Zambia Compact | Water Supply, Sanitation, and Drainage Evaluation
MCC must ensure that all activities have a well-articulated project logic leading to key outcomes of interest.
MCC must ensure that all activities have a well-articulated project logic leading to key outcomes of interest. Explicit articulation of assumptions in the logic can support prioritization during implementation toward key outcomes and align evaluation approaches to measure those key outcomes. The entire compact was one project with a large Infrastructure Activity and a much smaller Institutional Strengthening Activity, which were intended to be complementary. However, the Institutional Strengthening Activity was not clearly aligned with the Infrastructure Activity and the two were not well-integrated into the overall project logic. There was a lower emphasis on the institutional capacity building compared to infrastructure and this resulted in piece-meal technical assistance activities. Technical assistance was therefore viewed as a check-box exercise by some contractors rather than a holistic approach toward the improved utility outcomes. For example, the evaluation found that some utility staff engaged in receiving technical assistance to update the utility’s customer database were unclear that the goal of the exercise was to capture customers who were not previously billed, or were billed inaccurately, thereby improving the utility’s revenue in service of the financial sustainability outcome. Within the program logic, there was an implicit assumption that a financially stable utility will provide good service delivery (water and wastewater services), and also be incentivized to equitably distribute benefits to all its customers. Due diligence during the compact design phase indicated inequitable service delivery across the utility’s customer footprint with the burdens of inadequate service falling heavily on low income areas and on women. To address this issue, the MCC program provided technical assistance to the utility to improve the its structure, policies, and management practices to make it easier for vulnerable populations to pay their water bills and was successful in changing rules. However, it is unclear whether the updated policies and rules will be implemented to benefit vulnerable customers since a utility’s actions are influenced by the political economy of the broader sector, incentives, and entrenched power structures. The logic should have a realistic articulation of the assumption that the utility is incentivized to prioritize vulnerable customers. The incomplete articulation of the assumptions in the logic made it harder for the evaluator to fully understand the purpose and effectiveness of the technical assistance. On the programmatic side, it would be prudent to think of alternative approaches outside of the utility’s purview to address the two goals of utility financial sustainability, and equitable distribution of benefits to the customers. A critical behavior change assumption linking hygiene behaviors among the beneficiary population to downstream health benefits was not explicitly articulated in the logic and there was no coherent strategy geared to address this key assumption. Hygiene messaging was included as part of various Information, Education, and Communication campaigns, but it was in the context of other goals (such as sanitation connections) rather than toward reducing diarrheal disease.