Reflecting on the findings of health and agriculture service delivery monitoring in Southern Africa, a cross-section of 87 representatives from government, parliament, civil society and farmers organisations, who met in Lusaka, Zambia from 4 – 7 March, issued a communiqué today. The communiqué calls upon SADC and its member states to improve accountability to accelerate the achievement of regional commitments.
“Social accountability is a prerequisite for the delivery of quality social services, and ultimately for the achievement of food security and good health for all people of Southern Africa,” said Mr. Barney Karuuombe, Manager: Parliamentary Capacity Development (PCD), SADC PF, addressing the meeting on 6 March.
The final communiqué of the meeting urged the SADC National Parliaments and the SADC Parliamentary Forum, among other recommendations, “to promote awareness of the regional health and agriculture commitments at both the national and regional levels and ensure oversight of the same through appropriate mechanisms.”
“What happens in one country in our region, affects all of us. It is our responsibility as citizens to ensure the regional agreements which our governments sign are realistic and representative of our aspirations. We must then hold them accountable for their realisation,” explained Ms. Gertrude Mugizi, Coordinator of the Regional Learning Programme at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).
In response to the new SADC Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Strategy (2019-2030), the meeting communiqué calls for “SADC Member States to commit 5% of their national health budget for implementation of the SADC SRHR Strategy (2019-2030). Additionally, local government authorities, where relevant, should at least commit 10% of their own sources for the facilitation of the implementation by local health departments.”
“As adolescents and young people of the region, we demand that nothing should be developed for us, without our involvement. Nothing for us, without us. If governments commit to delivering sexual and reproductive services for youth, we should be able to access these in our communities,” a social accountability monitoring (SAM) champion from Zambia, Mr. Ng’andwe Ng’andwe, told the delegates.
In the area of agriculture support for smallholder farmers, the communiqué stated “[we] urgently call upon SADC Member States to support innovative research and development as well as the implementation of alternatives to hybrid seeds and chemically intensive agriculture such as (i) integrated pest management (ii) use of community-based seed systems (iii) improvement of soil fertility through increasing soil organic matter and to (iv) facilitate the diversification of farmer support programmes and the redirection of funds towards the adoption of agroecological practices.”
“We need farmer support programmes that respond to the needs of smallholder farmers in the region. The FISPs undermine our sustainable practices by only providing hybrid seeds and synthetic fertilisers. What we need is support for us to better use our own seed systems and adopt sustainable agroecological practices,” explained Zambian smallholder farmer and member of ESAFF Zambia, Ms. Mary Sakala.
The Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance held two events – a Regional Learning Forum and Regional Budget Summit – from 4 to 7 March 2019 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia. The Regional Learning Forum explored examples of good practices and working models in promoting social accountability in service delivery in the region.
The Regional Budget Summit, held in partnership with the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), focused on the findings of ongoing national and local level social accountability monitoring across four countries – Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia – and how these impact on the realisation of regional SADC commitments in health and agriculture. Participants also reflected on the critical oversight role of parliamentarians and parliamentary committees in ensuring the accountable use of public funds.
The PSA Alliance is a consortium led by ActionAid together with PSAM, ESAFF and SAfAIDS, and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has been implementing a social accountability project in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia since May 2016. In each of the four countries, the multi-stakeholder project has provided training to build the capacity of state officials and parliamentarians to more effectively manage public funds, as well as support for civil society organisations, smallholder farmers and the media in holding their leaders to account.
For more information on the project ‘Strengthening Social Accountability and Oversight in Health and Agriculture in Southern Africa’, please contact Chrispin Chomba, +260211257652, firstname.lastname@example.org, SAfAIDS Zambia or Maureen Zulu, +260974757586, email@example.com, ActionAid Zambia.
The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) has announced its 4th global Call for Proposals (CfP) for civil society organizations (CSOs) and CSO networks.
GPSA has invited its 52 opted-in countries, through the World Bank’s country management units, to express interest to participate in the CfP. A shortlist of countries will be defined and announced in Spring 2019, along with the thematic focus for each country. The application process will then be opened for CSOs in those shortlisted countries.
CSOs include legal entities that fall outside the public or private sectors, such as non-government organizations, not-for-profit media organizations, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional organizations, labor unions, workers’ organizations, associations of elected local representatives, foundations and policy development and research institutes.
The criteria the GPSA will use for shortlisting countries include:
Government and World Bank country management demand in a given country, as well as alignment with the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework;
Synergies with current and pipeline World Bank operations;
The potential to raise or leverage funds complementary to those of the GPSA.
The focus of this CfP will be “Innovative and transformative use of social accountability to solve critical governance and development challenges”. Specific themes are being prioritized for each country, following a menu based on the GPSA’s mission and track record:
Governance themes: Public finance and budget, anti-corruption and oversight institutions (notably Supreme Audit Institutions), decentralization and local governance, and domestic resource management.
Governance in sectors: Education, health, social protection, agriculture and water. Synergies with the Human Capital Project will be of great interest.
Fragility, Conflict and Violence-afflicted (FCV) settings: Risk mitigation of IDA investments through civil society-led third-party monitoring; improving responsiveness in public service delivery and strengthening the enabling environment for conflict prevention and social cohesion.
Frontier themes: Climate change, GovTech & CivicTech, and social inclusion.
Grant amounts will range from US$400,000 to US$500,000 over a period of three to four years. However, requests for funding below this range will also be considered. The total envelope for this CfP is approximately $US3 million dollars, with additional funds expected to be raised from other partners, mostly at the national level.
Grants are intended to provide strategic and sustained support to CSO projects with the following objectives:
Addressing critical governance and development challenges through social accountability processes that involve citizen feedback and participatory methodologies geared to helping governments and public-sector institutions address these challenges. Special emphasis is on problems that affect extreme poor and marginalized populations.
Strengthening civil society’s capacities for social accountability by investing in CSOs’ institutional strengthening and through mentoring of small, nascent CSOs by well-established, larger CSOs with a track record on social accountability.
More information regarding the application guidelines, process, and deadline for submitting the proposals, as well as countries’ priority themes, will soon be available on this webpage. Stay tuned!
Silas Okumu leads the parent teacher association at a primary school in Kisenge, a small community just 600 meters from Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. In October 2018, he travelled six hours by bus to the capital, Kampala, to talk to the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), a non-profit that works on contract monitoring, about a construction project at the school where his four children are students.
Recounting the details from neat handwritten papers, he explained that new classrooms and an administrative block had been built (with support from the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank), but the community had unresolved concerns: there weren’t enough classrooms for all the students, the school lacked teachers’ housing, a fence and electricity, and the new classrooms weren’t furnished.
AFIC’s staff had visited Kisenge primary school when construction was underway, checking the quality of building materials and following up when things weren’t going well with the contractors. When Okumu told them about the community’s other requests, they advised him to write the details down and promised to inform the relevant authorities. Okumu had come to Kampala to deliver his letter in person, so AFIC could share it with various government offices and follow up to ensure action was taken.
Demanding accountability: a network tracking public contracting across Uganda
AFIC is part of a network of passionate Ugandans who dedicate their time to tracking public contracting processes across the country, helping citizens like Silas Okumu to ensure their communities get the goods, services and works they need, and public officers have the information and resources they need to purchase those items at the fairest price. The group is diverse, but shares a common goal: “value for money, value for many.” They believe this occurs most effectively when people understand the contracts that affect their communities and participate in decisions made about those deals — from companies wanting to do business with the government to citizens who benefit from the services.
Before open contracting was established, citizens made complaints and requests about contracts on an ad-hoc basis, they didn’t know whether any action was taken, and there was often little clarity about which government office was responsible for what processes.
The strength and collaborative nature of this group has helped them to advocate successfully for the government to adopt open contracting — a best practice approach designed to improve the management and performance of public contracting through open data and public engagement. It’s an ambitious project — corruption is endemic in Uganda, especially in public procurement, the anti-graft laws are poorly enforced, freedom of speech is often restricted, and government agencies are under-resourced. Unreliable IT infrastructure and technology make setting up stable digital resources a challenge.
But there are early signs this network’s efforts seem to begin paying off. The government has used open contracting to begin making its public procurement portal more useful for a wider range of people. Civil society has created their own platform that displays procurement information in a way that’s easy for community monitors to understand, drawing on open data extracted from the government’s portal and supplemented by FOI requests. The public procurement agency is using open contracting data to identify potential irregularities in procurement processes. Public access to contracting documents has improved since open contracting reforms were introduced, as have communication channels between citizens, civil society and public servants. Meanwhile, the government is drafting an amendment to the procurement law, the PPDA Act, that would improve transparency and accountability in the sector. There have also been notable improvements reported in some procurement policies and practices; in particular, public officers say contracting data has helped them to plan and budget better, and open contracting has been embedded in anti-corruption reforms within the country’s largest procuring entity.
Towards a new, more collaborative and open approach to public contracting
AFIC’s executive director Gilbert Sendugwa recalls reporting anomalies to the national procurement oversight body, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), as early as 2011, when he was the chairman of a board of governors overseeing education development projects in Rushenyi county. He says the PPDA didn’t respond to him directly, but speaking to beneficiaries sometimes revealed that complaints had been addressed.He continued to share information with the PPDA informally, before they signed a formal agreement with him. When a coalition of procurement monitors was established, PPDA began hosting their meetings and training them on the agency’s processes. Now “we work very warmly and very openly in a strong partnership,” Sendugwa says
In 2015, the PPDA launched the Government Procurement Portal (GPP), an online platform to systematically publish contracting information. But despite its good intentions, civil society groups found it difficult to use. The platform featured data on procurement plans, tender notices, winning bidders’ names, awards, contract status and suspended suppliers. But many procuring entities didn’t publish their data, and contracting processes lacked unique identifiers so they couldn’t be followed through different stages of the procurement cycle. Important data were also missing — such as detailed bidder information, award criteria, implementation milestones and amendments, and procurement plans for local district governments (see detailed data mapping) — and the data formats weren’t user-friendly.
AFIC began advocating for open contracting with the Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition (UCMC) five years ago, as a way to make information about contracts more accessible, useful and timely. With the help of fellow transparency advocates from Nigeria and elsewhere, AFIC used open contracting mapping tools to assess the quality of the procurement agency’s data against international standards, and how the GPP could be improved to allow better monitoring by civil society. In 2016, they compared a sample of GPP data against the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), a universal schema for organizing the most important information about contracting processes, from the planning stage to award and implementation.
The OCDS made gaps in the data apparent, such as planning and implementation milestones, bidder enquiries, and tender updates. After hearing AFIC’s findings and recommendations, the procurement agency asked the civil society group to expand their assessment to cover all the portal’s data and agreed to redesign the portal in line with the OCDS. The PPDA was convinced because they could see the benefit of open contracting to their work — improving disclosure, public participation, and public sector responsiveness would improve their capacity to monitor public procurement, and create better practices among procuring entities, who often had a reputation for failing to follow procurement rules, in some cases awarding contracts based on personal or political preferences rather than value for money. Now, PPDA data shows 402 procuring entities are registered on the GPP, 202 of which disclosed procurement plans for the 2017/18 fiscal year, compared to 97 entities registered in 2015/16 before the redesign. Each contracting process has a unique identifier across the procurement cycle and data is in accessible and reusable formats (Excel and JSON).
Edwin Muhumuza, performance monitoring manager at the PPDA shares: “… for citizens to be engaged in promoting accountability for effective service delivery, they must have information related to the contracts that are being implemented in their localities. Our commitment to open contracting is also intended to leverage the capabilities of other stakeholders such as civil society organizations in monitoring public contracts. Making public procurement information accessible to the public also enables us to take advantage of the civil society organizations’ networks that can supplement and complement our efforts in contract monitoring. We have seen the fruits of such collaboration, and they have encouraged us to promote open contracting.”
Putting open contracting data to use: Identifying red flags
With open data, the PPDA has enough complete records to flag and investigate anomalies, such as incorrect award methods, overpricing, and time overruns. For example, an officer at the PPDA noticed that the bid process was restricted for a valuable contract for supervisory services at the Kabaale International Airport. Normally Uganda would run an open competitive procedure for a 21.3 billion shilling (US$5.7 million) contract, according to Edwin Muhumuza. But after making further enquiries, Muhumuza told us, the PPDA found the direct award was legal, because it was requested by the international funder and international agreements take precedence over other procurement legislation (the PPDA Act).
AFIC has extracted data from the GPP to build their own tool specifically designed for civil society and citizens, Budeshi.ug, which it released in October 2018. The GPP data in Budeshi is further supplemented by contracts and information obtained through Freedom of Information requests. The tool is an adaptation of one developed by AFIC’s partners in Nigeria, the Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC). Like the Nigerian platform, Budeshi.ug offers powerful analyses focused on information of interest to citizens and civil society in particular. It allows users to search projects by procuring entity, contractor, procurement method, project type, and year, and run basic analyses on the aggregated data. AFIC also plans to upload other data sets, such as budget and spending data, to perform further analysis. This cross-referencing of data sets can lead to powerful insights. For example, Emanuele Colonnelli, an academic and researcher collaborating with the PPDA, said he requested Uganda’s tax registry data manually and combined it with GPP data to reveal 45% of firms doing business with government never pay taxes (study yet to be published).
A shared mission for better procurement: building relationships between civil society and government
Members of civil society from AFIC and UCMC have repeated their evidence-based advocacy approach to earn the trust of other institutions who had been unresponsive, even when the civil society groups invoked access to information laws. Their monitoring work serves several purposes: to increase communities’ understanding of individual projects — looking for signs of common problems like potential fraud, collusion, diversion of funds, or inflated costs — and to motivate government agencies to engage more actively in open contracting, which in turn increases the amount and quality of data on the GPP.
Through this work, we have seen that proactive disclosure and collaboration have improved among district governments where civil society monitors contracts and the PPDA has trained procurement officers in using and uploading data to the portal.
Before their first monitoring report was finalized, AFIC shared their draft findings and recommendations with the relevant agencies and incorporated their input in the final report. They invited elected officials who have an oversight role, accounting officers and the heads of departments. This helped to improve accountability, but it also gave different stakeholders a chance to raise concerns about capacity or resource needs.
“Initially in these districts they were not cooperating, giving us information and contracts,” said Sendugwa. “We had to get some of them through the PPDA. But after our first report, when we shared results, that’s when it opened doors to establish formal relationships.”
Shortly after, three districts signed MoUs with AFIC to share their contracting information. Six months later, when AFIC conducted their second round of monitoring, they gathered more than three times as many contracts (98 contracts, 37 of which were accessed via the GPP, compared to 29 contracts in 2017, all accessed via FOI request) and all five districts’ procurement plans (three via the GPP). The other two districts signed MoUs after the second monitoring period. After this improvement in data disclosure, PPDA registered 43 additional procuring entities to the GPP and trained 86 officers from these entities on using the open contracting data portal.
The PPDA and Ministry of Finance also adopted AFIC’s recommendation to enshrine open contracting in the procurement legislation. An amendment to the PPDA Act is currently being drafted by the First Parliamentary Counsel.
At the agency level, open contracting has been embedded in important measures to address endemic corruption in the largest procuring entity, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) (a commission of inquiry in 2016, for example, found the agency had misappropriated more than 40% of its road construction budget over seven years). According to the PPDA, the entity has begun publishing additional procurement information, such as procurement plans, via digital platforms and traditional media, and engaging more with contractors and other stakeholders. This has helped potential bidders to plan better and make more competitive offers, according to the UNRA’s Procurement Director John Omeke Ongimu. Several people interviewed from government and civil society also said bids per tender at the UNRA have increased and come from a wider range of firms and countries. Reported improvements like these represent an encouraging first step in the right direction, and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) hopes to conduct a quantitative evaluation of them in the near future.
Better planning and budgeting
Officers from central government agencies and district governments told the OCP that compliance has improved and procurement processes are more efficient and transparent since the GPP was updated. For example, timelines and automated notifications of delays help them to track processes; the list of blacklisted suppliers helps them evaluate proposals; and bid notices can be printed by providers, rather than collected in person after being prepared manually.
Procurement plans have become more realistic and within budget, according to the government officials interviewed. A procurement officer at the Ministry of Education, Richard Ahimbisibwe, said the ministry’s budgeting has improved, because they and the PPDA can monitor actual spending against procurement plans more efficiently. When the ministry’s initial procurement plan for the 2017/18 fiscal year was over budget by 200 billion shillings, the PPDA followed up with the procurement unit, who took a second look and found they were able to remove some unnecessary items and cut costs of others to bring the plan within budget.
Civil society has observed improvements in procurement planning, too. Only 21 percent of the contracts obtained by AFIC for their first monitoring reportin October 2017 were included in the government’s approved procurement plans (6 out of 29 contracts), which could indicate a diversion of funds. Their second report, in April 2018, revealed a significant improvement — 86 percent of contracts were in the plans (32 out of 37 contracts analyzed). AFIC has added information on the contracts obtained via FOI request to the Budeshi monitoring platform.
Between the two monitoring periods, PPDA trained procurement officers in the districts and updated the planning template in the GPP to ensure a link between planned contracts and those being awarded and executed. Now, if a contract is not in the procurement plan, it cannot be entered in the GPP. And government has a better understanding of who in government buys what, from whom and when.
Next steps and embedding a change of culture
While the story so far shows the promise for open data and open contracting in Uganda’s public procurement, it’s also very volatile. The GPP was down for half of 2018 and a new e-procurement system is in development, which could derail some of the progress, as it’s unclear to what extent it will integrate open contracting and the work already invested in the GPP.
At the institutional level, major weaknesses in the enforcement of legislation and procurement processes continue to allow for corruption and impunity, according to representatives of both government and civil society.
“Government has made progress in disclosing contracting information,” said Sendugwa. “Several investigations and commissions of inquiry have been made in procurement-related scandals. However, these efforts are undermined by lack of action against the big fish when [they] are involved in corrupt practices.”
The PPDA’s Executive Director Benson Turamye has expressed similar concerns, noting in a statement for Uganda’s 2017 Anti-Corruption Week that despite procurement reforms having some success, “serious challenges persist including corruption, non-compliance with the procurement act and regulations, un-standardized procurement processes across procuring and disposal entities, continuous delays in delivery of supplies and services, and wastage of resources through uncompetitive and closed purchases.” He also mentioned a 2015 PPDA survey that found almost 60 percent of bidders said they had paid a public official to influence the outcome of a tender.
Uganda is working now on redesigning the GPP so that it can hold large amounts of data and remain stable. But where we really need the investment, according to Gilbert Sendugwa, is in promoting use of data by different stakeholders.
“[We want] those who are mandated for oversight to be able to use this data to empower their decision making, [along with] those who are involved in service monitoring…and those who implement contracts,” says Gilbert Sendugwa.
Citizens particularly need more information about what happens to the complaints made, as they develop more confidence in requesting contracting documents and dealing with officials.
The persistence of Silas Okumu, who had been calling AFIC every day, is paying off for Kisenge primary school. Staff absenteeism was a problem because teachers lived far away, so the community asked to repurpose iron sheets from the school’s construction site to build teacher housing. AFIC informed the Ministry of Education who decided that iron sheets at all similar World Bank project sites should be given to the communities for teacher housing. Unaware that the community knew about this decision, contractors started removing iron sheets designated for Kisenge primary school staff accommodation. Okumu immediately called Gilbert Sendugwa, who contacted the district government. He asked them to stop the contractors since they had a letter from the Ministry of Education explaining that the materials were for the community. They didn’t cooperate, so Sendugwa called the local police commissioner. When the contractors continued to take the materials, Sendugwa told the commissioner that he was reporting the situation to the Inspectorate of Government and would inform them that the commissioner was following up to help. After about an hour after the call, Chairman Okumu said the iron sheets had been returned to the school.
“I found it very interesting, but also humbling — the power of information by the community,” said Sendugwa. Open contracting in Uganda is still a work in progress but thanks to the efforts of AFIC, the PPDC and committed local activists, the journey has begun.
This article was originally published by Open Contracting here
Three SADC journalists each received a 2018 Southern Africa Media Award in Social Accountability Reporting on Thursday 29 November at Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa.
Presented during the gala awards dinner at the 22nd annual Highway Africa conference, the world’s largest gathering of African journalists, recipients Winston Mwale (Malawi), Derrick Chityamba (Zambia) and Josephine Chinele (Malawi) earned first, second and third place, respectively, for their outstanding contribution to investigative reporting on social accountability in the Southern Africa region.
Presented by the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance and Highway Africa, the awards recognise journalists in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia for investigative reporting that contributes to improved services in public health and agriculture, particularly in the areas of HIV and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and food security.
Currently in its second year, the awards further aim to promote social accountability coverage in the region considering the challenges to good governance, as well as the threat to individuals who dare to report on such issues.
“Information flows are necessary factors to strengthening social accountability practice,” said Lindelwa Nxele, Programme officer of the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM). “Media…disseminate and distribute news that do not only inform the general public of current events, but also investigate issues that affect the state of the nation.”
The third prize story by Chinele, ‘Sexual rituals put Nsanje girls in harm’s way’ puts much needed spotlight on the forced prostitution of young girls to elderly men for sexual cleansing rituals. The front-page article was published on 23 September2018 by The Sunday Times Malawi. “The story stands out because Chinele also questions the traditional authority about what they are doing to stop it,” said Julie Middleton of ActionAid and adjudicator for the awards.
Chityamba’s second place story takes a similar stand as it calls the Zambian government to book for the newly introduced e-voucher solutions system, along with the various challenges it has posed for farmers and agricultural production this year. Chityamaba took the role of co-producer on this in-depth radio piece which aired on Oblate Radio Liseli on 8 August 2018.
Receiving first prize win is radio journalist Mwale. The story looks at a controversy in the Mchinji district of Malawi, where community members accuse the supervisor of a maternity ward construction project of diverting materials to build his own house in the same area.
Highway Africa applauded Mwale at the ceremony, describing his coverage on the diversion of public resources for personal use as a prime example of the vibrant reporting to come out of Zodiak Broadcasting Station. “Within Malawi Zodiak has played a critical role in political transition. It stood firm with all sorts of threats, but they’ve stood strong. And as a veteran, Winston demonstrates a similar resolve”.
Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance is led by ActionAid International together with Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), and SAfAIDS, and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Exploring what it takes to enhance social accountability practice.
The conference theme aims to interrogate the challenges of working in the social accountability field and specifically the elements which allow for successful social accountability practice, where practitioners are able to enhance the interaction between the state and the public. The conference will explore the manner in which social accountability practice is impacted by context, by power, by the ecosystem of actors within the sector and by actors we may consider outside of the ecosystem.
Clean water. Paved roads. Quality education. Election campaigns in poor countries typically promise such things, yet the reality on the ground often falls short. So, what do people do? Wait for five years and “throw the bums out” if they fail to deliver? For many people, the stakes are too high, and they may have well-grounded doubts about the ability of democracy to deliver anything other than a new set of bums. It’s worth asking, then, what other actions citizens take to improve their lives.
Building on Richard Batley and Claire Mcloughlin’s work on service characteristics as well as my own research on the politics of service delivery in East Africa, I’ve identified various factors affecting the likelihood that people will mobilize for improved public services. These include how frequently people experience (problems with) a given service, their ability to pay for private alternatives, and their expectations about the likelihood of improvements in response to their actions.
To better understand such dynamics, I’ve begun exploring data from the Local Governance Performance Index survey implemented in Malawi in 2016. The survey asked respondents what problems they faced with a range of issues related to service delivery. Those reporting problems were then asked if they turned to someone for help with the problem, who they turned to and why, whether and how the problem was resolved, and whether they were satisfied with the response.
The figure depicts the main actors people turn to for help. In general people are most likely to turn to family members, friends or neighbors, followed by village leaders. Higher-level government officials are in a distant third place, despite the fact that they may hold much more sway when it comes to influencing outcomes on the ground.
Next, we can look at how demographics affect the likelihood of people turning to different actors. Wealthier respondents and those with more education are less likely to turn to friends and family, perhaps because they have the resources to solve problems on their own. This may also reflect their ability to exit the public system (e.g., going to a private clinic when the public health system falls short). On the other hand, such people are more likely to turn to other government officials, and to school officials – suggesting they may feel more empowered to approach authority figures. Gender also matters. Women are less likely to turn to village leaders or any other government officials but more likely to turn to school officials with their problems – perhaps because they are more involved in their children’s education. Finally, civic skills (having attended a community meeting in the past year) is positively associated with seeking assistance from all actors.
In neighboring Tanzania, recent survey data finds that nearly a quarter of all respondents took action to improve service delivery (education, health, or water) in 2015. The chart on the right unpacks what people meant by “taking action.” Overall, Tanzanians were more likely to attend committee meetings than take any other action. We also see that people were generally more likely to raise issues in smaller group settings rather than more publicly (e.g., by calling in to the radio). Finally, note the low proportions of respondents who report tracking things like drug stockouts, teacher attendance, or water point functionality – suggesting that the focus of many citizen monitoring initiatives (report cards, etc.) may not jibe with people’s normal way of doing things.
When it comes to which citizens are taking action, we see similar results to Malawi. Specifically, civic skills are associated with increases in all forms of action-taking. Women on the other hand are less likely to take action across the board. Wealth matters, though only for actions related to education and health. Respondents who are more informed (listen to the radio more frequently) are also more likely to take actions of all kinds, though it is interesting to note that education levels do not demonstrate any relationship with action-taking. Finally, internal efficacy (belief in one’s own ability to make effective demands) is positively associated with actions related to all sectors, while external efficacy (expectations of government responsiveness to such demands) only seems to matter for water.
The paper I prepared for Twaweza’s recent Ideas & Evidence event digs into these relationships in greater detail. While preliminary, it highlights the importance of paying attention to the ways in which service delivery differs across and within sectors. This is critical when it comes to supporting initiatives to enhance the efficacy of citizen engagement, which, despite having generated mixed results to date, continue to benefit from considerable amounts of funding.
As a final thought, practitioners may wish to consider which aspects of service delivery might be amenable to influence. For instance, establishing community groups could create greater scope for users to share information and coalesce around shared needs. Such groups will likely be more effective when they build on existing institutional channels rather than set up parallel structures. This implies taking time to learn about people’s existing routines for problem-solving, and supporting those strategies which seem to be generating more results. In other words, working with the (local) grain.
Public goods and services can also be distributed in such a way that reduces the availability of exit options. For example, a recent study of handpump distribution in Kenya advises against clustering, as people will be more motivated to maintain their local water points if they don’t have ready alternatives.
Finally, it may also be possible to shift expectations about the possibility of improved service delivery — in particular, providing information in a way that facilitates bench-marking. For instance, learning that everyone in the neighboring district has water piped into their houses when you are spending hours each day collecting buckets from a far-away tap could serve as a tipping point
Where does this leave us? For those of us who earn our keep by cranking out conference papers and journal articles (and the occasional blog) there is much work to be done. Hopefully, such work can help to guide donors when it comes to making impactful investments, and practitioners when it comes to making actual impact.
In August 2016, the Public Service Accountability Monitor’s (PSAM)’s Regional Learning Programme (RLP), along with partners implementing Social Accountability Monitoring (SAM) in 4 countries (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania & Mozambique) identified the need for a needs-based diagnostic of the link between SAM practice and monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) at the individual and community levels. One partner organisation in each country volunteered to take part in the learning pilot and share their SAM and MEL challenges.
Having gone through the reflective process, the RLP is now engaging with partners and other SAM stakeholders in sharing the insights from the learning pilot. Part of this process will be a series of webinars (find out more on the RLP webpage: http://psam.org.za/regional-learning/) and also sharing outputs from the learning journey process. See below country reports as well as the PSAM report detailing its reflection and learning:
September 2017 – Malawian journalist Alick Ponje received the inaugural Southern Africa Media Award in Social Accountability Reporting during the Telkom-Highway Africa Awards Gala Dinner held yesterday evening at the 21st annual Highway Africa conference, the world’s largest gathering of African journalists, at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.
Presented by Highway Africa and the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance, the award recognises journalists from Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia whose investigative reporting on social accountability has contributed to improved services in public health and agriculture, particularly in the areas of HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and food security.
Ponje’s article ‘Private Hospitals Breach Government Pact’, published in the Malawi News, a newspaper of the Times Group, on 4 February 2017, documents how privately run clinics and mobile clinics are breaching their contracts with the Ministry of Health. The clinics order drugs from the district health office and also demand fees from patients for under-five and maternal health services, which are supposed to be free. The situation has reportedly contributed to the depletion of drugs for publically run health facilities.
“Ponje successfully draws upon and weaves together multiple sources of information, including documentation from the district council, input of officials during council proceedings, and interviews with the Ministry of Health,” stated Highway Africa’s Director Chris Kabwato. “His reporting provides insight into a critical issue of social accountability in the use of public resources, which has affected both health budgets as well as the provision of affordable services.”
“The news media have a critical role to play in holding governments to account for the provision of quality public services,” said Rachel Gondo, Senior Programme Officer at Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM). “Ponje has clearly shed the spotlight on the need for governments to closely monitor and regulate the services provided by privately-run but publically-funded health facilities, both in Malawi and across southern Africa.”
SAfAIDS’ Deputy Director Rouzeh Eghtessadi applauded Ponje for interrogating the provision of sexual and reproductive health services at local clinics. “We need more journalists who are willing to delve into the real-life challenges people face in accessing health services, in an unsensational and discriminatory manner. Without such reporting, mismanagement of scarce public resources goes undetected, resulting in a decline in the quality and effectiveness of healthcare services.”
Ponje, 28, now a special projects reporter at the Nation Publication Group, joined the mainstream media in 2014 after graduating as a teacher from the University of Malawi. “Receiving this award is going to motivate me. It shows that people are recognising the efforts we put into our work. I’m in the early years of my career and this will give me the confidence to work on these issues [of social accountability] going forward,” said Ponje.
Ponje applauded Highway Africa and PSA Alliance for initiating the award. “With awards like this, journalists will be more motivated to track how public funds are being utilised. And, at the end of the day, some of these problems might be history.”
Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance is led by ActionAid International together with Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), and SAfAIDS, and supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
Highway Africa, together with the Partnership for Social Accountability (PSA) Alliance, invites journalists in Southern Africa to apply for the inaugural Southern Africa Media Award in Social Accountability Reporting 2017.
The award recognises two journalists from the PSA Alliance’s project countries – Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia – whose investigative reporting on social accountability contributes to improved public health and agriculture in the following categories:
• HIV and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
• Food Security
Applications will be examined by a panel of media experts in the region and two winners will be awarded at the Highway Africa Conference to be held on 31 August – 1 September 2017. The award includes a prize of USD 250, plus travel and accommodation to the 2017 Highway Africa Conference.
Deadline for Submission – 15 August 2017
• Applicants must be based in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique or Zambia.
• Work must be published between July 2016 and July 2017.
• Print, Radio, TV, Multimedia and Photo journalism are admitted.
• If submitting multiple entries either in the same category or across multiple categories, complete an entry for each story to a total maximum of two entries.
How to apply – Candidates can submit their applications here
There is a clearly a surge in social accountability initiatives across the globe today. From informal expressions at the grassroots to entrenched voices in corridors of power, the social accountability multiverse has become stronger and diverse. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that we are indeed witnessing the rise of an ‘audit society’ that animates the spectrum between confrontation and collaboration in citizen’s engagement with the state. The proliferation of toolkits and manuals embellishes this trend as social audits and scorecards have become commonplace parlance for civic activists, policy wonks and academics as they line up an impressive array of data to hold the state to account. However, viewed from the trenches of day-to-day encounters with social accountability, some notes of caution need to be flagged:
1) Primacy of technique over politics: ‘Bring politics back’ is an oft-quoted plea that is heard at the closure of every learning and sharing event on social accountability. Though some excellent conceptual writings exist on the rationale and approaches to acknowledge politics, there is clearly a knowledge gap on praxis. This gap becomes accentuated when projects finish their shelf lives and local interlocutors are left dealing with unplanned political aftermaths. What we need is not just the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of navigating politics, but the ‘how’ too. There is also the bias of working with executive ‘accelerators’ – reformist executives who push the frontiers of constructive engagement and deliver high quality impacts on pilot projects. But the reason why these ripples of change never result in a transformative wave is because politics is often viewed as a problem best avoided. We need to acknowledge that any change sans the inconvenience of politics is bound to be short lived. Working with politics and programming with sensitivity to political ecologies means more flexibility in design and implementation. This is where contemporary discourses on ‘Doing Development Differently’ are opening up new opportunities and pathways.
2) Tyranny of tools: Social Accountability tools like public hearings, scorecards, report cards and social audits have played a major role in bringing rigor to discourse and praxis, by moving the frame of reference from the anecdotal to the evidential. However, projects driven by the novelty of applying tools run the risk of not just undermining sustainable impacts, but paving the way for a far more serious erosion of trust and acceptance. Tools have a tendency to trade efficiency over inclusion, and participation over representation. There is also a case for ensuring quality. As an evolving field where theory consistently lags behind practice, it is critical that the field of practices is constantly reviewed, reflected upon and improved. Finally, there is the issue of local capacities. Applications of tools in rural areas often rely on external agents to play the role of interlocutors, but seldom do legacies and capacities get left behind for continued actions by local interlocutors.
3) Interrogating civil society: A dominant theme in the discourse and praxis of accountability is the emphasis placed on the role of civil society as the vanguard of change. There are genuine concerns that the sector is fast losing its rootedness and legitimacy –a schism grows between genuine informal social movements and formal organized civil society. One, exhibiting the vigor of confronting and embracing the politics of governance and the other, seen as obsessed with the rigor of getting the method right. We need to honestly interrogate our understanding of civil society organizations and widen our focus to bring in new, unseen but genuine champions from the cutting edges. A considerable proportion of existing civil society proponents of accountability often tend to be urban centered, and speak a language that appeal to our funding imperatives. We need to empower and enrich the language that has the credibility and endorsement of the basic constituency that we seek to address – citizens, especially the disadvantaged.
4) Seduction of contestation: Rights-based social mobilization sometimes leads to an unintended consequence – spiraling expectations. When amplified voice encounters weak responses from the state, ‘rude accountability’ manifests. The grammar of engagement changes swiftly to a confrontational mode. In social contexts where power asymmetries are accentuated, these confrontations can take very violent forms. There is a case for calibrating social accountability initiatives to match state capacity. In contexts marked by a trust deficit between state and citizens, it may be prudent to focus on trust building exercises as a starting point. The other issue is of public dissemination. Should one go for a big bang release of the findings from a social audit, thereby securing a guaranteed news coverage? Or, should the state be allowed to frame its responses and then go public with the findings and responses? To strengthen principles of constructive engagement, closing the feedback loop in the public domain becomes a critical factor. Voice needs an ear to respond.
5) Rethinking evaluation: It is near impossible to engineer transformative changes given the short project cycles of social accountability initiatives . End of project evaluations can seldom provide meaningful insights. What the field of social accountability needs are longitudinal studies that explore questions related to sustainability and uptake of reported successes. In particular, five aspects could be emphasized: (a) Extent of multi stakeholder engagement; (b) Width of citizen involvement, especially aspects of inclusion; (c) Long-term partnership among stakeholders; (d) Legal or institutional recognition of civil society engagement; and (e) Extent to which processes generate compliance and provide deterrence. Rather than focus on narrowly defined outcomes, evaluations should dwell into process indicators that reveal if critical pathways and enablers are set in place.
6) Illiberalism and social polarization: Perhaps the greatest challenge for social accountability initiatives is the growing popularity of illiberal electoral democracies and, in parallel, the deep social polarization that is tearing up fragile social fabrics. Leaders with divisive agendas and populist outlooks, aided by manipulated (and at times, completely fake) news are posing a grave threat to democratic institutions. There is also the distinct disconnect between the informed public and the mass public in terms of their expressed trust in institutions. All these have substantive repercussions on the way we imagine and operationalize social accountability. We need to focus on activities that build bridging social capital – locating actions that result in enhanced inter-group collaboration. The role of traditional media – once the trusted ally and champion for accountability – needs to be evaluated given the ubiquitous spread of social media. Rather than lamenting the loss of old spaces, the strategy should be to appropriate the new ones.
To sign off: Social accountability is recognition that there exists a lack of engagement with the public institutions that are so critical to our daily lives, a lack of influence in decision-making and more importantly, a lack of voice for expressing our needs, concerns and demands. We believe that social accountability approaches enable citizens, especially the voiceless and the powerless, to engage with state institutions in a proactive and constructive way to demand and exact accountability and responsiveness. This moral high ground of the concept and praxis of social accountability needs to be protected and nurtured.