Demanding Good GovernanceA Stocktaking of Social Accountability Initiatives by Civil Society in Anglophone Africa
In Africa discussions have intensified recently over the role of civil society in bringing about greater government accountability to its citizens, particularly with regard to the flow of public resources. Through the lessons of civic engagement, participation, and civic ownership, citizen groups in Africa are now beginning to hold a growing number of public officials and service providers accountable for their actions and behaviours. Such social accountability is working to bring about more efficient and equitable governance by reducing corruption and improving delivery of public services to the poor.
This report synthesizes a stocktaking of civil society-initiated social accountability practices in the public budgetary process in 10 Anglophone African countries—Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Three clear mechanisms for social accountability in the cycle of public expenditure are included as initiatives in the study: independent budget analysis and advocacy (IBA); participatory public expenditure tracking (PPET); and participatory performance monitoring (PPM). Independent Budget Analysis (IBA) refers to the research, advocacy and dissemination of information on issues related to official budgets by civil society and other actors independent of the government. Participatory public expenditure tracking (PPET) involves the use of civil society to track how the public sector spends the money that was allocated to it. Participatory Performance Monitoring (PPM) consists of citizen and community scorecards that solicit user feedback on the performance of public services. Citizen Report Cards (CRCs) are used in situations where demand side data, such as user perceptions on quality and satisfaction with public services, is absent.
The paper also presents a conceptual framework for the role of social accountability in good governance and contrasts horizontal accountability and vertical accountability. Horizontal accountability entails setting up public policies and government procedures, whereas vertical accountability involves public mechanisms for enforcing accountability, both before and during the exercise of public authority, and includes citizen groups and a vibrant independent media. This vertical alignment leads to a broader understanding of good governance, requiring continual give and take between the state and society. Such social accountability has direct relevance to aligning public expenditures with pro-poor policies in country Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and ensuring that resources are disbursed for effective delivery of services to the poor.
Social accountability approaches have yielded positive results. Aware that their actions are being monitored by citizen groups, public officials know that they may be held accountable for budget discrepancies or failure to deliver adequate services. New budget monitoring skills have led, in some cases, to budgetary adjustments and funding shifts to support higher citizen priorities. In the case of the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) and the Institute of Democracy, both from South Africa, monitoring has led to improvements in public financial reporting and reduced the need for audit disclaimers by government officials. The credibility and influence of civil society, as the force driving these improvements, have grown as a consequence.
Nevertheless, significant challenges remain. The effectiveness of many initiatives is impaired by civil society’s lack of technical expertise in financial management and budget analysis. In addition, the lack of consistency in how different departments of the same government record financial data has frustrated efforts to assess effectiveness accurately.
Several initiatives included in the stocktaking cited gaps in countries’ judicial systems for enforcing punishment if violations in public expenditures are found. The perception by many African governments that civil society organizations are sympathizers of opposition political parties has in some cases bred mistrust and lack of cooperation on the part of the government. Indeed, many officials have shown political rather than professional resistance to accepting the social accountability approaches advanced in this stocktaking.
A recent report published by the World Bank’s Africa Region, “Building Effective States, Forging Engaged Societies” (September 2005), acknowledges that “Effective states require engaged societies that demand change and hold governments accountable.” The report calls for creating space for social actors, and strengthening their capacity to demand positive change and to push for effective execution of state functions, particularly in contexts where authority has been devolved to local levels. This stocktaking of social accountability initiatives proves that demand is high in Anglophone Africa for this kind of social engagement for effective governance.Site Web (URL): http://siteresources.worldbank.org/WBI/Resources/Demanding_Good_Governance-FINAL.pdf Auteur(s): Mary McNeil and Takawira Mumvuma