Sanitation and Hygiene Service Delivery in Urban Local Governments: A Federally Integrated Practice

Yilkal Ayalew Workneh, Centre for Federalism and Governance Studies, Addis Ababa University

Relevance of the Practice

One of the basic responsibilities of local government is sanitation and hygiene. Given rural areas are administered under woreda government, and state constitutions do not provide clearly defined functions to it, woredas have no stipulated functions pertaining to sanitation and hygiene in rural areas. As a matter of practice however, they have several functional competencies in which ‘implementation of health extension services’ is mentioned.[1] As one of the package of this function, the health extension employees work on improving the sanitation and hygiene conditions of the rural population. On the other hand, the federal and state legislations provide relatively clear competencies over sanitation and hygiene to urban centers. This entry has focused on issues of sanitation and hygiene service provision in urban local government.

Being centers of development activities, urban centers in Ethiopia had been engaged in delivering these functions. National policies and proclamations were also promulgated to guide and regulate such activities.[2] However various measures have not taken to improve sanitation conditions of the urban people in harmony with the existing policies and legal issues.[3] Moreover lack of an integrated waste management approach is identified as the main problem pertaining to sanitation and hygiene.[4] In response to this drawback an Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy (IUSHS) was launched in 2017 by the federal government. IUSHS could be identified as a non-legislative policy document having its own criteria for categorizing urban centers which are supposed to be fell under state functions.

There are also considerable gaps and overlaps in institutional roles and responsibilities at national, regional, city and town levels. For example there is an overlap of responsibilities between the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the Ministry of Water in relation to the control of solid and liquid waste being discharged into water bodies, especially by industries and hospitals.[5] The replica of this overlap has witnessed up to the lowest level of urban local government. These are resulted from the presence of initiatives, policies, strategies and programs which are conflicting each other.[6] Moreover there is a clear implementation gap in regulation and enforcement except the availability of guidelines and manuals.[7] The above ministries and Ministry of Urban Development are regulatory bodies pertaining to sanitation and hygiene. Even though regulation has been discharged enforcement is very low.[8] Moreover such institutions undertake various reforms without considering ways of treating the overlap of responsibilities existing among them.

Considering the above problems and the presence of demanding requirement of urban sanitation and hygiene an immediate intervention was needed. As a result, IUSHS was launched to integrate multi sector and multilevel coordination and efficiency. 

This report entry examines the content of the strategy document and its implementation activities on (of) urban local governments[9] in light of the institutional features of local government more specifically political autonomy and central supervision and co-operation. The latter feature has cemented an opportunity to relate this report entry with report section 5 which deals with intergovernmental relations.

Description of the Practice

In the late 2017, IUSHS was launched to integrate multi sector and multilevel coordination and efficiency regarding sanitation and hygiene service delivery. According to the strategy document, urban sanitation institutional arrangements shall include high level coordination, integration and alignment at the federal, regional and town level. Even though other sectors are part of it, those which should play front line role in the implementation of IUSHS are: the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, the Ministry of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity, and the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change.

In order to increase efficiency and avoid responsibility overlap problems, a steering committee was established at all levels. However, the federal and regional steering committees are key components for improving the profile of urban sanitation. The basic structure encompasses the following sectors of respective federal and regional levels: Health, Water Irrigation and Energy, Urban Development and Housing, Environment and Forestry as well as Culture and Tourism. Their major responsibilities, apart from supervision, are: facilitate inter-sectoral and platforms that are involved in urban sanitation and hygiene management; review and endorse the national/ regional/ strategic development plan and annual consolidated integrated urban sanitation and hygiene plans and budgets.

The structural arrangement at town level composes the following sectors: heads of Water Utility, Education Office, Finance Office, Urban Development Office, Women’s Association, Youth Association and representatives of NGOs, development partners, business community, health facilities representative and micro credit organizations. These have responsibilities to: prepare plan for launching sanitation and hygiene promotional activities along with budget, joint plan of action and responsibilities based on the framework of this sanitation master plan document

Autonomy of Urban Local Government

In establishing the five categories of urban centers, the strategy document uses clear criteria (population size) for the purpose of sanitation and hygiene service delivery.[10] It sounds good pertaining to institutional security of the existence of local government. However, criteria are not congruent with those the regional states’ proclamations adopted to establish urban centers. Accordingly, the mandate of the federal government remained questionable since it encroaches against the autonomy of the regional states to establish administrative structures of their own.[11]

IUSHS provides more detail and clear functions to each category of urban centers regarding to sanitation and hygiene service delivery which is guided and coordinated by structural arrangement as discussed above. These functions are given as a minimum service package and technology defined for each category of urban center. The package is used for first start up and then each urban administration will expand sanitation services based on their power to plan and implement. Nonetheless, the strategy does not introduce new directions which enhance the decentralized autonomy of town and city governments.

It is common in many federal systems that the federal government has provided a benchmark through framework laws for those other orders of governments to meet or achieve more. At the same time, there is the principle of mutual non-interference over the respective competencies of orders of governments in federal systems. Hence, one level of government cannot dictate the other to do this and that. Despite this, the policy documents and proclamations enacted by the federal government empower the federal ministries to encroach at the expense of regional states’ and urban centers’ jurisdiction. In this case the IUSHS and Solid Waste Management Proclamation are prominent. While the IUSHS did as it established urban local governments and set their respective competencies, the Waste Management Proclamation establishes ‘Environmental Protection Agency’ to control the implementation of action plans issued by the same proclamation at the lowest administrative units of urban administrations. The designed plans in the proclamation go beyond setting benchmarks and prescribe what type of waste is going to be managed in what ways. Such detailed prescriptions made by the strategy document and proclamation are actions beyond the mandate of the federal government. There is no constitutional basis for the federal government to do this and apart from the two federally administered cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, solid waste management is the function of the states. This might result in conflict of jurisdiction between the two levels or infringes the both the autonomy of the states and urban local governments.

Central Supervision

Central supervision encompasses four elements: regulation, monitoring, support and intervention and its rationale is to ensure: the proper and legally functioning of local government; equitability and uniformity in the distribution of service across the country and national priorities are not compromised by local government autonomy.[12] One of the rationales for the adoption of IUSHS is the issue of supervision. The strategy document has included the four components of central supervision powers. The one-year plan implementation report of the two fore front ministries, Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Health, concentrated on the issues of supervision. 

The national steering committee has the power to set national standards, guidelines, quality indicators and time frame. This will be cascaded to the regional steering committee and until the lowest level of urban government. Towns are expected to assign urban sanitation standards that are aligned with national standards and options. Each relevant institution is obliged to establish a focal person at all levels who is responsible to oversee that the minimum standard is achieved. IUSHS is highly directed to capacity building of town and city administrations to effectively discharge sanitation and hygiene service delivery. Preparing domestic and abroad trainings is the mandate of the national steering committee. Moreover, as one can observe from the one-year accomplishment reports, each responsible ministry has been giving capacity building programs. Though not clearly put whether the regional or the federal one will intervene, it has been stated as ‘uptake of services will be conducted for mismanagements after support’.[13]

Intergovernmental Cooperation

Considering the inevitable nature of overlap of power and interdependence between orders of governments IGR comes to play in federations. However, there is a concern that claims little attention was given to the importance of involving local government in inter-governmental co-operation for development.[14] The desire for inclusion of local government is associated with the need for cooperation and harmonization of policies on shared programs. Local government activities should be in line with those of the national and state policies and strategies and national policies must take into account the interests of local government.[15] However the IUSHS does not establish a kind of forum for participation of all levels of government in discharging sanitation service. The steering committees are established by following the formal state structure: federal-state-city/town-kebele. The only interaction is happened when the state or federal government appeared during the time of supervision or training. Hence one can argue that, the nature of relation is co-coordinative rather than co-operative given that local governments are hierarchically subordinate to the regions.

Assessment of the Practice

The IUSHS has developed to give guidance in the future intervention to avoid the problems discussed in the first part of this report entry. The strategy document noted that the successfulness of the intervention is determined by the effectiveness of institutions in managing urban sanitation in various categories of towns and follow up the implementation of the program in an integrated manner. However, beyond the commitments mentioned the achievement of the aspired goal is determined by the institutional features that are deemed likely to enhance the prospect of a decentralization program for achieving development.[16] It is too early to evaluate the performance of the strategy since only one year passed the memorandum of understanding is signed by the concerned federal institutions.

However, if one takes a closer look in to the national strategy documents and a year implementation report, it is somewhat less promising to achieve the aspired goals: development and democracy. City and town administrations are supposed to be autonomous administrative units. The strategy document does not have sensitive provisions regarding urban local government autonomy rather it prescribes the roles and responsibilities of thereof. Certainly, inconsistency is happening between the type of urban local governments established and the criteria used by the federal and the regional states. As a result, the encroachment of the former powers against the latter is inevitable. In addition, as all local governments are controlled by the ruling party, in fact current fragmentations led to uncertain prospects; its decisions have infringed the roles of local legislatures.

Despite the autonomy of local government is crucial in achieving socio-economic transformation at grass root level, there are also negative effects of autonomy including inequity, corruption, elite capture and the like.[17]As a result, in most decentralized and federal systems supervision and intergovernmental cooperation has been used by the senior governments. The strategy document and its implementation reports are directed to supervision and alignment functions. It emphasizes intergovernmental coordination without an institutional arrangement which gets together the levels of governments. The institutional arrangement is aimed only to avoid overlap and discrepancies between sectoral institutions. Hence it is safe to say that the practice reflects central supervision rather than intergovernmental cooperation.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Legal Documents:

Federal Republic of Ethiopia Solid Waste Management Proclamation no 513/2007

Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Ayele Z, ‘Decentralization, Development and Accommodation of Ethnic Minorities: The Case of Ethiopia’ (doctoral dissertation, University of Western Cape 2012)

—— and Nigussie S, ‘The Constitutional and Legislative Framework for Local Government in Ethiopia’ (2018) 5 Ethiopian Journal of Federal Studies

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia FDRE, ‘Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy’ (FDRE 2015)

Fessha YT and Ayele Z, ‘Who’s the Boss? Questioning the Constitutional Authority of Federal Regulation of Local Government’ (2016) Ethiopian Journal of Federal Studies

Hayal D, Hailu W, and Aramde F, ‘Assessment of the Contemporary Municipal Solid Waste Management in Urban Environment: The Case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’ (2014) 7 Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 107

Manor J, The Political Economy of Democratic Decentralization (World Bank 1999)

WSUP Advisory, ‘Developing an Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy and Strategic Action Plan for Ethiopia’(Draft Situational Analysis for Ethiopia’s IUSHS)

[1] Zemelak Ayele and Solomon Negussie, ‘The Constitutional and Legislative Framework for Local Government in Ethiopia’ (2018) 5 Ethiopian Journal of Federal Studies, 33.

[2] A National Solid Waste Management Proclamation no 513/2007 dealing comprehensively with all aspects of Solid Waste Management (SWM) is being used in all its federal and sates. The authorization in setting rules, laws, regulations and standards as well as imposing penalties for non-compliance regarding the management of solid waste is given to the ‘Federal Environmental Protection Authority’ which adopts the National Environmental Policy. The Ministry of Health is also responsible to play a principal role in issues related to ‘Public Health and Sanitation’ for which SWM is part and parcel of it. Ministry of Urban Development has also ‘Urban Solid Waste Handling and Disposal Strategy’ vis-à-vis its main ‘Urban Development Policy’.

[3] Hayalu Desta, Hailu Worku and Aramde Fetene, ‘Assessment of the Contemporary Municipal Solid Waste Management in Urban Environment: The Case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’ (2014) 7 Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 107, 118.

[4] ibid.

[5] WSUP Advisory, ‘Developing an Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy and Strategic Action Plan for Ethiopia’(Draft Situational Analysis for Ethiopia’s IUSHS) 30.

[6] FDRE, ‘Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy’, above, 12.

[7] ibid.

[8] ibid.

[9] Urban centers or urban local government signifies in this paper town and city governments both at federal and regional state level. The Situational Analysis of IUSHS has classified urban centers in to 5 categories ranging from small towns to metropolitan City of Addis Ababa based on demographic size.

[10] According to Situational Analysis of IUSHS, the population size of small towns ranges from 2,000 to 20,000 people. The medium-sized towns range between 20,000 and 50,000. Large-sized towns range between 50,000 and 100,000 people. There are 13 mega towns with a population between 100,000 and 500,000 people each. Addis Ababa is the only city in the country that hosts over 500,000 with about 3.5 million residents.

[11] The Federal Constitution has no supremacy clause in time of inconsistencies of laws of both levels of governments. However, as a matter of practice the federal one prevails over the regional states.

[12] Yonatan T Fessha and Zemelak A Ayele, ‘Who’s the Boss? Questioning the Constitutional Authority of Federal Regulation of Local Government’ (2016) Ethiopian Journal of Federal Studies, 85-86.

[13] WSUP, ‘Integrated Urban Sanitation and Hygiene Strategy’, above, 50.

[14] Zemelak Ayele, ‘Decentralisation, Development and Accommodation of Ethnic Minorities: The Case of Ethiopia’ (doctoral dissertation, University of Western Cape 2012) 71.

[15] ibid 72.

[16] These institutional features are: political autonomy, fiscal autonomy, administrative autonomy, and central supervision and co-operation.

[17] Ayele, ‘Decentralisation, Development and Accommodation of Ethnic Minorities’, above, 67.