Every year the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) brings together over 300 partners from government, civil society and development cooperations to join together and find solutions to development challenges and learn from one another. 2019 was not any different, the forum was organized to focus on the role of social accountability in meeting the challenge of inclusion in public governance.
Africa Freedom of Information Centre has been one of the grantees and was invited to participate and share experiences and lessons learnt during the 4-year implementation period of a project funded by the GPSA. The project aimed at enhancing performance and transparency of social service contracts in Uganda where social accountability was at the centre of its implementation.
Discussing Opportunities for Collaborative Social Accountability through Cross-Sector Reforms, Charity Komujjurizi, Program Officer-AFIC, emphasized that delivery of public services through public procurement in Uganda was significantly challenged with lack of value for money and inefficiency. With support from the GPSA to AFIC and UCMC, the partners promoted public access to information and monitoring of contracts in health, education and agriculture. As a result, AFIC and UCMC successfully advocated for government to improve proactive disclosure of procurement information. This involved mapping of what data was being disclosed and provided feedback with recommendations on how to disclose better to empower citizens to use it; collaboratively worked with government to redesign GPP to allow for publication of more data sets and linking of data to enable tracking of processes; trained and deployed 186 community monitors and supported them to track execution of contracts.
Citing positive feedback from AFIC, PPDA has institutionalized citizen participation by launching a collaborative framework for CSO monitoring of contracts, Ministry of Public Service mainstreamed open contracting in the Curriculum for the Civil Service College, while community ownership of projects is now visible and disclosure has significantly been improved.
During her submission Charity shared the following lessons learnt during the implementation of the social accountability project; Over the project life, AFIC learnt that Relationship building is very important in influencing development outcomes and through constructive engagements between Civil Society Organizations and government, results and strong partnerships are realized; when government is provided with compelling evidence, they are willing to take corrective measures. This is evident in AFIC partnership with PPDA and respective Local Governments who have found it important to implement AFIC recommendations.
However, when citizens are engaged and access information, ownership of projects is ensured; https://africafoicentre.org/community-monitors-vigilance-leads-to-improved-learning-outcomes/. Communities will apply the gained skills to solve any other social challenges other than projectizing the skills.
While at the GPSA forum, Mr Jeff Thindwa, the Project Manager of GPSA acknowledged AFIC’s contribution towards collaborative social accountability through which this bridges civil society, citizens and government to solve governance problems. He emphasized that collaborative social accountability builds trust and connects citizens and their governments to address development challenges
During the panel discussion on opportunities for social accountability through cross-sector reforms, it was resolved that there’s need to tap into cross-sector reforms and increased peer learning opportunities that touch on development issues in health, human capital, education and more.
Civil Society was challenged to increase effort to build with government and reach the most marginalized and vulnerable communities, however, CSOs have underscored that social accountability processes are showing an important learning from the past 15 years, from a focus on tools to more sophisticated interventions that are fit for the purpose and require a more thorough understanding of incentives and problem.
There was a call to collective action that the GPSA is experimenting with a new form of social accountability that considers not just citizen-led but also government and managerial levels of collaborative social accountability which would be more effective. However, for sustainability, independence is critical to the survival of the program, local communities and organized groups should be able to continue leading collaborative engagement with governments beyond projects’ limited duration.
AFIC appreciates the GPSA team and the World Bank for creating an inclusive space in which various stakeholders and the growing social accountability community to constructively engage on matters important to inclusive development and poverty reduction.