit were:

  • Overall, equipment was installed as planned and was in working order.

  • However, fewer than half of the projects examined delivered results meeting the beneficiaries’ needs.

  • Overall the projects examined promoted the use of standard technology and locally-available materials: they were sustainable in technical terms.

  • For a majority of projects, results and benefits will not continue to flow in the medium and long term unless non-tariff revenue is ensured; or because of institutional weaknesses (weak capacity by operators to run the equipment installed).

  • The Commission’s project management procedures cover sustainability comprehensively; but the Commission did not make good use of those procedures to increase the likelihood that projects will bring lasting benefits.

The Court recommends that in a number of respects the Commission should make better use of its existing procedures, so as to maximise the benefits from EU development expenditure in this area and sector.

Photographs taken in the course of the audit are available at:


Aidas Palubinskas

Press Officer

European Court of Auditors

Desk: +352 4398 45410 Mobile: +352 621 552224 Twitter: @EUAuditorsECA

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