Public HealthPH2EDevelop inspection and audit protocols to ensure compliance with approved water and sanitation safety plans
Regulators regularly inspect service operators to control their compliance with water and sanitation safety plans.
They perform these audits on behalf of ministries of health or support their own inspection mechanisms through regular inspection reports on drinking water quality.
If delegated to regulators, this action is performed in accordance with transparent inspection protocols, predefined and accessible to all operators and consumers. These guidelines must present how inspections are conducted, approved, and reported.
Regulators must also transparently outline operators’ obligations and rights during inspection procedures, along with the time sequence of the audits.
- Service operators are regularly inspected.
- Dangerous impacts on public health are prevented.
- Water and sanitation safety plans are complied with by the implementation of corrective measures.
The auditing of water and sanitation safety plans (WSPs) involves independent and systematic checks to confirm completeness, adequate implementation, and effectiveness.
Auditing is an integral part and core component of WSP verification (see figure), but is distinct from WSP reviews. The WSP team should undertake WSP reviews regularly, and also after incidents or ‘near misses’, to keep WSPs current and effective. WSP auditing, by comparison, should ideally be carried out by an independent person or persons not directly involved in the development and implementation of WSPs.
Although distinct, WSP review and auditing are related, in that the results of auditing should always inform WSP teams’ ongoing review process, and both activities contribute to the continuous improvement of the WSP. Auditing may also form part of drinking-water quality surveillance programmes, being continuous and vigilant public health assessments and reviews of the safety and acceptability of a drinking water supply.
The WHO guidelines for drinking-water quality (2011) recommend that surveillance programmes include WSP auditing, in addition to direct assessments of water quality.
Internal capacities needed and the role of partners
To establish an inspection and audit protocols to ensure compliance with the approved water and sanitation safety plans, requires in-depth capacity on risk management, and specifically on risk management as it relates to water supply.
Based on that understanding, the process to develop inspection and audit protocols can begin. Development partners can support the entire process by providing awareness raising and capacity development training, promoting peer learning from countries with more experience, and providing direct technical assistance to review draft protocols.