Theme: Building Capacity Of Farmers & Business Community In Mityana And Mubende Districts To Monitor How Their Tax Money Is Put To Use Through Budget Tracking And Monitoring Service Delivery Points That Lower The Cost Of Doing Business.
Venue: Kolping Hotel, Mityana
Date: 30th June 2014
Supported by USAID’s Governance, Accountability, Participation and Performance Program, implemented by RTI
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
THE ROLE OF CITIZEN-LED ACCOUNTABILITY INITIATIVES
Recognising that transparency, accountability and participation around budgets and service delivery enhance their efficiency and effectiveness, national governments and the broader development community have deepened efforts to make governments more open. While these initiatives are laudable, they typically lack true ownership and accountability. Similar efforts led by citizens and citizen organisations’ bridge this gap by emphasising ownership, practical solutions and advocacy for real and sustainable change. They improve the efficiency and effectiveness of spending and services, curbing the waste of limited resources and enhancing beneficiaries’ human development.
No government action has the potential to improve the daily lives of the poor more than the budget. This is because the national budget, including donor aid, finances services essential to human development, such as basic education and health. However, in many places, the budget’s development potential is not fully realised. While insufficient resources undeniably contribute to this, in most cases the budget’s impact on human development is also limited by inefficiencies: budget funds may not be allocated to priority sectors or successful interventions, or the funds may be diverted from their original purpose and intended beneficiaries. Too often, services funded by the budget are not delivered in an efficient, effective way and therefore fail to produce the desired human development outcomes.
While the lack of efficiency in public spending and services is an issue in countries at all levels of development, its repercussion is felt most strongly in those countries where a greater proportion of the population relies on public interventions and where systems to identify and rectify these inefficiencies are weak or non-existent. Preventing and correcting inefficiencies requires transparency, accountability and participation. Transparency, or the availability of information about the budget and services, makes it possible for the wider public to understand government actions, their successes and limitations. Participation – in elections, the budget process, and the design and assessment of services – allows stakeholders the opportunity to voice their priorities and satisfaction (or lack thereof) with government spending and services. Finally, accountability – which requires both transparency and participation – entails a mechanism through which the government is ensured to correct ineffective actions.
Importantly, while transparency, accountability and participation are each valuable independently, they must all be present concurrently to ensure efficient and effective spending. A famous illustration of a successful combination of the three elements is the 1996 Public Expenditure Tracking Survey in Uganda. The study, which found that on average only 13 per cent of the non-wage spending allocated to schools actually reached them between 1991 and 1995, also had an accountability and participation component. It increased transparency by publicising its findings nationally and by publishing the exact amounts intended for every individual school in local newspapers.
This facilitated participation and accountability: better informed citizens were empowered to identify inefficiencies and to exert pressure on relevant actors to ensure they received the government funds they were entitled to. Partly as a result of this project, the rate of capture decreased from almost 80 per cent in 1995 to just 20 per cent in
In the light of this and other evidence that investments in health and education were failing to deliver proportional improvements in services and human development, governments and donors have sought to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending and the aid that contributes to it. As part of this, national and international actors have spearheaded initiatives and reforms designed to strengthen transparency, accountability and participation. For example, the independence and oversight role of different branches of the government have been strengthened, and greater and more direct participation in policy design and assessment have been encouraged – for example, through participatory budgeting and the institutionalisation of whistle blowing. These initiatives are laudable and necessary, but they lack two elements essential for change: ownership and accountability. Both of these components can be introduced successfully by civil society monitoring.
Pictures from the dialogue.