07 January 2014

Social Accountability in Aid Delivery

Social accountability (SAc), which is predicated on first, the willingness, and second, the capability of citizens and government to engage each other constructively in monitoring the use of public resources for better service delivery, can improve aid effectiveness.

Involving citizens and/or citizen groups[1] in aid interventions—from project development to the implementation and assessment stages—will lead to:
  1. more context-sensitive risk assessment and mitigation measures by accounting for the informal institutions that shape governance decisions, activities, and transactions; and 
  2.  increase accountability and transparency in project/program-related implementation, both of which will result in greater developmental impact.
This framework is operationalized in the Public Finance Management cycle—where day-to-day government business processes revolve around—by installing mechanisms for citizen participation in development planning, budgeting, expenditure management, including procurement, and performance monitoring.

Conversely, by adhering to such a framework and mindset, aid agencies can help pave the way for the opening of greater space for a more democratic governance marked by transparency and accountability.

 There are, of course, some considerations in employing this framework in aid projects. First, the process of selecting citizen groups to involve in the project is an inherently political undertaking. Second, the capacity of identified citizen groups must be assessed, and increased when necessary.  

What other factors and/or possible scenarios must be taken into account in introducing social accountability in the preparation, implementation and assessment of aid projects in developing countries?

[1] Business is inherently tied into government processes that are components of project implementation (e.g. procurement). Private sector groups are also considered as citizen groups, and have a role to play in pushing for good governance.

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