Social accountability is an overall approach to governance that involves citizens and civil society organizations in public decision making. Using social accountability processes, citizens and CSOs can explain their needs and priorities to government and service providers; provide ideas to government on policy making, the management of public finances and service delivery; and get involved in monitoring the public sector and giving feedback on government performance.
Through different social accountability practices, the performance and conduct of duty-bearers can be monitored and the voices of ordinary citizens made heard. The practices of Social Accountability may be started and set up by the state (for example, passing an Access to Information Bill, setting up and funding an Anti-Corruption Commission, appointing an Investigator General), or they can be set up by citizens, CSOs or service providers (awareness-raising on rights, budget tracking, community scorecards, setting up a dialogue table). These activities help to develop the skills and confidence of citizens, CSOs, the media, academics, and the private sectors at engaging in dialogue with duty bearers and ultimately holding them to account to achieve improved development results.
Examples of local social accountability practice
Corruption and lack of competence can be discovered and prevented
An example of this is (Transparency International Zambia’s Advocacy & Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) which enables citizens to report and get advice on corruption and customer service problems relating to both private and public institutions. Where service provision has been the challenge TIZ liaises with the relevant institution to negotiate Citizen’s Charters that identify and promote the agreed standards for levels of service, such as the rights of patients to have access to certain files relating to their own medical records at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH). Each year TIZ also publish the Zambia Bribe Payer’s Index (ZBPI) that measures progress on the implementation of the activities under the National Anti-Corruption Policy indicators).
Citizens understand to which services they are entitled
Caritas Mongu runs trainings across its area for Area Development Committees (ADCs) and their communities so they understand their role in developing projects for the Constituency Development Fund. Many CSOs – including NGOCC, Girl Guides, WiLDAF, WLSA – raise awareness of the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Act and what this means for women’s access to services. Reformed Open Community Schools (ROCS) works with schools to inform children and parents on their need to monitor whether their school is receiving what it is entitled to from government).
Resources can be more efficiently used
(The Non-Governmental Organisations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) undertakes a gender analysis of the national budget to understand the extent to which it has taken gender issues and equality into account. The Farmer Organisation Support Programme (FOSUP) supports communities to do budget tracking on the spending of Constituency Development Funds, checking the quality of the projects implemented – and even mapping by GPS coordinates so their existence can be verified).
Service delivery can be strengthened and improved
In Kawambwa, Action for Africa Health Initiative (AAHI) supported the Safe Motherhood Action Groups (SMAGs) to identify and communicate to health workers and officials their specific barriers to using the clinics for birth. Cashew Growers Association of Zambia (CGAZ) surveyed the agricultural extension workers in Mongu to understand their reluctance to support cashew development – and then undertook to train them in cashew growing techniques as this was identified as one of the main barriers).