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Making Accountability Processes work: Engagement between Civil Society and State Accountability Institutions

GPSA Knowledge Platform forums Discussions with Experts Making Accountability Processes work: Engagement between Civil Society and State Accountability Institutions

This topic contains 112 replies, has 47 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Kevin Kevin 1 year, 10 months ago.

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  • #3498
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hello everyone! I´m Carolina Cornejo and along the next three weeks I´ll be moderating the E-forum: “Making Accountability work for the Citizens: CSOs – State Accountability Engagement”. Feel welcomed!

    This topic has raised an increasing interest among several stakeholders working on initiatives to advance participation in government reforms and processes, toward strengthened accountability and the respect of HHRR. I guess that´s what brings us together in this forum. But beyond the conceptualization of this “pro-accountability collaborative phenomenon”, I was wondering what the practice really tells… and I hope I can hear it from your experience.

    To get us started, and recalling on yesterday´s webinar, Prof. Peruzzotti mentioned a wide spectrum of spaces open for civic participation within state horizontal institutions, ranging from: 1) channels of communication, access to information & citizen feeback/complaints; 2) participation in the appointment processes of the institutions´ authorities, 3) participation in planning, and most notably 4) articulated oversight.  He came up with two specific Argentinean cases illustrating joint efforts from the General Audit Office, the Ombudsman and CSOs toward ensuring citizen rights and government answerability.

    – Watch the recording of the webinar here: http://gpsaknowledge.org/events/gpsa-webinar-how-can-citizens-collaborate-and-engage-with-accountability-institutions-to-improve-government-performance-and-access-to-fundamental-rights/

    – Check Enrique’s ppt here: http://gpsaknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GPSAWebinar-EnriquePeruzzotti.pdf.

    Do you know any other experience of engagement covering this range of activities? Have you been involved in any initiative fostering strategic alliances between CSOs and supreme audit institutions/Ombudsman Offices? How is collaboration shaped and what role does each state/social actor take?

    You are also welcome to share other questions/ comments – on how you may be planning to approach this issue or why you are not ready now – and we will find a time during the coming 3 weeks to address them

    I´d be glad to learn about it!

  • #3502
    Profile photo of René
    René
    @renelotte
    Rwanda

    Hi Carolina,
    I am signed in and try to watch the recording of the webinar but it won’t start. It could be caused by my slow internet access, but I don’t see it buffering either. Do you know a way for me to watch?

    Thanks,

    René

    • #3503
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      I’ve just checked the video-recording of the webinar and it takes a few minuted to download yet it is working well. Please do try again.

    • #3523
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Hi René, please try here https://vimeo.com/121829293
      Hope you´re lucky this time!

    • #3540

      When Marcos asked us during our Grantees’ Workshop last year: “How do you plan to work with horizontal accountability institutions?”, I fell speechless for an instant because we hadn’t drafted any consistent thoughts of engaging with HAIs while we knew it was crucial. There is a whole conjuncture in your country that prevents you to not include SAIs or the Ombudsman as stakeholders of a social accountability initiative. That was, we thought, the case of our country.

      Our approach to reach Mozambique’s SAI (the Tribunal Administrativo or TA) and the Ombudsman (Provedor de Justiça) for engaging in social accountability began with asking to meet them. Our engagement with the SAI started informally – some sort of preparation for our first formal meeting.

      Getting in touch with them was rather a long process and some trust has to be built to ensure we get anywhere. So far we have held meetings with them, explained the contours of our Program, and committed to share with them information about social accountability and program documents and findings. We are still working inside their comfort zone.

      All of us have important incentives to engage with each other:

      (i) The Ombudsman is a fairly new institution and although it has a clear mandate it still is operationally trying to establish itself as such; but also needs to give a portrait of an entity that is there to ensure public services are there for citizens and that it will act upon irregularities that hinder that from happening. Well, that is our assumption;

      (ii) The SAI has always been criticized for not sharing their findings, especially the ones that could make the work of CSOs really relevant for a better PFM environment (e.g. audit reports, systemic issues’ analysis, etc.). There is also a general feeling it does not significantly engage with civil society. So while it has a website where the SAI publishes their main events and their Opinion on the General State Accounts, transparency is still limited as the Opinion on the General State Accounts, as its name suggests, is too broad and has insufficient details, so it does not really contribute for transparency in PFM, an important condition for social accountability initiatives. The SAI’s legal framework establishes that their audit reports, once finalized, should be made public. That doesn’t happen. We want this partnership to get them in the “actual sharing mood”. That will not only improve society’s confidence in their role, but adds up to their ongoing efforts and commitments to align with international SAIs standards and good practices on external communication;

      (iii) On our end, there are many incentives but if we can be in the frontline of getting this institutions contributing for increasing transparency and promoting a socially accountable supply-side, that should already be good enough to begin with.

      Although neither institution closed the doors on us, our SAI, the Tribunal Administrativo, seemed more keen to engage with us. And they said: “we need to know more about social accountability, what it is it? How can we engage with each other? You mean, you want to be part of our audits?”. So, it is clear, that, although with some limitations to engagement, the SAI is taking it to a more practical side and, at least, they want to find out, what can we actually do together. So we agreed to schedule a small workshop with the SAI around Social Accountability, its relation to the PFM cycle with more focus on the engagement of supply and demand side around the Oversight function of the State.

      A challenge for us is certainly how do we push SAIs and Ombudsman offices to effectively engage with citizens without being pushing too hard. We hope we can get your views on this and to be able to contribute to this Forum during the next few days.

      Aly

      • #3581
        Profile photo of Marcos
        Marcos
        @marcosmendiburu
        USA

        Thanks Aly for sharing Concern Universal’s efforts to engage with the Tribunal Administrativo (SAI) in Mozambique in the context of the GPSA-supported project.

        While I hope to share the findings from the 2014 GPSA grantees’ workshop session held in Washington DC last May on a separate post here during the coming days, I am encouraged by yours, Madina’s and Victoria’s contributions in this forum in describing the extent of your engagement with Accountability Institutions (more specifically, Ombudsman Institutions and/ or Supreme Audit Institutions).

        While Civil Society-State Accountability Institutions’ engagement depends on various political economy factors, including the incentives and capacities of both the specific Accountability Institutions and CSOs, as well as on whether this cooperation may affect ‘constructive engagement’ with the Executive branch at national or local level during GPSA-supported project implementation, or on the timing in your project cycle (so engagement may take place at a later stage), we believe that this mutual engagement needs to be based upon an assessment on whether the conditions for engagement are appropriate for both sides. Although this engagement may not be feasible in all GPSA supported projects, we would like to learn why this may not be possible so it could inform our GPSA Programmatic Theory of Change (and GPSA Results Framework) and whether it may need to be revisited.

  • #3504
    Profile photo of Ikubaje
    Ikubaje
    @jikubaje
    Ethiopia

    Hi Carolina, Social accountability is an interesting area to work for its impacts and socialization processes. My experience back in Nigeria as a Technical Expert on social accountability for DFID and the Government of Nigeria indicate that promoting social accountability using government horizontal mechanisms is important but sustainability remains a challenge. While the project was on-going, the project had interesting relationship with the government and the officials from the Government accountability institutions were working well with the non-state actors that the project brought on board. Unfortunately, the relationship between the vertical and horizontal accountability on the project slacked back. In view of the foregoing, what is necessary is a formalised institutional and legal mechanism that recognize the rights of non-state actors in promoting social accountability.

    • #3508
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      I would be curious to learn a bit more about your experience/ initiative in Nigeria. Could you elaborate a bit further about the type of CSOs, as well as which Accountability Institution you are referring to? What role did each one play? What were the motivations for this engagement? I would appreciate a bit more background information or if there is any report which could be shared about it. Thanks.

    • #3527
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Ikubaje, you´ve raised a key point we´ll be certainly addressing over the next weeks: sustainability. Can a formal institutional framework tackle this challenge? I hope we can all discuss this. As Marcos mentioned, tell us more about the engagement experience so that we can follow your point. Material welcome!

    • #3755
      Profile photo of gus
      gus
      @thegusman
      australia

      The Nigeria experience and indeed experiences across the globe highlight the need for a systems approach to social accountability and government performance. In the scheme of things, sustainability remains an important goal, given the projected rise in population, increase in resource scarcity particularly water stress (clean water availability) and the global warming/climate change phenomenon. Social and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and Accountability surely must involve institutions including government and the corporate world

  • #3505
    Profile photo of Lucia
    Lucia
    @lucia-nass
    Ethiopia

    The Ethiopia Social Accountability Program 2 (ESAP2) is part of Promoting Basic Services (PBS) a government and development partners initiative to fund decentralised public basic services throughout the country (education, health, agriculture, water and rural roads). ESAP is one of 3 components under Citizens Engagement/PBS. 1. Financial Transparency and Accountability enables local government and service providers (the supply side) to share information about standards, budgets and plans. 2. ESAP enables citizens (the demand side) to use that information to assess service performance, and subsequently enter into dialogue with service providers at interface meetings. The aim is to develop a joint action plan where government as well as citizens agree what to do to improve service performance. The implementation of joint action plans is well under way and overwhelmingly shows that performance improves as planned. We have bi-annual large scale multi-stakeholder stakeholder learning workshops (over 500 people). In the August 2014 meeting we invited the Ombudsman (EIO), as they are responsible for the 3rd component under Citizens Engagement/PBS – grievance redress. In a closing statement the EIO representative said: “we can play a role when Joint Action Plans are not implemented as agreed.” We are currently designing the future of SA in Ethiopia. The role that the elected councilors have started to take up in the SA projects is inspiring for this future. SA does not only enable service improvements (and timely, responsive spending), it also seems to strengthen the oversight role of the council. The EIO is a parliamentary body – so future links with councils and EIO can easily be envisaged. Interesting detail is the special attention EIO gives to vulnerable groups, which is also a trademark of ESAP.

    My questions are:
    Does anyone have experience with making accountability in this local governance triangle (citizens-service providers, citizens-council, and council-service providers) work within the same SA intervention?
    Does the Ombudsman in other countries have enough ‘teeth’ to encourage service providers to comply with (in this case) Joint Action Plans that have been agreed between citizens and service providers?

    • #3520
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      Thanks for sharing information on PBS’s Citizen Engagement component. I wonder if the project team has explored engagement with the Supreme Audit Institution for the Financial Transparency and Accountability sub-component. Given the role that SAI could play around Value for Money or performance audits, and the project’s focus on improving service performance, I wonder if the Ethiopia’s SAI mandate also allows for this type of audit.
      Concerning your reference in how to engage with Ethiopian Institution of Ombudsman, there seems to be some similarities with the approach that World Vision Indonesia is exploring in engaging the Ombudsman at local level in the context of the GPSA project so I hope that our WVI colleagues can elaborate a bit further on it.

      • #3521
        Profile photo of Carolina
        Carolina
        @carolina-cornejo
        Argentina

        Lucia, thanks for sharing the ESAP experience. Sounds like SA is taking big steps in Ethiopia! I´m curious about engagement with Ombudsman, who “can play a role when Joint Action Plans are not implemented as agreed”. You mentioned that plans are running smoothly and so far improving performance. Does the EOI take part in meeting s between governments/service providers & citizens, or does it intervene where commitments are not taken? How has the scenario changed since the EOI was brought in?

        In fact, Janet has raised an important issue in relation to the interesting experience Walter has shared from Guatemala. Does OI engagement lead to improved service delivery or better government response? What specific results can be tracked?

        I take up Lucia´s question and ask you all if the OI can encourage government/service providers to comply with action plans or act upon violations of human rights? Can OIs ensure answerability?

        Also, I´d like to know WHO is engaging: citizens or CSOs, community leaders, local organizations, etc.? I wonder whether promoting engagement with organized groups can affect engagement projects and social monitoring, especially when dealing with SA initiatives.

        Again, thanks for bringing up these interesting experiences and you´re welcome to share materials so that we can all explore the cases in more detail!

        • #3530
          Profile photo of Lucia
          Lucia
          @lucia-nass
          Ethiopia

          Thanks Marcos – Carolina and Walter for your feedback to my questions.

          regarding the auditor general – I am not sure what FTA has been doing on that side, but I believe the focus is on budget information and less on expenditure and audit information. ESAP works at the very local level, focusing as much as possible on SA tools that are mangeable by citizens themselves. We have introduced a form of PETS – really focused at a specific fund stream that is important for citizens, for instance the school grant. In that process an audit report – and eventually the auditor general, are critical documents. We are learning that the expertise of SA implementing partners (CSOs) to identify and analyse such financial documents is very low. So, for the moment, improvements that happen through PETS are more in the sphere of better planing for the school grant so that it can actually gets spend in a timely and wise manner (there is lots of under-spending in this area, because people are not sure how to use, procedures are complicated, fear of spending wrongly also exists in the system).

          As for the EIO, most projects are now in the stage where Joint Action Plans are being implemented and realized. There have been onloy a few cases where supply side was not cooperating enough, and mostly these are mediated through FTA and council members. So at the moment we are just exploring what the future might hold as SA gets institutionalized.

          Walter – very interesting observations about administrative versus legal framing. The Ethiopia Institute of Ombudsman has specifically been established to address maladministration, so the situation might be different here. In fact the work of SA in Ethiopia is framed in terms of ensuring service entitlements, rather than in terms of rights violations. The space for SA is public basic services. Some donors are arguing to widen that space, for instance up into the hierarchy for larger projects beyond facility level, or out-scaling into the justice system.

          This then brings me to a question from Carolina – who is engaging citizens? In Ethiopia the SA process is initiated by CSOs (we have 49 grantees and they have 65 sub-grantees), and they work as much as possible through local leaders and CBOs to mobilise broad based evidence that is inclusive and gender sensitive. There was an interesting question from government participants in our learning events last week: “do we need CSOs, or can government do SA?” Gvt doing SA is almost a contradiction in terms, but let’s think about it. The gvt of Ethiopia has many participatory structures like PTAs, health boards, budget hearings, and these are apparently not improving performance of gvt, because now local governments say that with SA they finally get the real experience from citizens on the table. It is hard to explain the work of CSOs – reaching out to people who are never heard, building their confidence that things can change if they speak up. The civil service can of course develop capacity to listen to citizens and be more responsive, but the work of organising and reflecting requires a “private space”. That is one of the arguments we are developing in the future of SA for Ethiopia. (Note: I understand that PSNP in Ethiopia, although SA mainstreaming has been taken up in the project documents, is not yet clear on “who facilitates”. The local PSNP committees are to be trained on SA, but these are the service providers?!)

          Now coming back to upward and out-scaling of SA – with ESAP2 the CSOs have demonstrated that they can be trusted facilitators and mediators – bridge builders between gvt and citizens. The space for this is well defined, and the relationships are still fragile (CSOs suffer from a particularly poor image in Ethiopia). Maybe the CSOs and gvt need to sit for some years in this space together – before moving into politically more sensitive areas?

    • #3534
      Profile photo of Aranzazu
      Aranzazu
      @aguillanmontero
      US

      Hi Lucia,
      Thank you for sharing information about ESAP2. It is an interesting project and I would love to learn more about it.

      You asked about other experiences with making accountability in this local governance triangle work. At U4, in collaboration with Basel Institute of Governance, we are currently working on a paper (it will be ready in a couple of months) that looks as several cases of social accountability in service delivery in different sectors (health, agriculture, etc.) and countries (Tanzania, Mexico, the Philippines, and Serbia). Basel and UNDP have developed a methodology and a practitioner handbook that helps practitioners assess the goodness of fit of different accountability initiatives to prevailing conditions in the target communities.

      The driving idea is that social accountability projects must consider key features of the local context (attitudes of citizens and service providers toward each other, levels of trust and prevailing social norms that shape citizens’ attitudes, incentives that shape service providers’ attitudes, and formal and informal strategies used by citizens to gain access to public services) to make accountability work. This tailoring to the local context should guide the selection of tools, how you engage with service providers and citizens, to which extent the social accountability intervention enables the successful construction of this interface between citizens, providers, and government agencies and officials, etc. The cases/projects have not specifically considered the role of accountability institutions in the equation, but anyway they show very interesting findings. For example, the Philippines appear as the most successful case since the projected adequately considered the dense social networks existing in the community and use them to leverage the different initiatives used to empower citizen monitors of agricultural projects.

      I can check with Basel whether the handbook and methodology are already available, since the U4 paper is still at review stage!

      • #3538
        Profile photo of Carolina
        Carolina
        @carolina-cornejo
        Argentina

        Lucia, thanks to you for this detailed contribution!
        You mention that the Audit General focuses on budget information and less on expenditure and audit information; and the Ombudsman on maladministration (rather than rights violations, like the legal approach in Guatemala). It seems that shaping engagement strategies calls for understanding the institutions´ mandates and framing collaboration in such a way that is feasible and effective…

        Arantxa, great insight! You went straight to the point: How to make accountability work?:
        “social accountability projects must consider key features of the local context: attitudes of citizens and service providers toward each other, levels of trust and prevailing social norms that shape citizens’ attitudes, incentives that shape service providers’ attitudes, and formal and informal strategies used by citizens to gain access to public services)”

        Do you all agree? I hope we can further explore this!

  • #3506
    Profile photo of Vivien
    Vivien
    @viensuerte-cortez
    Philippines

    Hi everyone! I am with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA–EAP). We work in partnership with the Commission on Audit (COA), the Philippines’ State Audit Institution. I’d like to share with you our country’s experience on this.

    The Citizen Participatory Audit (CPA) started in 2012 as an initiative that explored the conduct of joint audits between state auditors and civil society. Before this, COA already implemented a similar project in early 2000 with the Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government. While this was considered successful, it was discontinued when the new COA Chairperson took the helm.

    2010 ushered a series of reforms initiated by the new administration. There was a convergence of efforts that brought forward the principles of transparency, accountability and citizen participation, and was reflected in President Aquino’s social contract to the Filipino people. Like-minded government officials soon aligned their programs with the President, and resulted to an increase in participatory mechanisms in the planning, implementation, and accountability phases of the public finance management cycle.

    As reforms slowly took hold in several government agencies, more civil society actors started to warm up to the idea of constructively working with government. This became more pronounced after the Philippines declared its commitments to the Open Government Partnership, wherein the COA was one of the agencies invited to identify their commitments to the international community. In response to this, former Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza decided to work with ANSA–EAP to explore possibilities in enhancing the effectiveness of public audits through citizen engagement. Eventually, it was agreed that CPA would have to be defined and operationalised as “COA and citizens working together in conducting joint audits, under the direct supervision of COA.”

    As mentioned by Comm. Mendoza during the webinar last night, trust-building was a very important factor to move the project forward. This could only be achieved through continuous dialogue and joint problem solving between different groups. For instance, having civil society agree to the definition of CPA was a difficult task. Several discussions had to be done in order to facilitate understanding of why it had to be defined that way. Everyone was uneasy since it meant taking risks and exposing vulnerabilities. Over time, spaces for conversation were maintained and they slowly started to let go of previous perceptions, eventually learning to appreciate each other’s differences. What helped sustain these conversations was the common goal of ensuring that the government is able to effectively and efficiently deliver its services to the people.

    While the CPA is considered as a work in progress, some of the factors that contributed to its initial success were:

    1. Presence of organised and capable citizen groups – The Philippines has a vibrant civil society. Most of them are familiar with the concept of social accountability, and have continued to engage government in different stages and levels.

    2. The degree of openness of COA to CSO participation – With Chairperson Tan at the helm and with support from Comm. Mendoza, they were able to interpret Section 2 (2) of COA’s Constitutional Mandate to support their engagement with civil society. It reads: “The Commission shall have exclusive authority, subject to the limitations in this Article, to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required….”

    2. Presence of formal agreements – These established clear rules and regulations that were observed by state auditors and CSOs.

    3. Spaces for dialogue/conversation – The getting to know you stage was done through the conduct of COA 101 and CSO 101. This provided a quick overview of each organisation’s mandate, governance structure, and principles. This activity made it possible for them to discuss differences, and see whether their goals are aligned or not. Trust is slowly built and strengthened by creating and sustaining spaces like these.

    4. Enabling environment – As you can gather from above, having an environment that supports participation is very important for reforms like this to flourish and be sustained. At the national level, we had the social contract that came from the President. At the level of COA, it was reaffirmed through their strategic planning exercise. It also helped that the CPA was one of the Philippine Government’s international commitment to the OGP.

    • #3515
      Profile photo of Walter Flores
      Walter Flores
      @walterflores

      Janet, in relation to your question: Our engagement with the Ombudsman is still recent (about a year). We are collaborating in three areas with the Ombudsman:
      -Follow-up to individual cases in the Judiciary system: Many of the complaints collected through our social accountability work are serious cases of ethnic discrimination such as denial of services to indigenous users. Guatemala has a strong legal framework sanctioning discrimination, hence the Ombudsman intervenes. Taking the case in the legal system requires time and resources but more importantly, that the affected person must identified the perpetrator. In the last 6 months there has been over 12 cases, however, none of the victims wanted to bring a legal case to the judiciary due to concerns about their personal safety.
      -The second area is collective demands in which a failing in public health service provision is not directly identified as a right violation in the legal framework. This is the case with the drug stock-outs and other medical supplies. We are still collecting evidence to bring a collective case.
      -the third area of collaboration is legal support from the Ombudsman to the network of community leaders who carry-out the social accountability work. These community leaders-who are volunteers, have collected evidence and reported issues with corruption such as the sale of medicines from the ministry of health in private pharmacies, illegal charges for use of ambulance and delivering of services and others. Because of this, some of the community members have received threats. One area of collaboration then is the legal support and the training of community leaders on personal safety strategies and emergency communication. We are doing this together with the national office of the High Commission for Human Rights of United Nations as well.
      In summary, we are yet to see concrete successes in terms of resolutions. However, there are important procedural advances. For instance, our channels of communication with nation level authorities is now strengthened because officers from the Ombudsman office participate as observers. Communities are also feeling the moral and legal support. But we also have challenges and the most relevant one is expectations. Some communities had the expectation that through the involvement of the Ombudsman, their demands for improvements of public health services and elimination of discrimination would be resolved much quicker. This has obviously not been the case: there are channels of engagement but still the legal process and redressal takes time.

    • #3524
      Profile photo of Walter Flores
      Walter Flores
      @walterflores

      Replying to Carolina´s questions: In our experience in Guatemala, the Ombudsman plays a key role but for that there is a need to translate evidence collected through social accountability from an administrative/efficiency language to a legal language in which the evidence collected represents a violation of human rights. The interaction with the Ombudsman is done by the indigenous communities themselves, we provide subsidies for food and transport so they can directly engage with the Ombdusman and other government bodies. Prior to this engagement, we implement a process of “rights literacy” in the communities and also capacity-building for strategic advocacy, which includes providing communities with videocamaras and voice recorders so they can elicit evidence on the failings of public services and rights violations. Communities produce short videos, radio programs, photoessays and newsletters: all of them depicting the existing problems with public health services in their communities. Because there is a strong consciousness about human rights as result of the rights literacy, these community members that do the social accountability work call themselves “community defenders of the right to health. This website has the evidence that I am talking about, including the web-based SMS platform that we developed to collect complaints from rural areas which are later translated to the Ombudsman, Ministry of Health authorities and other government bodies responsible for public services and human rights: http://www.vigilanciaysalud.com
      In summary, my organization play an intermediary role in which we first facilitate the legal empowerment of indigenous communities and their capacity to elicit evidence, and then connect them with the Ombdusman and other human rights bodies in the country. We also provide technical assistance to these communities in the process of engagement with authorities.

      • #3526
        Profile photo of Carolina
        Carolina
        @carolina-cornejo
        Argentina

        Vien, Walter, great insights into two different engagement experiences with both Supreme Audit Institutions (in The Philippines) and Ombudsman (in Guatemala). I guess we do find common grounds.

        You both point at enablers for collaboration:

        – An active and organized civil society may favor engagement, and it needs to be capable and trained on social accountability and rights, do you agree?

        – Also, you both mentioned openness from accountability institutions: the existence of spaces for dialogue and interaction with civil society seems to contribute to getting increasingly involved.

        You´ve also identified some challenges for collaboration:

        – Most often, accountability institutions and CSOs/local communities don’t speak the same language. How can two-way effective communication be ensured then?

        – How to build initial trust and balance expectations?

        – Do you think that formal agreements between both sides can encourage answerability and open a path for improved collaboration toward evidence-based results?

        I hope we can all look into these interesting issues our participants have brought up!

    • #3535
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      Thanks for sharing your experience Vivien. It shows the importance of high level commitment and champions, and also stresses the fact that one success doesn’t mean summer yet (Dutch expression)…

      CSOs are already strong on your end of the globe, and I imagine that the CoA must also have a bit of history. In Ethiopia all these institutions are new, for instance the Ethiopian Institute of Ombudsman was established in 2002, and the CSO legislation was adopted in 2009. What I find very interesting in your case is that “capacity” to act, engage and collaborate seems to have emerged as the relationship developed. That is also why I believe that it is important to bring various stakeholders together to learn from SA practice that delivers results, to make sense of it. We have invited the Ombudsman (and others) to join our learning events, just for them to be aware of what is happening. They will look at experiences with Ombudsman glasses – and this is where the potential for collaboration may emerge (e.g. we could reinforce the Joint Action Plan if government doesn’t deliver).

      What do you (and others) think about this “emergent” way of working? How deliberate can/should we be in striving for engagement with State Accountability Institutions?

    • #3580
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      Vien, Thanks for your every detailed comment. May I ask if there any costs involved for CSO participation in Citizen Participatory Audits? In other words, how is CSO participation financially supported?

      Also, I wonder whether ANSA EAP has engaged with the Ombudsman Institution and its experience about it. Given your cooperation with the Commission on Audit (and the need for coordination across various Accountability Institutions), to what extent it has helped ANSA EAP engage with other Accountability Institutions?

      Last but not least, I hope that you can share some information about I-Kwenta.

      • #3583
        Profile photo of Vivien
        Vivien
        @viensuerte-cortez
        Philippines

        Hi Lucia and Marcos,

        Thanks for the comments. Let me try to address these as much as I can. :)

        Yes, The Commission on Audit has a very long history that began in the 1700s, during the Spanish colonial era. The Office of the Ombudsman is much younger since its precursor was established in the early 1970s.

        Lucia, your observation hits the nail on the head. Indeed, the capacity to act, engage, and collaborate is rooted in the depth of awareness and trust of each institution with each other. I think that regardless an institution’s “age”, naturally opposable parties (civil society and the state), would always have a certain level of distrust. The only way to start the ball rolling is when we communicate and jointly solve problems through continuous dialogue. As you’ve also observed, avenues like these lead to increased awareness and appreciation of the similarities and differences of each institution’s goals. Similar to what you’ve been doing, inviting government to learning events is a good (and non-threatening) start. More meaningful engagement happens once they start to warm up, not because of their frequent attendance in learning events, but because they have understood and appreciated how civil society works and vice versa.

        Pursuing partnerships with accountability institutions must be deliberate and well thought out. In our case, before we started to engage the Commission on Audit, we had to set targets and agree on goals. We also determined whether these were aligned with COA’s mandate. Once done, we sought out like-minded people from government for informal and exploratory meetings to gauge reactions and fine-tune action points. During the engagement itself, we operated with a certain level of flexibility to adapt to changing situations. But in all these, it was clear that we respected each institution’s non-negotiables/principles.

        To answer Marcos’ question, ANSA acknowledges the importance of COA’s link with the Office of the Ombudsman, and we support current efforts to strengthen the connection. This is critical since fraud audit cases that have merit are referred to them for further investigation and prosecution. However, ANSA has limited interaction with the Office of the Ombudsman at this point in time, but we’re interested to pursue a partnership with them in the near future.

        Lastly, we’re currently in the process of enhancing the i-kwenta (can stand for “i-account”) website, hence most materials cannot be downloaded from it. This website was designed as an advocacy website for the Citizen Participatory Audit project. This is were we upload CPA reports and infographics in order to generate more awareness and interest in the project. I’ll give everyone a heads up as soon as it’s up and functioning.

      • #3838
        Profile photo of Amitabh
        Amitabh
        @amitabh
        India

        Thanks, Lucia, for sharing your experience in Ethiopia.

        You have mentioned a very important action point about inviting the Ombudsman. Our own experience in India over two decades also taught me that inviting the local state authorities to witness public hearings/testimonies of citizens is extremely important in generating a dialogue rather than a confrontation or public disorder. As we moved along, it was the Right to Information Act 2005 that created circumstances for a consortium of CSOs to trust government and social audit could start getting institutionalised.

        I’ve been working with SAI of India for long years and more recently, with SAI of Nepal on forging citizen engagement by them. Both have made formal commitments to do so and different variants of working relations between CSOs and SAIs have emerged, but the active participation by government auditors is still to take creative shape. By ‘creative’ I mean the ability to dig out new knowledge — things that documentary accounts evidence does not capture — things that reveal cause and effect relationships in given concrete occurrences/episodes of mismanagement/corruption ( not abstract structural constructs). Without this active or creative element, the existing political system of ‘moral suasion’ by citizens vis-a-vis authorities cannot be transformed into knowledge/power which changes society.

        It might interest you to know that ISSAI 12 – Values and Benefits of SAIs to Citizens has been issued by INTOSAI (umbrella organisation of SAIs) and it requires SAIs to DEMONSTRATE their relevance to citizens. You might like to begin your engagement with SAI Ethiopia on the strength of this standard.

        Would love to hear from you and everybody on this site the narratives of problems faced in taking these processes forward.

        Amitabh

  • #3509
    Profile photo of Ireen
    Ireen
    @imutombwa
    South Africa

    Following the webinar and the exposure l have in World Vision in South Africa (WVSA) project called Citizen Voice and Action (CVA) which is a social accountability model, this is an interesting subject. Social accountability models they are good because they bring on board government, service providers and service users who can be citizens of marginalised communities. Empowering service users to engage with the service providers and try to hold them accountable for the quality service they receive strengthen quite a number of relations. Ordinary citizens hold service providers accountable through stipulated government standards e.g in health and education.

    As highlighted by Ikubuja the issue of sustainability has been a great concern also. Vivien then highlighted an important thing, the ‘social contract’ as a formal agreement which can greatly create an enabling environment for action plans initiated during interface meetings to be effected.

    • #3537
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      Hi Ireen – in Ethiopia we are now starting to look at the “citizens’ charter” an initiative of the Ministry of civil service. Agree that for SA to work a performance standard is needed that explains in clear terms what citizens can expect – how else can citizens hold service providers to account? Any other experiences out there with citizens charters? This also ties in with the role of Ombudsman and it’s jurisdiction – maladministration / human rights violation…

  • #3512
    Profile photo of Janet Oropeza
    Janet Oropeza
    @janet-oropeza

    Hi! I am writing from Fundar, a CSO in Mexico City. As a contribution to this e-forum, I was wondering if Carolina can define what she undertands by “state accountability institutions” and some minimal features these institutions should have? From my experience, these institutions should have some form of political and technical independence and should be more close to citizens needs and demands than to government interests.

    Now, for a project we had before in Fundar, we conducted research on citizens participating directly in the auditing process in Latin America with Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs). We found that this has been done in two ways. First, countries such as Argentina, Colombia, and Honduras have established coordinated audits (auditorías articuladas), in which SAIs request citizen input about the
    quality of a given agency’s services. This input helps toidentify critical issues in service provision that should be assessed during the audit process, thereby enhancing the audit’s quality and comprehensiveness. Second, there are countries such as Bolivia,Colombia, Paraguay, and Peru that have implemented advanced forms of citizen engagement by creating citizen oversight committees (veedurías ciudadanas), in which the SAI or CSOs train citizens to directly participate in the auditing
    process, overseeing spending and highlighting anomalies and irregularities. Colombia is perhaps the best example of succesful citizen oversight committees. Here is a video of social control in Colombia with subtitles in English (if you cannot see the subtitles in English click on the button cc below the video and they will appear): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr5Z9BqYX9A

  • #3516
    Profile photo of Diego de la Mora
    Diego de la Mora
    @diegodelam

    I am Diego de la Mora from Fundar, Mexico, as well. We have a long tradition of collaborating with the Mexican Supreme Audit Institution. We have done so in three different ways. Firstly, we provided the SAI with critical information on how the federal government was spending funds for different sectors such as health, farm subsidies or official advertising (publicidad official), as we detected some anomalies. With this information, the SAI conducted specific audits.

    Secondly, we undertook an assessment on how the SAI’s public hotline for citizens’ complaints was working. We documented it as a good practice and this information was very useful for the SAI as well as for citizens.

    Finally, we held jointly some workshops with the SAI. These workshops had the aim of training other CSOs on how to use the SAI’s search system, so that they can find easily information on audits for the topics that concern them. All these experiences have allowed us to see that there is good will and openness from the SAI to work and use the input from CSOs.

    One of the main challenges that we identify right now is the distance between the institutional capacity of the SAI and the mechanisms needed to tackle the corruption that prevails in the Mexican political system. In this regard we have been following the debates that the Legislative branch is having to create an anti corruption system and we have contributed with specific proposals. One of them is to strengthen the SAI.

    • #3757
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      @diegodelam May I ask if you could elaborate a bit how FUNDAR and the other CSOs have used Mexico’s SAI audit reports for their own work. I would be also interested to learn a bit more about the type of information which FUNDAR has provided to Mexican SAI since sometimes what is considered as crucial information for a CSO, may not be considered as sufficient evidence for investigation by an accountability institution. Did you face this problem?

      Last but not least, I would like to know if as part of the ‘Designaciones Publicas’ Initiative which monitors the appointment of heads of autonomous bodies in Mexico, FUNDAR is also looking at the process for appointment of the head of the SAI in Mexico. I am asking about it because I think that it is key for transparency & accountability-focused CSOs to ‘watch the watchdog.’ Yet I wonder the extent to which it is possible to do so while at the same time try to engage and collaborate with an Accountability Institution to advance pro-accountability initiatives.

  • #3519
    Profile photo of Victoria
    Victoria
    @victoria
    Moldova

    Concerning the GPSA project in Moldova on “Empowered citizens enhancing accountability of the education reform and quality of education” by the Expert-Grup: we invited the Ombudsman/ Parliamentary Advocate for children’s rights protection on the Project Advisory Board (PAB).

    Next to constantly being updated on project progress, PAB members are involved in our project as follows:
    – Meet twice a year to discuss project activities;
    – Consult the project evaluation reports;
    – Periodically consult the team for efficient reach of project’s objectives;
    – Promote the initiative, since PAB members are key representatives of the education sector (vice-minister of education, head of Education Parliamentary commission etc);
    – Strategically guide the project;

    In 2015 (second year of project implementation), we will continue to explore collaboration with the Ombudsman office.

    • #3528
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Victoria, thanks for sharing this experience! It seems you´ve set a strategic agenda in Moldova. I am curious about how you´ve managed to bring the OI on board? Did you find any difficulties in institutionalizing this joint agenda? Was the PAB the first step toward project´s implementation, or did you have any previous experience of engagement with the OI? I guess we´ll all be glad to hear more about it!

      • #3615
        Profile photo of Victoria
        Victoria
        @victoria
        Moldova

        Dear Carolina,

        Thank you for your note. All members of the Project Advisory Board kindly accepted to be part of the project since education reform is a country priority.

        We did not have extensive experience with the Ombudsman office before this project.

    • #3613
      Profile photo of Oskar
      Oskar
      @oskar
      France

      Hi,

      Really interesting to read many of the posts so far. Sorry for turning up late in the discussion, but I wanted to elaborate on Janet’s and Diego’s posts regarding effective ways for SAIs to engage with citizens and CSOs. Within the framework of the Effective Institutions Platform (EIP), whose secretariat is hosted by the OECD and the Global Centre for Public Sector Excellence, we have studied different ways for SAIs to engage with citizens. The research was undertaken by Aranzazu Guillan Montero from the U4 Institute (who is also active in this forum) and resulted in a report which summarized many of the interesting mechanisms for SAI and citizen engagement.

      32 SAIs were studied and highlighted that the engagement mechanisms could be broadly divided between transparency and participatory mechanisms. Transparency mechanisms were the most common and related mostly to making information available online and to write easy-to-read reports that would be accessible to all citizens. Participatory mechanisms, where the citizens actually contributed to the audit work, were much less common but there were quite a few interesting examples from mostly the Philippines and Latin American SAIs. There are participatory mechanisms in all stages of the audit cycle, for example the audit planning where SAIs could benefit from complaint mechanisms in their risk analyses, and the actual audit process where there are a number of examples of CSO-SAI joint audits. The report stresses that both the SAI and the CSOs have distinct roles to play and that joint audits do not replace the individual (social) audits that are regularly conducted by the CSOs and the SAI.

      In addition to exploring the benefits, the report also shows that there are both costs and risks with this engagement mechanism for both the SAI and the CSOs. One of the risks is that both CSOs and SAIs may undermine their independence if their roles are not kept separated. Other risks are work overload for the staff of the organisations and delays and increased costs in the audit process.

      The report and the policy brief could be found on the EIP website: http://www.effectiveinstitutions.org/pillars/accountableandinclusiveinstitutions/

  • #3525
    Profile photo of Jimmy
    Jimmy
    @jimmy
    Costa Rica

    Hi, I Jimmy fron Costa Rica. I our country the General Controller institution had a big experiencia in given information to the citizens and to the press on its reports, so that how people could take awards of whats happening.

    In the last year we are having acividades in the comunities to teach people how the use 2 system: budget and public procurement.

    Now we area trying to go further…

  • #3529
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hi all! So far, there are so many issues on board that I´ll first address Janet´s request: What do we understand by state accountability institutions? Namely, and relating to the topic of this forum: Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) and Ombudsman Offices (OIs), but also other state agencies such as Prosecutors, Human Rights Commissions, etc. which operate within the intrastate system of controls as check and balances (recalling Prof. Peruzzotti´s definition). Some of their minimal features include political, financial and technical independence, since they are charged with monitoring duties to prevent mismanagement of public resources and any legal transgression that may result in eroding citizen rights. Also, institutional capacity to tackle corruption (still a challenge for some institutions, as Diego has pointed out). I hope we can build together this definition, so feel free to share your thoughts!

    Janet and Diego have also provided great insight on how CSOs can work with SAIs: 1) providing information which could trigger specific audits); 2) documenting and disseminating good practices implemented by the SAI; 3) coordinating workshops to train citizens on how to use SAI systems to access state information. Jimmy made a point here! I hope he can further elaborate on the initiatives undertaken by the CGR of Costa Rica.

    Similarly, we´ve seen there are different patterns of engagement. As Janet has put it, there may be “advanced forms of citizen engagement” such as citizen oversight committees where citizens take part in the auditing process on-site. Less ambitious engagement may point at facilitating access to information, or creating channels for citizen input (complaints, denounces, etc.).

    Recalling on contributions by Ireen, Ikubaje, Vien, Walter and Victoria, it seems that institutionalizing collaboration through formal agreements or boards may be quite a necessary step toward sustainability of engagement initiatives. Do you all agree? What does your experience tell?

    Also, I believe we should draw the difference between organized civil society and the ordinary citizen. Who´s engaging? Especially in SA initiatives, who do we identify as the beneficiary? How trained should he/she be?

    Hope to hear from you!

  • #3531
    Profile photo of Lucia
    Lucia
    @lucia-nass
    Ethiopia

    For those of you who would like to better understand the work of Ethiopia SA Program, I can recommend the attached “policy brief”.

    We also have an up to date website – http://esap2.org.et/
    An active Facebook page with over 4500 young Ethiopian CSO and academic professionals participating; and a You Tube channel with over 100 clips with different stakeholders from all over Ethiopia explaining in under 5 minutes what SA means for them and what it achieves. FB and YouTube can be accessed from the top right hand side of the website.

    Attachments:
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  • #3533
    Profile photo of Madina
    Madina
    @madina-aliberdieva

    Greetings from Tajikistan TWISA team!

    Our GPSA funded project on improving social accountability in drinking water and sanitation (TWISA) in Tajikistan puts particular attention into engaging with the Ombudsman Office based on a firm conviction that the Office has a significant role to play in monitoring public bodies’ services delivery such as vital drinking water and sanitation.

    Oxfam in Tajikistan has established the working relationship with the Tajikistan Ombudsman Office this year. The contact was initiated through our local partner Consumers Union of Tajikistan who has a long standing cooperation with the Ombudsman Office on the issues of consumer protection rights.

    Right from the start the Ombudsmen Office in Tajikistan has committed to active involvement in the project and allocated staff and resources to support the Working Group (WG) on developing social accountability indicators in drinking water and sanitation. The main task of the WG will be to agree on a set of relevant and user friendly indicators which would enable effective introduction of social accountability in drinking water and sanitation sector in the country. Moreover, the Ombudsman suggested and supported to proactively disseminating information about these indicators and raising awareness on the issues through mass media campaigns.

    Oxfam certainly appreciates a strong commitment from the Ombudsman Office to this project. Especially so , when the situation in the drinking water and sanitation sector is one that requires careful balancing between being sensitive to the needs of a consumers and yet having water service providers act proportionately within available finite resources.

    The Ombudsman unique role and experience in providing high quality complaint handling service will assist the project in establishing civil society monitoring framework and promote understanding of standards of good administration, good complaint handling mechanisms and fair approaches to providing remedies.

    • #3536
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      Madina – I am curious to understand the nature of complaints in the water sector. In our experience SA deals with generic problems perceived by all citizens or specific groups, and is solved in dialgue with the service provider (considering standards, budgets/expenditures and plans). Ombudsman caters more to individual complaints. So I am trying to understand the benefits of working with the Ombudsman in your case? What kind of water issues end up with the Ombudsman. Thanks!

  • #3539
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hi all! So far, it has been really enlightening to learn about engagement initiatives with governments and accountability institutions. But what about those who haven´t been able to bring them on board? Why is that?

    Lucia recently quoted a government participant at an event related to social accountability (ESAP program):

    “Do we need CSOs, or can government do SA?”

    I think this is the question that straightly comes up to governments and many accountability institutions. WHY SHOULD WE ENGAGE WITH CIVIL SOCIETY?

    Have you faced a similar situation when pursuing engagement projects with SAIs or OI? Have you found reluctance, fear or any difficulties in advancing collaboration?

    We´ll also be glad to learn what representatives from OIs and AIs think about this!

    • #3608
      Profile photo of Madina
      Madina
      @madina-aliberdieva

      Hi Lucia! Consumers in Tajikistan, overwhelming majority from which live in rural areas deal with variety of issues ranging from supply to access (both geographical and financial) and quality of drinking water and sanitation. In rural regions, the problems include water shortages and contamination of drinking water sources.
      Moreover, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union , previously highly centralised rural water supply and sanitation sector was left in a dire state – many water systems that earlier belong to ‘sovkhozes’ and collective farms were left with minimum operational oversight and no funding. Many water supply systems are managed by the self-organized individuals from rural communities.
      Such historical transition from highly centralized to a more decentralized policy system brings a set of additional challenges in compliance with norms and standards in drinking water supply and sanitation sector .
      Decentralisation is expected to raise responsiveness of local authorities to the needs of public. This project will be invaluable in introducing “citizen enforcement” as an effective tool in ensuring compliance in the sector taking into consideration current realities of the country.
      Engaging the staff from the Ombudsman office will contribute to development of models of citizen feedback mechanism for the sector taking into account the current context. In addition, the Ombudsman’s office support for such citizen- monitoring mechanisms will help improve dialogue between the public sector and citizens, leading to increased proactive communication between the two parties, thus improving the citizen’s complaint handling processes.

      • #3693
        Profile photo of Lucia
        Lucia
        @lucia-nass
        Ethiopia

        Thanks @madina-aliberdieva for your reply regarding the nature of water issues in Tajikistan – I understand that you are developing models for effective citizens feedback in collaboration with the Ombudsman. Very interesting approach. I noticed the angle of privately and community owned/managed water services, which may be good to keep in the picture: is it ‘legally’ part of the Ombudsman domain?

        In the case of community ownership of water points, the water committee is accountable to the community, but there is no upward accountability – government doesn’t necessarily have a role to play, other than ‘supervise’ and provide technical expertise in case of maintenance issues that are beyond the water committees expertise. We have many cases like this in the water sector, in which the accountability of government is not straightforward. Solutions are found in dialogue, but I am not sure if there would be a case for grievance redress if it would ever come to that: responsibilities are not clearly defined. I am now wondering if this issue of unclear definition of service responsibilities has come up in other cases of collaboration with Ombudsman.

      • #3700
        Profile photo of William
        William
        @wt48
        US

        I know this comment may seem a little outside of the mainstream of the wonderful discussions, but when Carolina mentioned efforts to include governments, I also wanted to raise my voice to urge participants to consider how to encourage the ‘private sector’ to become involved in upgrading efforts to achieve accountability.

        I have been very impressed by the work of quite a number of large multi-nationals, not to even speak of local companies that are helping to make ‘smart cities’. See <http://blogs.cisco.com/zzfeatured/video-showcases-hamburgs-digital-smart-city-port-connection&gt; for but one example. The collaborations between governments and private sector (especially tech firms) can add great value.

        • #3768
          Profile photo of Carolina
          Carolina
          @carolina-cornejo
          Argentina

          William, welcome!
          I guess you´ve made a point there. We´re somehow omitting the private sector on this discussion, maybe because these actors are addressed when demanding responsiveness for service delivery, at least in some cases we´ve explored so far. Anyway, I encourage participants to react to your contribution. Have you engaged the private sector in efforts to enhance accountability, or do you think it would make a good ally or third party to be brought on board?

          BTW, thanks for sharing the experience, which also raises the issue on how ICTs may be a useful tool for developing accountability initiatives! In case others want to check it, here´s the link: http://blogs.cisco.com/zzfeatured/video-showcases-hamburgs-digital-smart-city-port-connection

  • #3541
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hello everyone!

    As we continue to explore engagement between AIs and civil society and discuss the enabling conditions for such cooperation, I´d like to share a draft note which builds on some specific experiences and points at opportunities, risks and challenges for collaboration.

    This note also includes a self-assessment for AIs and CSOs with questions we´ll be addressing over the coming weeks.

    Hope you can react to this draft; your contributions, views and experiences will be enriching to the final product, as we´ll be updating this preliminar version as we move on discussions.

    You´ll be able to access the note ALWAYS through this LINK: http://bit.ly/1L4C8VW (also attached)

    Attachments:
    You must be logged in to view attached files.
  • #3543
    Profile photo of Marko
    Marko
    @markososic
    Montenegro

    Hello everyone, cheers from Montenegro!

    This discussion is great and I’m trying to catch up with the reading.

    We in Montenegro are just starting to open up our accountability institutions to public and CSOs.

    Just this Monday, we organized a big conference between state auditors from our SAI and various civil society organisations, which is the first time ever that this kind of event took place here.

    The goal was to connect the two – make the CSOs use SAI’s reports more and make the SAI hear all the objections we had, give them contribution for the risk analysis on who should be audited next, and so on.

    It was great – the CSOs were reluctant at first, they did not know what is supposed to be their benefit from such a meeting and discussion, so had to work a lot with them beforehand… but once it started everyone wanted to contribute and we feel we laid a foundation for more advanced forms of cooperation in the future.

    Since, we are now working to help our SAI to create their Communication Strategy, this discussion thread is a treasure for us, thanks!

    • #3547
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Marko, nice to hear from you!

      It´s really interesting what you´re mentioning about this meeting between the SAI and CSOs. You know, in Argentina, the General Audit Office has been undertaking similar practices toward the same ends by bringing auditors and CSOs to a same table. This has paved the way for implementing the “participatory planning” and thematic workshops. I hope participants from the AGN can join us and share these engagement mechanisms.

      As you´ve put it: “The goal was to connect the two – make the CSOs use SAI’s reports more and make the SAI hear all the objections we had, give them contribution for the risk analysis on who should be audited next”.

      Does anyone know similar engagement practices by AIs?

      Following Arantxa, we´ll be glad to learn more about strategies for following up on SAI recommendations. Unlike citizen input through complaints and audit suggestions, monitoring compliance with audit recommendations is quite rare and may indeed contribute to assessing impact and increased accountability. What does your experience tell?

      Thanks again for this contribution!

      • #3751
        Profile photo of Marko
        Marko
        @markososic
        Montenegro

        Dear all, particularly Carolina and Arantxa, sorry for the late reply!

        Here just a brief summary of what do we do in Montenegro with SAI’s reports: Since SAI’s capacities for follow up audits are extremely low (only one follow up audit per year) we wanted to give a contribution as civil society – and we try to do the follow up audits ourselves.

        We take individual reports and brake down each recommendation into measurable or at least verifiable indicators.

        And then we use freedom of information requests, interviews, data scrapping, desk research, media repoting analysis, direct contacts and interviews with representatives of institutions.

        This way we are compiling a big database and from time to time we publicly react to warn about certain audit entities that are the least responsive to SAI’s recommendations.

        Our plan is to now visualize this data and make it publicly available as a sort of truth o’ meter for implementation of SAI’s recommendations that would show: who does not respect SAI’s recommendations, who does, and where (in which areas) are the biggest problems. Our goal is to make it evidence based, so that – if we say that a recommendation is not implemented, you can then click on it and find out how di we come up with this conclusion – link would go to a response from the audit entity, a paragraph in the Law, our analysis, or similar.

        We wanted to this in order to make a public pressure on the administration to be more responsive and to make something happen after and audit report is published. Right now we are doing it alone, but there are plans to expand into a network of NGOs and media that would all follow certain sectors.

        So, this just one component of our work in this are, it is our little experiment and is not so easy to implement.

        Sometimes the SAI’s recommendations are way too general and almost impossible to verify.

        Sometimes we have problems to access data from the audit entities (they always respond to our requests, but either with delay, or with wrong documentation on purpose and so on).

        We use these findings to advocate for changes – to make the SAI change its methodology and give more specific recommendations, etc.

        We cannot cooperate with SAI in this as they do not want to give credentials to our findings since they have no control on how we do things (that is the way we like it – we would take advice, but not directives!) — but also, SAI is not hostile towards our findings and they have not contradicted them so far.

  • #3545
    Profile photo of Lucia
    Lucia
    @lucia-nass
    Ethiopia

    Thanks Carolina for the update mail. Here is my thinking/experience regarding the “conditions” or enablers for collaboration, which entail challenges.

    1) an enabling environment – in my experience the environment for citizen state relationships has hardly ever been enabling, however in any environment we will find champions of change. For practitioners like myself a lot of time goes into identifying these champions and supporting them to create more space for the things they believe in. As a practical example, in Ethiopia CSOs have a very poor image with government, but under ESAP2 new relationships of trust are emerging. Some CSO directors are particularly keen to capitalise on this, and to bridge divides among CSOs. We bring them together in a think tank, and we enable their access to senior government officials. It’s all very informal and unstructured – emergent would be the word. I have also seen this strategy in the Nigeria DFID-SA program.
    2) building trust and balancing incentives and expectations – again, this is not a condition that exists – it is rather things we need to look out for and enable. Where our partners found difficulties in getting local government to sign their project document, we have alerted the Ministry, which sub-sequently started facilitating the signature of SA projects through regional offices. When we heard regional offices complain about not being informed about ESAP2, we started engaging more, going on joint field visits, sharing information about progress. A year on regional offices update each other proudly on progress with the SA projects of CSO’s in their region, because they feel ownership. Projects are now begining to experience some delay in Joint Action Plan implementation, so citizens begin to ask: what can we do – in comes investigation about motivation of service providers, and grievance redress /Ombudsman.
    3) defining clear roles from each part – again, you never get this right at the start, and should not try either. Capacity like role clarity emerges in the relationships over time! As parties start to talk and work together they begin to understand the roles each could play. At a high level, this may all be formulated in laws and policy documents, but the practice is always “messy” (as in complexity theory). What helps most is to first be clear on what it is that the parties are jointly after. Then roles can follow. For instance in our most recent learning events we organised a world cafe with two key questions. The first question was : what does the future of SA look like for you, for others? The second question, if this is what you want the future will look like, than what is it that you should start doing now, and what you suggest others start doing? (World cafe is a methodology where small groups discuss, and all participants move after some time to other tables. One table host remains behind to brief the new comers about the conversation so far – and the conversation then continues, gets enriched with inputs from 3-4 other tables – as time moves on, patters of thinking start to emerge in the multi-stakeholder group). The output of this is now brought into an options paper for SA institutionalisation that we are to present at a high level meeting in April. Good results emerge out of these large scale multi-stakeholder events, because the various actors are investigating, reflecting, share and analyse together.
    4) high level commitment – sometimes you have it, as in Ethiopia with ESAP2 the State Minister of Finance is a high level champion, and sometimes you have to build it up from the ground (see working with champions above) in Ethiopia we are now building the evidence base of service improvements per sector, and are enabling local officials to communicate about successes at various levels in the sector system. We are liaising with DPs to find entries into sector ministries at strategic places where there might be an ear for the SA experience and results, and at the same time we are suggesting Ministry of Finance also invite relevant sector people to our learning events. In a way the system starts educating itself and build wider ownership and commitment.
    5) knowledgeable and trained citizens / an active and organized civil society – in my experience it is not just about knowledgeable and trained “demand side”, but the same has to happen on the “supply side”. In Ethiopia many front line service providers do not have a good knowledge of service standards, and they may not even know their budget very well, or they fear spending it. It is very important that front line workers are supported from within the system to engage with citizens, to share information etc. If the government system doesn’t care about good performance, than SA may not be able to achieve real service improvements for real people. And the latter – when SA makes a real difference for the poor and marginalised – that is where you will get real momentum going in civil society (and in the civil service for that matter).
    6) effective two-way communication and ongoing dialogue – the emergence of this is easier said than done. In the previous phase, a small group of CSOs found ways to help local government sit up and hear the real stories of citizens. That still remains one of the eyeopening drivers for service providers to do better than they are currently doing. Several service providers have put it to me like this – when I heard the citizens talk about their service experiences it was as if I looked into a mirror, and I was ashamed of myself. I never imagined this. t the same time citizens can be realistic with their demands, and offer what they can do to help improve the situation. These are some of the basic ingredients for successful citizen engagement and SA dialogues in Ethiopia.
    7) knowledge on what engagement and social accountability are about – very critical indeed. We discovered that the concept of SA can easily get distorted or lost in translation. Ethiopia has many languages, and each langue uses different mindsets and histories that frame SA. So is gets translated as citizens (=social) have to be accountable for better services – have to do more, be more responsible… We are now studying this and coming up with a localized definition that translates well into Ethiopian languages. We also have a one page engagement framework – a table with on the one side the SA process in 4 steps, and on the other side the role of various actors: citizens, service providers, district sector offices, council, SA facilitators. Another dimension to engagement is power – understanding exclusion and its mechanisms (see http://www.powercube.net/ for useful ways of framing power and empowerment) – having an empowerment strategy helps SA projects to be as inclusive as possible.
    8) delivering evidence-based results towards accountability and answerability – this is what SA in service delivery is all about in my experience: a broad based evidence of citizen experience, compared with what government states should be in standards, budgets and plans. A good information base – what is the standard, budget and plans, is at the heart of SA. It requires transparency on the supply side.
    9) formal agreements. Do you agree? What does your experience tell? – When I came to Ethiopia I was struck by the fact that everything is formalised in MoUs. The SA project signs an MoU with the local government, the tri-partite SA committee signs an MoU with its members, the regional government signs an MoU with the SA partners and so on. I have wondered about the usefulness of paper, but have now seen that it gives the space and confidence to citizens and CSOs that indeed this SA is real, and allowed. Added advantage is that in the process of developing an MoU the parties get to know each other and can negotiate the outcomes and roles of the collaboration. No MoU yet for the SA learning events…

    Sorry to be a bit long – but the questions are interesting, and fit with our thinking about SA institutionalisation. I realise the angle of State Accountability Institutions got a bit lost, but I will submit anyway…

    • #3564
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Lucia, quite an interesting reflection! You´ve illustrated every point based on your experience and I´m sure the rest can follow you and learn more from the Ethiopian case.

      I also found enlightening how you distinguished between what may need to be already there to generate engagement (e.g. champions who can advance a collaborative agenda), and what may emerge overtime to ensure collaboration (in your words: capacity, clear roles, trust, ongoing dialogue). Actually, when creating an enabling environment you mentioned strategies to identify champions of change who can then be contacted so as to reach government officials. Maybe @jikubaje can elaborate further on the Nigeria DFID-SA program you quoted.

      Also, I guess some of us may wonder about the usefulness of a MoU as you once have…You´ve identified some advantages, especially regarding confidence and creating a mutually agreed agenda. It can certainly help; and I guess this is a great challenge and calls for previous “sensitizing” work. BTW, has the absence of MoUs for SA learning events prevented or limited you from moving on?

      Thanks again for sharing your experience!

      • #3694
        Profile photo of Lucia
        Lucia
        @lucia-nass
        Ethiopia

        @carolina – all invitations outside non-state actors to the ESAP2 learning events run via the Ministry that chairs the ESAP2 steering committee, and I presume that without this formal support it might be difficult to enjoy participation by regional governments, councils and Ombudsman. However, we can have informal discussions as long as its communicated clearly – transparency is a great good!

        BTW – where is your recent summary on the Forum page? (we received it last Thursday via email)

        • #3701
          Profile photo of Carolina
          Carolina
          @carolina-cornejo
          Argentina

          @lucia-nass thanks for the answer. I do agree with the fact that informal discussions can also contribute to open a path for collaboration, and that formal support plays a significant role in getting things done. You know… in Argentina, the General Audit Office has been engaging with CSOs through the “participatory planning” (CSOs can suggest audits which may be included in the annual audit plan) since 2003, but this mechanism wasn´t officially approved until 2014. Sometimes the “good practices” may take time to be institutionalized, and it seems that the results of such engagement practices can actually lead to creating an official policy on collaboration, not to mention that political will plays a key role in ensuring sustainability.

          In reply to your question, I brought some of the points raised in the update mail in my latest contributions (constructive engagement with government, CSOs´ role in strengthening AIs´ capacities, engaging third parties to reach out to AIs, understanding the politics involved in collaboration). I guess I didn´t mean to distract discussion since other participants have pointed at similar issues and brought other interesting topics into debate. I´ll take note of your suggestion for the next update, thanks!

  • #3546
    Profile photo of Ghazia
    Ghazia
    @gaslam
    United States

    Hi, This is Ghazia. I have worked on projects that engaged Ombudsman in social accountability exercises. In the above discussion, many roles of Ombudsman have been identified — sharing of information by Ombudsman that can be helpful for CSOs and from CSOs to Ombudsman who can then act on this information; setting up and enforcing standards; and intervening in human rights cases.

    I would share my experience of working with Ombudsman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan, where Ombudsman has played (and is trying to play) a much larger role in a post-conflict environment. One of the goals of Ombudsman’s office is to help build citizens’ trust in the government (in addition to all of the above). KP is one of the poorest region of the country and was torn apart by years of conflict resulting in very low trust between state and citizens. A post-conflict needs assessment report explicitly recommended the establishment of Ombudsman in an effort to re-build citizens’ trust. The mandate of the Ombudsman’s office is to “investigate complaints arising out of maladministration of Provincial Government agencies and to provide free, fair and expeditious relief to aggrieved persons in genuine cases.”

    Since building citizens’ trust has been one of the strategic objectives, Ombudsman’s office has been proactive in engaging with civil society.

    Ombudsman’s office in consultation with the civil society commissioned Citizen Report Cards (CRC) for 10 basic services including education, health, sanitation, death and birth registration, domicile, arms registry among others. In addition to providing information to the citizens, one of the prominent objective of the CRC was to create a platform for engaging with the citizens and the service delivery. The idea was that by providing citizens with the information about a) the quality of public services, b) the mutual rights and responsibilities of the government and the citizens, and c) the avenues available to them to interface with the government; these will enable citizens to demand accountability from the government. Contribute to strengthening citizens’ trust in the government by providing citizens with an avenue to voice their opinions and communicate with the government, by credibly showing government’s commitment to better service delivery, and by increasing their ability to hold the government accountable.

    To ensure that CRC fulfilled engagement and trust related objectives, following steps were taken.
    • CRC was carried out by the civil society.
    • There was constant engagement of the civil society and the Ombudsman’s office about the content and process of the CRC. The intermediate results were shared and discussed with the Ombudsman along the way and their feedback was taken at various steps.
    • Students and academia were also involved in the process. Students collected data for CRC from their communities. This allowed the signal that government is dedicated to improve service delivery to travel far and wide across KP.
    • CRC ensured that the survey was targeted to potential users and not only actual users so that issues of access could also be analyzed. This allowed the survey to understand why citizens do not use public services, why they exit out to the private market, and why they do not register a complaint when they are not satisfied with the services.
    • Ombudsman is also dedicated to carry out an extensive local level Awareness campaign following the data collection process to ensure that the data collected reaches citizens. In addition, the awareness campaign would provide citizens with the information about the Ombudsman process and other grievance redressal mechanisms that are available to them.

    Apologies for a very long post! Looking forward to engaging more on this topic.

    • #3609
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      @gaslam GHAZIA – Thanks for sharing your experience – it makes me think about future possibilities of collaborative approaches in Ethiopia. I am wondering how many public service sectors you were able to cover in this way? Did CRCs have a sector focus, or were all services covered? What can you share about actual service and access improvements that resulted in your case?

  • #3559
    Profile photo of Paula
    Paula
    @paulaschommer
    Brazil

    Hi everyone. It’s a pleasure to interact with you. Unfortunately is not possible for me to follow all the experiences and comments being shared. Of course, Carolina is doing a very relevant and good job moderating and summarizing the debate.

    In Brazil, at research group Politeia – http://coproducaopublica.blogspot.com.br/, Santa Catarina State University, we are researching local initiatives articulated in regional and national networks. To analyze them, we have developed the concept of “Co-production of Control”, which is very similar to social accountability.

    During the 2000s, in Brazil, several initiatives from civil society have been launched in order to fight corruption, to monitor the quality of public administration and to promote citizen mobilization. These initiatives work in partnership with each other and with governmental agencies. Examples are: i) Amarribo Network of Social Control (http://www.amarribo.org.br/), which was created as a result of the successful mobilization in a city in the State of São Paulo; ii) the network “Social Observatory of Brazil for Social Control” (http://osbrasil.org.br/), inspired by the method and achievements of the Social Observatory of Maringá. This Observatory was created in 2006, when a case of corruption involving traditional political groups in the city of Maringá led to a mobilization of companies, government agencies and civil society organizations in order to promote civic engagement for better public administration practices. Now we have more than 80 similar local observatories in 15 Brazilian states.

    We have analyzed some of the experiences of the observatories working in partnership with governmental agencies. The paper “Co-production of information and control: social observatories and their relationship with governmental agencies” has not yet been published. I can send a draft by email if anyone is interested.

    On national level, some governmental agencies are working together with civil society. One example is the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), which has led the National Conferences on Transparency and Social Control (Consocial), in partnership with many civil society organizations, networks and other governmental agencies. Here (http://www.apgs.ufv.br/index.php/apgs/article/view/578/328) you find a paper (in Portuguese) about this process: “Social Control in Brazil – State-Centered or Society-Centered? Evidences from the 1st National Conference on Transparency and Social Control, Consocial”.

    I would like to discuss the relation between the innovations in social accountability and the national political context, considering the following paradox:

    Considering the advances and setbacks in Brazil since the 1980s, we see that the democratic learning process is heterogeneous, contradictory and nonlinear. On the one hand, we have developed several innovations of institutional, political, socio-cultural and administrative order, including new practices and tools related to transparency, access to public information and qualification of social and institutional control. On the other hand Brazilian public administration and politics are still marked by various degrees of corruption, patrimonialism, inefficiency, impunity, and a lack of transparency.

    As a matter of fact, this weekend several large protests are being held in cities all over the country. We are facing a big political and economic crisis, which is caused, in part, by the investigation into the huge corruption scandal at Petrobras (the national oil company), which involves big companies and high-placed politicians.

    The investigation being launched and the population’s criticism can be seen as a result of the maturing accountability in the country. At the same time, the lack of confidence in government and politics can be dangerous, allowing for radical positions.

    • #3578
      Profile photo of Walter Flores
      Walter Flores
      @walterflores

      Dear Paula,
      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I am very much interested about the observatories that you mention. Would you please share the paper “Co-production of information and control: social observatories and their relationship with governmental agencies” You can send it to: waltergflores@gmail.com
      Thanks in advance.
      Walter Flores
      Guatemala

  • #3565
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Welcome Aly, Marko, Madina, Ghazia and Paula! So far, many inspiring experiences have been shared.

    Paula, very interesting approach to “co-production of public control”. Based on the experiences you brought up, I guess we´ll all agree that it does relate to social accountability, though it seems still challenging to bring AIs on board. As Aly (@alala) has put it, “how do we push SAIs and Ombudsman offices to effectively engage with citizens without being pushing too hard?”

    Although SA initiatives don´t always involve AIs, there´s so much room for collaboration… Ghazia (@gaslam) has recently summarized the many roles AIs can take towards engagement: sharing of information by OI that can be helpful for CSOs and from CSOs to OI who can then act on this information; setting up and enforcing standards; voicing citizens´ opinions towards improved service delivery and strengthened accountability; raising awareness campaigns; intervening in human rights cases”, but also -and depending on the local context such as the post-conflict environment in KP Pakistan-, the OI may be called for a much more ambitious role: creating trust in government.

    Do you agree with the above and/or identify any other role, not only for OIs but also for supreme audit institutions? It seems that AIs´ mandate may lead to different -but not necessarily less effective- engagement strategies. What do you think?

    Feel welcome to continue sharing your view and experiences, and again, if you haven´t managed to advance engagement with AIs so far, tell us why´s that. We´ll be curious to learn about it and I guess many participants can provide good insights and advice.

  • #3573
    Profile photo of Gilbert
    Gilbert
    @gilbert
    Uganda

    Dear Carolina,

    Thank you for this topic. In August 2014 I shared through this forum AFIC’s experiences and difficulties in working with the Ombudsman. Our new engagement with the Inspectorate of Government (IG) points to a new level of willingness and openness to work with civil society under the new leadership.

    In 2015 we sought to establish and maintain a relationship with the IG in the framework of the GPSA project. We first approached the agency’s spokesperson trough a telephone call. She advised on the officer to engage and helped set the meeting. During the meeting, held after two days of request, we learnt a lot from each other’s work. It was established that the agency has a social accountability programme in Northern Uganda where it has trained four thousand community members. Second, it was also learnt that IG has developed some materials to guide the process in communities. Through this sharing it was established that there was room for complementarity between AFIC and IG.

    The IG programme focuses on training and materials development while AFIC’s GPSA programme has strong components on identifying, training and support for community monitors to gather contract and service data and help with analysis. The second, aspect is scope. The IG programme covers one big regional programme while AFIC’s project covers five districts and three sectors in each districts spread over three geographical regions of the country. With this recognition of convergence, the officer advised that AFIC makes a formal request to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) for a structured process.

    Following receipt of AFIC’s request for a meeting to discuss collaboration, the Deputy IGG met AFIC team. During the discussion he explained that the institution’s new strategy has changed to emphasise prevention along side investigation and enforcement. He also pointed the institution’s initial fears about AFIC’s intentions. He promised to brief the IG and get back to us. This feedback is awaited.

    For the goals of this collaboration to be realized, information sharing between IG and AFIC will be essential. This may include information regarding community resource persons trained by IG, projects being monitored by either to avoid duplication and results of monitoring by either party.

    The IG has both administrative and anticorruption mandates. Working with IG may cause public officials to engage AFIC with apprehension.

    • #3579
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      Thanks Gilbert for sharing the steps AFIC is taking in order to explore collaboration with the Inspectorate of Government (the Ombudsman Office) in Uganda. Following up on Madina’s above contribution on how Oxfam Tajikistan has engaged – through Consumers Union, which is a GPSA project partner- with the Ombudsman Office, I wonder if AFIC has explored reaching out to other CSOs which already have a dialogue or interaction with IG. Or have you tried engaging with donors supporting the Ombudsman Office?

      You have raised a very important issue which is how CSO engagement with Accountability Institutions (AI) may affect (or not) GPSA grantee’s “constructive engagement” with government officials and service providers during the grant implementation. Here, I would say that some of the experiences described and contributions made in this virtual forum focus on Ombudsman Offices and/ or Supreme Audit Institutions as another (independent) source of information, where CSOs seek to get access to AI data for evidence-based advocacy rather than on AI capacity for demanding ‘answerability’ (soft acc) and/or recomending ‘sanctions’. I would be curious to know what others think about it.

      For those who missed Gilbert’s blog post last August, it could be accessed here
      http://gpsaknowledge.org/blog/how-could-civil-society-collaborate-with-public-oversight-institutions-to-advance-social-accountability/#.VQTpII7F_h0

    • #3610
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      @gilbert – I recognise the “fear factor” you refer to. Sometime we speak and think of civil society as a coherent set of actors, but reality is far from that. Moreover, the image of CSOs with government can really hamper their productive role in SA processes. In the webinar related to this e-discussion, there was a call for more collaborative approaches by CSOs, where they see themselves as part of the problem and the solution (e.g. dialogue rather than “blaming and shaming”). This would require a mind shift in civil society organisations. In Ethiopia some CSOs are surprising themselves that Social Accountability has enabled them to become trusted partners of the government, and this opens door to others like regional councils, ombudsman and auditor general. What are your thoughts / experiences on the need for mind shift and a more collaborative stance among CSOs?

  • #3574
    Profile photo of Joy
    Joy
    @joyaceron
    Philippines

    Hi all,

    Thank you Marcos for the invite. Sorry for joining in late.

    The Government Watch (G-Watch) of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) in the Philippines has two forms of engagement with State Accountability Institutions so far.

    First, the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) was one of the signatories of our Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for our contract implementation monitoring in the Department of Education (DepEd), particularly in our monitoring of school-building projects (SBPs) called Bayanihang Eskwela (BayEsk). The purpose is still preventive, within the framework of our approach. To pre-empt or prevent any anomalies, we let the different duty-bearers know, in this case, officials of DepED and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), that the OMB is our partner. If my memory serves me right, there was never a point that a specific complaint was filed to the OMB in the BayEsk since we have reported general compliance to contracts in all the SBPs that we have monitored. However, the OMB sends in a representative in all the critical activities of the project, most particularly during what we call the problem-solving sessions.

    Second, we are taking part in campaigns to strengthen the institutional capacity of state accountability institutions in three ways:

    1. Lobbying with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for higher budget allocation for state accountability institutions and accountability mechanisms and efforts in the government in general; as well as closely monitoring actions taken on relevant commitments to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the priorities of the Good Governance Cabinet Cluster, where specific measures to strengthen COA and other transparency and accountability measures are included.

    2. Participating in the consultations being conducted by the OMB for their proposed legislative measures that aim to strengthen the OMB. We are, in fact, a signatory to a resolution calling on Congress to support some of these legislative measures signed in by major anti-corruption CSOs in the country.

    3. Convening CSOs working on the field of transparency and accountability to discuss the importance of strengthening of accountability institutions and mechanisms to sustain governance reforms.

    We conducted a national conference attended by around 50 CSOs all over the country last year. This was attended by the former Commission on Audit (COA) Chair herself, the OMB represented by its Deputy Ombudsman and the DBM represented by its undersecretary handling governance reforms.

    Resolutions to support certain legislative and executive agenda to strengthen governance accountability institutions and measures have been passed during this national conference. We are currently cascading the discussion at the local level conducting provincial/ city fora and consultations to generate a broader constituency for the proposed resolutions.

    So far, we have already received response from relevant agencies and decision-making bodies:

    Just this week, the DBM has announced that this year’s budget for accountability institutions and mechanisms have increased.

    Congress is already taking up the proposed legislative measure to institutionalize people’s council, which – as practiced in one locality in the country that is considered a model in good governance, Naga City – has sustained transparency, meaningful and broad people’s participation and accountability of the local government unit.

    G-Watch undertakes these efforts of institutional strengthening hand-in-hand with another program of ASoG which I also direct, the Political Democracy and Reforms or PODER program. We see institutional strengthening as a critical part of our overall work under the premise that these are complementary efforts that are necessary to attain and sustain the end-goal of G-Watch’s main work, which are specific and targeted social accountability/ community-based monitoring efforts covering specific programs and service delivery of the government. That end-goal is to strengthen overall governance accountability and make good governance a norm.

    • #3611
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      Thanks Joy @joyaceron for the experience of a School of Government, and congrats on realizing more funding for state accountability institutions. I am interested to learn more about how you convened CSOs, and otherwise maintain relationships with CSOs. They can be such a diverse and not necessarily organised bunch. What is your experience in working with CSOs – what did you learn from each other in this process?

  • #3575
    Profile photo of Kedar Khadka
    Kedar Khadka
    @kedar-khadka
    Nepal

    Hello everyone !
    Greetings from Nepal ! I’m Kedar Khadka, President of GoGo Foundation (GPAS’s Global Partners Organization)

    In recent years Nepal has been a country to be flexible in introducing and institutionalizing various social accountability tools. So far, the Government of Nepal has owned tools like public hearing, public audit and social audit through Good Governance Act which was promulgated in 2008. And, also Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Federal and Local Development have customized these tools and widely used in their program and projects.

    Likewise, recently Nepalese Supreme Audit Organization i.e. Office of the Auditor General of Nepal (OAG) has developed a “Guidelines to Engage Civil Society in Auditing Process”. This is a turning point of Nepalese Audit history formally engaging civil society in the audit function.

    To get this encouraging result, in 2014 OAG formed a “Working Committee” to develop this guideline. On behalf of GoGo Foundation (Good Governance Foundation), I was nominated as a Working Committee Member to develop this guideline. It took us almost a year time to finalize it. Being a Constitutional Organ of Nepal, it is considered as a conservative organization in which taking such turning point is difficult as well as a challenging task. Getting confidence of high level audit professionals was not easy and to engage them in such a progressive step to develop such guideline.

    Thus, on behalf of civil society, I would like to appreciate the Auditor General of Nepal for his cool articulation in the drafting process to bring national stakeholders along with World Bank in Kathmandu and getting support from WBI, Washington to achieve this goal.

    However, now OAG of Nepal has created an enabling environment to engage civil society organizations in auditing process. But, it has long way to go together effectively. So, to enhance the trust building process, it needs a lots of proactive awareness and capacity development initiatives to sustain this noble initiative. Therefore, I would like to welcome ideas and opportunities to enhance our initiatives further. I hope, GPSA global partners and well wishers will come up with construction way forward.

    I’m also happy to mention here that I have written a “Resource Book for 21 Social Accountability” for World Bank Office, Kathmandu. This books has been widely circulated among development partners and also CSOs who are using it widely in their advocacy and capacity development programs. Due to higher demand, it has gone several edition printing in English as well as in Nepal language.

    • #3612
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      That is good news from @kedar-khadka Kedar-Ji about the guidelines in Nepal to engage CSOs in the audit process. Nepal has indeed a bit of history with citizens engagement, but as you say, and as I remember from my time as Asia regional governance advisor with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, it can also be challenging to get real improvements happening for real people. What I can share from my experience in Ethiopia now is that SA tools help citizens and CSOs go beyond mere assessment, and focus on what can be done locally. People here now say: “we were always talking about our issues to government, but with SA tools we finally get things done for our communities.” I am thinking that this help in the case of Nepal case as well: to ground the guidelines, you need to have some organisations working with them practically and realizing real improvements for real people. We have developed a simple PETS guide that citizens can use to check specific fund streams, e.g. the school grant. We realise that this requires financial and audit expertise within CSOs that is not readily available (to be honest, our grantees need a lot of support in their own financial systems…). In Ethiopia, the CSOs benefit a lot from collaboration with the Financial Transparency and Accountability initiative of the government (e.g. training on budget and systems of the government). I am wondering if there is enough financial and audit expertise in the CSO community in Nepal – and if you have any plans to strengthen or build it?

      • #3703
        Profile photo of Kedar Khadka
        Kedar Khadka
        @kedar-khadka
        Nepal

        Thanks LUCIA for your query about existing capacity of the Nepalese CSOs in auditing process. Frankly speaking, engaging CSOs in auditing function is new phenomena for Nepal. For long time, supreme audit institution has work in isolation. It has been considered as auditing is “auditor’s task”. So, none of the CSOs have taken any involvement in this campaign. However, recently we have developed a guidelines for supreme audit institute i.e. Office of the Auditor General to engage CSOs in auditing function. I hope this will leads to open up new avenues for Nepalese CSOs to promote further transparency in Nepal. So, Lucia, please do share any new ideas to build capacity of the CSOs in this field.

    • #3771
      Profile photo of Joy
      Joy
      @joyaceron
      Philippines

      Hi Lucia Nass.

      We have been convening CSOs and concerned government agencies on certain reform agenda. We never had major problems doing this. I supposed these are due to the following factors: 1. Ateneo is an academic institution that has had long engagement with civil society and social movements in the country. A lot of leaders in civil society, social movements and government in the country came from Ateneo. 2. Ateneo, particularly our programs, G-Watch and PODER, have been providing knowledge inputs from our monitoring and action research which have served as take off point of discussions. 3. We have been engaging discussions in civil society and government on critical governance reform agenda for almost 10 years now.

      Sorry for the delayed reply.

      Joy

  • #3577
    Profile photo of Kedar Khadka
    Kedar Khadka
    @kedar-khadka
    Nepal

    I’m extremely happy to know that Carolina has been moderating the “Making Accountability Processes Work: Engagement between Civil Society State Accountability Institutions” through digital platform, great ! This is timely initiation to bring global knowledge on SA campaign. This initiative will help to generate more constructive discourses during upcoming global event to be held in Washington in May 2015 !

  • #3582

    Hello everyone! I’m sorry for late, we tried to follow the discussions that are all very interesting and want to share the situation of our country.

    In Paraguay the situation is a little different, but not much. We have 3 top-level institutions concerned with the control of state action in the fight against corruption. First the Comptroller General of the Republic, whose aim is to audit institutions and defining parameters for accountability; Second, the General Audit Executive, which as its name suggests functions as an external audit more concerned with bureaucratic verification of documentary reports and thirdly, the newly created (2014) National Anticorruption Secretariat, which could, for the nature of the institution, which has more features to engage in co-production control in alliance with organized civil society.

    The office of the ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo), in our country is not related to the field of control and monitoring transparency or public institutions, but rather in the process of monitoring compliance with convictions for violations of human rights and recovery historical memory regarding violations of human rights committed during the regime of Alfredo Stroessner.

    With regard to opportunities to develop a engagement to acountability with these institutions, with 2 of them is more difficult. The comptroller general of the republic (Contraloría General de la República – CGR) is the comptroller organism for excellence, but has historically had a punitive role with high bureaucratization and never a collaborative role with sinstituciones audited, the audit reports are subject to massive campaigns of institutional discredit, and mistrust by of audited public institutions is very difficult to reverse, the historical role of public confrontation that have acquired the shares of the Comptroller. Similarly, the opening of the comptroller to citizen oversight was always limited to the processes of complaints and whistleblower protection, whose offices have been very few cases, far is to build a permanent joint processes for joint surveillance.

    Similarly the General Audit Executive (Auditoría General del Poder Ejecutivo – AGPE) is an organ that generates greater trust in public institutions to be part of one executive, but now it’s just a receiver reports and the information given is not linked to the field Citizen interest except in very specific cases, it is typically targeted at issues of institutional organization, enforcement of some control laws and functioning of the internal institutional audits.
    However, the National Anticorruption Department (Secretaría Nacional Anticorrupción -SENAC), from its conception is more open to such alliances organ. In fact, in his own decree creating (http://www.senac.gov.py/archivos/documentos/Decreto_N_10144___2012_Que%20crea%20la%20SENAC_zlxcxl93.pdf) establishes the possibility of integrating Corruption Advisory Councils with the participation of Civil Society Organizations. Equally important to note is that the SENAC mission joint anti-corruption policy, and as such promotes the creation of anti-corruption offices in all state agencies and establishes transparency mechanisms that are mandatory for institutions.

    The downside is that the SENAC is still very weak institution, as yet no resources or people necessary to promote actividaes control and could easily become another failed attempt to build institutions of effective control, and quickly converted into an office validation bureaucratic public action. The challenge then will accompany the process of institution building so that from the beginning this institution can become a sponsoring institution hinged control with civil society and promoting collaborative work by integrity and transparency.

    • #3584
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Hi Carlos, and welcome! You´ve painted a clear picture of the accountability ecosystem in Paraguay, and I guess we´ll all agree that it´s quite important to understand AIs´ roles within it from the onset.

      You mention that the SENAC is quite a new institution and the challenge may be to develop engagement with civil society “in the process of institution building” as it may have significance as a sponsoring institution regarding citizen collaboration toward transparency and integrity. You´ve raised a key issue: Can citizen engagement at institution building or reform affect future relations and impact on formal structures? We´ll go back to this in the coming days!

      Meanwhile, I´d like to learn more about engagement with the CGR of Paraguay. As a member of the OLACEFS´ Committee on Citizen Participation, the SAI has shared some experiences of collaboration with CSOs beyond citizen complaints. Have you tried reaching out to other CSOs which have been involved in participatory initiatives with the CGR (such as CEJ or CEAMSO)? Some experiences tell that local partners can serve as bridges to reach AIs, especially when they have been previously engaged.
      In fact, during the past week we´ve been discussing strategies to approach AIs, and the importance of open dialogue, identifying champions and getting buy-in without being “pushy”. So, let me ask you, when you approached the CGR, did you contact a special unit (such as the Department on Social Control), a single official, etc.?

      Finally, I´d be curious to know which institution receives citizen complaints, not for anti-corruption but for fairness or lack of access to public services in Paraguay, if the Ombudsman does not do so.

      Hope to hear from you and thanks again for your contribution!

  • #3585
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Welcome Gilbert, Kedar, Joy and Carlos!

    It´s great to learn how engagement is being advanced in Uganda, Nepal, The Philippines and Paraguay. We´re moving quite fast and I see most experiences relate to each other, share common goals or face similar challenges. In order to make the most of this debate and encourage further exchange among participants, let me share some tips on the GPSA KP´s functionalities.

    You can reply to sb´s comment by clicking “reply” just next to his/her name, and they will immediately receive an alert in their user accounts. Also, when making your contributions you may mention sb by using “@ + username (e.g.: @carolina-cornejo; in that case, I´ll be notified so as to promptly answer back). I guess this is really useful since there are so many contributions that you may miss some interesting points and the opportunity to interact with each other. Also, you can choose to receive email alerts when sb mentions you (see profile settings).

    For more info, check the KP guidelines: http://gpsaknowledge.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/GPSA-Knowledge-Platform-Guidelines-2.pdf

    BTW, @kedar-khadkaKedar we´ll be glad to learn more about the OAG´s Guidelines to Engage Civil Society in Auditing Process… sounds really interesting!

    Again, you´re all welcome to share engagement experiences along the next days and -should it be the case- reflect on the key factors which might be hindering collaboration.

    • #3673
      Profile photo of Kedar Khadka
      Kedar Khadka
      @kedar-khadka
      Nepal

      Thank you Carolina for your moderation. OAG’s CSO Engagement Guidelines is a “turning point” of the Nepalese auditing history. It is too early to predict its implementation and compliance. However, in the mean time, I would also interested to hear about other country’s experiences on this issue and their implementation status !

  • #3586
    Profile photo of Tom
    Tom
    @aston
    UK

    Hi Carolina, Marcos, et al,

    This seems to be a really interesting discussion and one that is very relevant to us at CARE International (already downloaded various things shared). At CARE, perhaps the most relevant experience we have to share is from Peru. For around a decade we’ve been collaborating with a civil society health forum (ForoSalud) and the the Ombudsman’s Office in rural Puno to carry out a citizen health monitoring model. I’ve attached a factsheet to give you an idea of the intervention. But, perhaps what is most interesting and relevant to you all is the following:
    1. Accreditation: We trained health monitors to carry out oversight of infant-maternal health services. The training was accredited by the Ombudsman, and they gave the monitors an ID. This helped the monitors to engage on a semi-formal basis with service providers;
    2. Information: The Ombudsman’s Office and the Departmental Office for Integral Health Insurance found that most health teams were unaware of the regulations, norms and laws that protect users’ health rights, so, a file was prepared for the monitors to carry with them including copies of the main rules and legal norms (e.g. vertical birth delivery, free birth certificates, citizen participation, and health insurance benefits). This helped raise the awareness of service providers on their obligations;
    3. Dialogue: The Ombudsman participated in an interface meeting (every quarter) alongside CARE, ForoSalud, monitors, and service providers, where joint action plans were agreed. These dialogue spaces did not exist before, nor other citizen participation mechanisms for health at the local level. Given how understaffed the Ombudsman is (only 2 staff in the province), this was an important moment for them to gather citizen-generated information on rights abuse cases.
    4: Teeth: While the initiative was generally very successful (see attached), there are serious limitations: The Peruvian Ministry of Health does not currently have the authority to impose sanctions on staff for rights violations, due to labour norms. This lies within the powers of the Public Defender (Fiscalía). The Ombudsman is stuck somewhere in the middle as a “bridge” where they can influence, but not sanction. Many staff don’t have the right “skills mix” for some sectors (like health) – so we carried out a health rights diploma to train some of them. They are also hugely understaffed. But here, crucially, citizen oversight can help fill the gap, gathering patients’ perceptions, producing information, adding pressure through advocacy, etc.

    There will be a few papers published on this shortly, so look forward to sharing more soon.

    Attachments:
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    • #3807
      Profile photo of ARIEL
      ARIEL
      @arielfrisancho
      PERU

      Greetings from Peru and thank you very much, indeed, for such an enriching dialogue! Diverse challenges made me a super-late coming participant, drawing on the experience referred by Tom (Aston).

      Actually, we coincide on the roles played by Ombudsman in support of the citizen monitoring initiative and the challenges faced when doing so. Therefore, I would dare to add some details on the initiative and lessons extracted from it:

      1. The Peruvian citizen monitoring initiative: In the Puno Region, Quechua and Aymara women community leaders have engaged (are engaging – ongoing?) with the regional offices of the Human-Rights Ombudsman to monitor women’s health rights, particularly the right to good quality, appropriate and culturally respectful maternal health services. Rural women leaders have developed their capacities through civil society partnerships between ForoSalud, CARE Peru and the Ombudsman office. The trained women leaders (“vigilantes” in spanish) visit the health facilities 2-3 / week, stay 6 hours. They make direct observations and conversations with female patients in their native language. Drawing on their main findings, they produced regular reports and analyze them bi-monthly with the regional Ombudsman’s office, CARE Peru (until March 2014) and ForoSalud members. They prioritize the findings, both the good and the bad, and construct a “dialogue agenda” which is presented to the health care networks / hospital directors and health team, to agree commitments of improvement. On the basis of their direct inter-action with rural women who use the services and individual and collective empowerment processes, women leaders are well positioned to demand information and changes in health services – building on the identification of practices that were deterring women from utilizing services, such as unavailability of services at times of day most needed and charging for medicines and services that were meant to be free – through dialogue spaces with local and regional authorities. Along six years of development, this initiative has increased general awareness of rights among health authorities and within patients and local communities. It has promoted greater transparency, respect, cultural sensitivity in service delivery and increased demand of health services by rural women and children. Moreover, together with the commitments to improve health care (opportunity, treat, information, language, culture appropriateness) – sustained advocacy processes contributed with the formulation of National Policies for citizen monitoring promotion (2012).

      2. Some lessons learned, also shared with other actors that promote citizen monitoring in health, are:
      – The key importance of strategic alliances, as those established with public actors (i.e., Ombudsman and Integral Health Insurance in Puno) and civil society actors (ForoSalud, etc) to strengthen the capacity of rural women’s agency and to address unequal power relations.
      – The importance of implementing an accountability approach based on dialogue and the promotion of good governance, rather than on “naming and shaming”: building mutual understanding, increasing trust and credibility among health care officers / professionals and citizen representatives.
      – the way in which the principles of the International Human Rights framework have been used at the local level in an effort to strengthen the quality of care provided in health care services. This is particularly important following the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (June 2009) which positions maternal mortality as a human rights concern.

      3. However, there is still a long way to go. Major challenges faced within Peru to support a rights-based, more democratic and responsive health system are:
      – current national government (mid-2011 onwards) is not facilitating community / citizen monitoring as the former one. Peruvian Ministry of Health has initiated a health sector reform process which is still focusing more on financial changes (extension of public and private health insurance to cover with a health insurance as much as population as possible) than on quality or rights-respect mechanisms.
      – As Tom (Aston) also highlighted, there are very limited governance or accountability mechanisms, due – in part – to the persistence of non-just power relations, into which the citizens and especially the poorest, rural people still considers health care a “favor” from the State (limited understanding of health rights). It is needed a renewed, joint effort in which the Peruvian Ministry of Health, the regional and local governments and the civil society networks converge and ensure implementation of mechanisms of citizen participation and citizen monitoring.
      – there are still major “systemic” challenges: low quality of decentralized health management (leadership, skills to manage and monitor the national / regional policies and their enforcement) and the lack of definition of performance indicators. This is worsened by evidence of discrimination and underestimation of citizens’ capacity for dialogue and negotiation. Moreover, human resources policies still need to address effectively the high turn-over of officials and public authorities in the sub-national level, poor working conditions and lack of public career path, which affects the sustainability of commitments.
      – though over the last decade Peru has seen an emerging, vibrant civil society in health, still the overall Peruvian society is not aware of health rights or on the importance of citizen participation. There is a long way to go to get the engagement of Peruvian society towards the realization of health rights and social justice.

      4. Another challenge has been the current trends of international health cooperation actors and global stakeholders, too focused on MDGs metrics and the direct work with governmental bodies, with reduced scope to support social processes as the promotion of governance and social accountability.

      Analyzing current trends of international co-operation towards Universal Health Coverage, there is a risk of the “capture of the concepts”, i.e., making Universal Health Coverage a synonym for Universal Health Insurance (UHI). UHI could be an important tool on the road to UHC, but doesn’t guarantee, per se, universal access to good quality, rights-respectful health care, nor a clear engagement with other health determinants.

      5. Facilitating citizen monitoring and people-centeredness: The analysis of the previous challenges provides us with a first prioritization of conditions to be in place to facilitate further community monitoring work, and most of them are coincident with those conditions summarized by Carolina on the basis of previous contributions:

      – Political will and political decision-making
      – Political engagement and commitment to promote health rights and rights-based approaches
      – Normative framework adapted to social context
      – “Appropriateness” and support to the citizen monitoring initiatives from national / sub-national authorities, implementing the necessary institutional arrangements for their adequate functioning, provisioning the resources that are needed and sensitizing health personnel
      – Capacity building both of those citizens that will implement the citizen monitoring and of authorities / providers who are supposed to promote and facilitate its implementation and listen to its findings
      – Existence / construction of representative, genuine participatory policy dialogue spaces between public authorities and civil society / people representatives to debate / negotiate changes
      – Citizens aware and adequately informed on their rights and entitlements, with organizational capacities
      – Communication strategies
      – A better articulation with other civil society coalitions, both national and international
      – To adequately dis-aggregate the concept of “Universal Health Coverage”, to achieve a clear understanding of all the components included (i.e., quality, rights-respect, governance and accountability mechanisms), demanding same level of commitment from governments
      – Organizational intelligence on the side of civil society: increasing their mechanisms for building/ sharing knowledge; the permanent creation of leaderships; the active engagement of young people; and the pro-active learning from practice

      Citizen monitoring mechanisms should become processes that contribute to the improved performance of the health system at different levels of management, delivery and governance of health care, having people’s health needs and expectations as the central priority. Citizen monitoring mechanisms, strongly linked to participatory dialogue spaces, with clear decision-making to correct health system pitfalls make it possible that the expectations, perceptions and demands of the people provide feedback and enrich the performance of health care teams and overall health system.

  • #3591
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Welcome Tom @aston and thanks for sharing the CARE experience, which I guess is very innovative given the multiple roles the Ombudsman took in citizen health monitoring.

    It seems it´s deeply engaged from the onset and along the whole process. I wonder whether that gives further “legitimacy” to citizen input and to translate evidence gathered through citizen monitoring into improved results in service delivery. Following @walterflores “Some communities had the expectation that through the involvement of the Ombudsman, their demands for improvements of public health services and elimination of discrimination would be resolved much quicker”. Is that the case in Peru?

    I guess @lucia-nass @walterflores & @madina-aliberdieva will find interest in this experience since they´ve already shared SA initiatives in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Tajikistan concerning engagement with the OI.

    BTW, in line with our exchange at the forum, I´m forwarding the announcement of the webinar “Ombudsman Innovations for Advancing Open Government”, where presentations will be delivered by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman and the Toronto Ombudsman. The activity is sponsored by the International Ombudsman Institute, the WB and the OGP, and will take place tomorrow (March 17th) at 10am EST.

    More info and registration HERE: https://events-na4.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/833642795/en/events/event/private/877773861/1209689848/event_landing.html?sco-id=1221553930&_charset_=utf-8

  • #3592
    Profile photo of Walter Flores
    Walter Flores
    @walterflores

    Dear all,
    Thanks for all the interventions-they are very rich in experiences.
    What I am noticing that is missing from our exchanges is the explicit mentioning of the political factors involved in our different types of engagement with the Ombudsman. In our comments, it almost reads like the engagement was automatic or easy, and at list from the experiences that I know, that is not the case at all. For instance, in Guatemala, it took us more that 3 months of different meetings with the Ombudsman and their advisor to finally start the engagement. In one way, I could say that we-civil society-somehow put enough pressure to make this engagement happen. The Ombudsman initially saw that their demands from rural indigenous communities were administrative in nature and not high level human rights cases. After an almost one year of engagement, we have had highs and lows in our relations with the Ombudsman. Some of the reasons for the roller-coaster have been the different expectations from Communties-who feel that the Ombudsman is not strong enough in their demands to Ministry of Health authorities and from the Ombudsman who has expressed that communities do not perceive the complex politics that are involved in the job of an Ombudsman.
    For us, understanding the politics involved in our engagement with the Ombudsman has been crucial. For this, Gaventa´s power cube ( http://www.powercube.net/analyse-power/what-is-the-powercube/ ) has been particularly useful to understand the type of power space we are dealing with and identify different strategies and tactics to advance our advocacy work.

  • #3594
    Profile photo of Resty
    Resty
    @chantal
    Uganda

    Thanks all for interesting discussion. Making accountability processes between civil society and state requires existing institutions and regulatory frameworks in place. These work as bench marks upon which the civil society demand for accountability.

  • #3607
    Profile photo of Stephanie
    Stephanie
    @tweekie
    Canada

    Dear all,
    I don’t have an example of an alliance between CSOs and an Ombudsman Office in my country but I do have an example of an initiative from Canadian CSOs to create a Mining Ombudsman Office in Canada to oversee Canadian mining companies’ activities abroad. In reaction to the growing pressure from civil society in Canada and abroad and from political parties, the Harper government created in 2009 the Extractive Sector Corporate Responsibility Counsellor to investigate Canadian mining companies alledged to have committed human rights violations abroad (but without the authority to investigate complaints) and the Office never initiated any form of consultation or collaboration with civil society and didn’t mediate in any of the 6 cases brought before the Counsellor. In fact, the counseller left in 2013 and the position remained vacant for a year but costed 180 000$ to Canadian taxpayers – it says a lot about the efficiency of the institution!
    The NGO Development and Peace initiated the Open for Justice Campaign in 2013 for the creation of a Mining Ombudsman Office and more than 80 000 Canadians showed their support to this campaign. A MP presented the Bill C-584 (Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada Act) for the creation of a Mining Ombudsman Office who would have had the power to receive complaints, conduct independent investigations and, if necessary, impose sanctions, but the project was defeated by a vote of 150 to 127 (all opposition parties supported the project, the conservative government was the only party to vote against the bill).
    The only example I have of an alliance between CSOs and the Ombudsman is the example of the Human Rights Ombudsman in Guatemala. The HR Ombudsman always sends delegates to supervise public consultations organized in communities affected by mining and hydroelectric projects and participate in conferences and other events to speak about human rights with members of Guatemala’s civil society.
    It is a little bit sad to see that in other countries considered as ”less developed”, institutions are working with civil society while in Canada, there is less and less dialogue between state institutions and civil society.

  • #3614
    Profile photo of David
    David
    @davidmugurusi
    Uganda

    Hi all, Greetings from Uganda!
    This discussion is great and I’m trying to catch up by reading a few of the views and opinions shared. However, sorry for joining in late
    I work for Twaweza East Africa which works on enabling children to learn, citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Am specifically engaged with Twaweza’s initiative known as Uwezo, Africa’s largest annual citizen assessment to assess children’s learning levels across hundreds of thousands of households.
    Twaweza has been able to engage with Accountability institutions in Uganda among others, Ministry of educations and sports. In this context and on annual basis Uwezo assesses children 6-16 years and releases a report (Annual Learning Assessment report titled, Are our children learning?) on children’s competencies in Numeracy and literacy. This has put Government and Ministry of Education in specific on spot.

  • #3619
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Welcome @chantal @oskar @davidmugurusi @tweekie !

    I´d like to check on an interesting point Stephanie raised when mentioning failure to create a Mining Ombudsman Office in Canada despite social mobilization and CSO campaigning. She somehow addressed an issue @walterflores and @gilbert have tackled: How important is it to understand the politics involved in initiating collaboration? May CSO engagement with AIs affect “constructive engagement” with government?

    She also noted that “the government created in 2009 the Extractive Sector Corporate Responsibility Counsellor to investigate Canadian mining companies alledged to have committed human rights violations abroad (but without the authority to investigate complaints) and the Office never initiated any form of consultation or collaboration with civil society and didn’t mediate in any of the 6 cases brought before the Counsellor. . In fact, the counseller left in 2013 and the position remained vacant for a year but costed 180 000$ to Canadian taxpayers – it says a lot about the efficiency of the institution!”

    How can AIs´ mandate influence engagement? Could lack of engagement or a limited mandate explain poor performance? BTW, @joyaceron recently mentioned some ways in which CSOs can strengthen the institutional capacity of AIs we could further explore.

    It would also be interesting to analyze what strategies were deployed by CSOs and try to assess their impact. What could account for failure to engage? Can we extract some lessons from this experience? I´m sure other participants can contribute to this, as we also aim to delve into the factors which may hinder collaboration.

  • #3653
    Profile photo of Marcos
    Marcos
    @marcosmendiburu
    USA

    I thought that you could be interested in the following report “Repositioning the Ombudsman. Challenges and Prospects for African Ombudsman Institutions” from a regional Conference of Ombudsman Institutions.

    As limited knowledge of the work of the accountability institutions appears to be one of the challenges for identifying entry points for mutual engagement, and given that that their mandate may vary across countries, it is important to understand the constraints faced by them when exploring whether and how to engage

    http://www.theioi.org/news/africa-ombudsman-kenya-publishes-outcome-report-on-colloquium-of-african-ombudsmen

    You could access information and materials on Ombudsman from the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) website here: http://www.theioi.org/

  • #3658
    Profile photo of Aranzazu
    Aranzazu
    @aguillanmontero
    US

    Hi,
    I am thrilled to see such an active discussion on these topics and so much exchange of relevant information from different countries and regions. Keep up the good work!

    I would like to reflect briefly on one of the issues that have come up in the discussion: the nature of the relations between civil society and state actors, and how they are affected by civil society capacity and organization and the relative balance of power, resources, and capacities between state and civil society. It is also important to consider how these relations actually play out in different scenarios:

    a) In non-conducive contexts, where spaces for civil society participation are scarce or closing, and civil society capacities are limited, engagement and collaboration between state and civil society actors may be difficult to achieve. For example, due to fear of reprisals.

    b) In intermediate scenarios in which both state and civil society have certain capacities, resources and powers, but there are certain asymmetries between the actors and they are subject to some constraints (from other institutional actors, for example), whether collaboration takes place may depend on the particular configuration of certain variables such as external financing, whether there is an integrated framework for civil society action or CSOs working on transversal good governance issues (on the civil society side), or government reform champions (on the state side), among many others. Carolina can share some insights on this based on the Argentine experience.

    c) In ideal contexts where we have a relative balance of state and civil society capacities, powers and resources, collaboration may be easier to achieve. It requires a change in civil society strategies from confrontational to constructive approaches, but this change may be easier to achieve because the risks of capture are perceived as less severe (given the relative strength of civil society) and because civil society may also be more open to incorporate international good practices and push for implementing them. Moreover, civil society can perceive the value of engaging with the state to make their own initiatives more effective in terms of changing state behavior. The case of the Philippines that Joy Aceron shared with us a few days ago is an excellent example.

    This transition from confrontation to collaboration is a key strategic issue for CSOs, but as with many other issues we need to understand the particular conditions where civil society operates and the political and institutional factors that influence the feasibility of collaboration. This is an issue that has been raised by many in their entries.

    I look forward to further exchanges with the group!!

  • #3659
    Profile photo of Tom
    Tom
    @tom-pegram
    United Kingdom

    Many thanks for this opportunity to contribute to such an interesting debate. It’s also great to have an opportunity to engage with Enrique again, one of the pioneers of social accountability scholarship. I’ve really enjoyed reading through the comments and have a few thoughts to throw in the mix, which I hope might be useful:

    • I think many experiences here speak to the importance of understanding both the state and civil society as multifaceted as opposed to monolithic and the importance of interlocutors (such as CARE or the World Bank) who can engage pro-accountability actors across these two sectors in meaningful dialogue
    • A recurring lesson is the importance of building trust. In my research on ombudsmen it seems that one of the threshold requirements for good relations with civil society is the involvement of the latter in the actual establishment process. However, there is no reason why HAIs cannot foster good relations through open, deliberative and transparent dialogue with civil society as they develop an open accountability agenda
    • There are clearly important dividends to be had from enhancing collaboration between HAIs and civil society. Often the latter has grassroots presence, legitimacy and knowledge, while the latter provides the resources of a state agency, a venue for scaling up accountability concerns onto the national agenda
    • HAIs can facilitate action by civil society. In turn, civil society has an important role to play in holding HAIs to account, but also in raising expectations as to what HAIs can and should be doing, and supporting these accountability institutions when they are (almost inevitably) subject to pushback by powerful actors
    • One lesson we can learn from the various interventions in this forum are the kind of concrete steps and mechanisms which HAIs might consider introducing to enhance relations with civil society on public accountability – Tom’s contribution drawing on the Peruvian experience makes these mechanisms very clear
    • As Ally notes, it is very important that HAIs contribute to social accountability supply side (by facilitating civil society mobilization). We might add that it is also crucial to have the demand-side conditions for action. HAIs and civil society alliances have an important role to play in terms of monitoring and exposing issues, pulling the alarm, and raising visibility to ensure that there is public demand for accountability action
    • The role of the media has not been mentioned very much in the discussion (except for Madina) but it has an important role to play in fostering the demand-side conditions for accountability – especially in creating feedback loops to the executive
    • The broader point here is the need to embed such initiatives in a robust support coalition of actors within and outside the states – perhaps requiring a degree of entrepreneurial ability and acumen on the part of individual office holders
    • But as Lucia also notes, performance is likely contingent on operational environment (strength of civil society, media plurality, effective checks and balances within the state)
    • Such contextual considerations also have implications for how we evaluate the performance of accountability actors. Perhaps we should calibrate our expectations and acknowledge that small achievements in certain settings may actually be quite significant. Ghazia’s experience from Pakistan is illustrative in this regard.
    • It has been very interesting to learn that different accountability institutions within single jurisdictions, such as Ethiopia, Mozambique and Mexico, are all experimenting various ways with social accountability tools. There may be scope for more coordination among these agencies and encouraging knowledge-exchange
    • Walter’s contributions from Guatemala have been very informative. It will be interesting to see how the Guatemalan experience develops. As Walter notes there have been some important procedural advances, presenting a real opportunity to convert these early gains into concrete positive outcomes. Similar experiences of ombudsman engagement by civil society can be found in Bolivia, El Salvador and Peru. Perhaps the sustainability of such initiatives comes back to the demand-supply side conditions discussed
    • More fundamentally, this discussion suggests that we really do need to promote more in depth sharing of actual experience, especially given that the impact of these initiatives may be difficult to observe from the outside, let alone ‘quantify’. This is particularly true of some of the intermediate actions discussed here such as empowering third party actors (for instance through providing rights literacy and thus empowering indigenous communities)
    • Finally, we have learnt a lot about the innovative practice evident in developing countries, rather less light has been shed on pro-accountability initiatives in stable rule of law settings. As Stephanie’s account from Canada suggests, pro-accountability advocates in established democracies might be surprised by what could be learnt from engagement with innovative experiences happening elsewhere.

  • #3661
    Profile photo of Sherin Sonia Jacob
    Sherin Sonia Jacob
    @sherinsonia
    United States of America

    Hello Everyone,
    Apologies for the late post.
    Engaging the civil society and state accountability institutions is a challenge when the system has seen endemic corruption for a long time in some developing countries. For instance in India ( I was born and raised there till I came for higher studies to US) , the ombudsman appointed is forced to be a pawn in the hands of government agencies. Vested interests leave them with very few choices either toe their line or be transferred making you relocate your family and uprooting everything you try to establish. Then came the era of ‘sting operations’ , where hidden cameras turned serious issues of accountability a 24*7 saga played by new channels, what this did was to instill fear in the accountability institutions , fear can leed to 2 scenarios either you get clean and work sincerely or you see the operation as some form of disrespect to the office and you refuse to do your work in any way possible. With citizens becoming more aware due to social media and awareness slowly the relation between the civil society and such institutions are being repaired. People are coming forward to press for individuals occupying such offices to understand their responsibilities and function accordingly. Civil society also has at time challenges where in order to engage leaders they sometimes issue diktats and try to gain control of the situation. The need of the hour is that both the entities work closely and in unison to bring in change and work towards creating a cleaner regime to work for the people.

  • #3669
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Welcome Tom and Sherin!

    @tom-pegram painted a detailed picture of the whole discussion going on. I encourage you all to check on his enlightening contribution and react to the many issues he clearly summed up.

    Meanwhile, I´d like to put forward an issue he accurately noted that we´ve barely addressed: the role of the media. Given its capacity to amplify voices and reach broad audiences, it becomes a third party which may be brought on board when pursuing engagement with AIs or promoting SA.

    @sherinsonia recently mentioned that social media may help to raise citizen awareness on how the accountability system actually operates and might progressively open a path for earning respect and building a relationship with AIs in a context of mistrust and fear (a non-conducive scenario, following @aguillanmontero). How do you feel about this? To put it the other way round, could the media discredit AIs´ work, in particular in contexts where they lack independence and institutional capacity? What kind of partner is the media to AIs and to CSOs?

    Also, @madina-aliberdieva illustrated how the media can bolster CSOs´ campaigns by disseminating information on social accountability indicators in drinking water and sanitation in joint effort with the Ombudsman in Tajikistan, thereby “fostering the demand-side conditions for accountability – especially in creating feedback loops to the executive” (as noted by @tom-pegram)

    Have you tried engaging a third party (such as the media) around social accountability initiatives or as a bridge to reach the AI? Do you see any opportunities or risks in such relationship?

    BTW, @aguillanmontero shared a very interesting insight and characterization on how relations between civil society and state actors may play out in different scenarios -considering the local context and the political and institutional factors we´ve been exploring so far-, and raised the strategic dilemma on how to move from confrontation to collaboration. What do you think about this?

    Hope to hear from you!

  • #3674
    Profile photo of jihene
    jihene
    @jihene
    Tunisia

    How it is important to participate as citizen to build more efficient relation between civil society and state accountability institutions ? for achieving that, we are in need of strategic plan to know where is weakness in our public institution and what about the need of private sector? New culture is needed to be implemented in public institution to build relation and engagement with civil society for promoting good governance.How it is important the citizen engagement to promote governance, transparency and to fight corruption.

  • #3702
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hi all! Welcome William @wt48 and @JIHENE!

    As we move on, I´d like to share the updated version of the draft note I posted some weeks ago, which builds on experiences of engagement between AIs and civil society and discusses many of the issues we´ve been reflecting on so far (enabling conditions for cooperation, benefits, risks, etc.).

    I look forward to your reactions as we continue exchanging views and answering key questions.
    Access always through this link http://BIT.LY/1L4C8VW

  • #3704
    Profile photo of Brendan
    Brendan
    @brendan-halloran
    United States

    Hi all,

    This has been a great and rich conversation, I’ve only now had a chance to catch up on it a bit.

    I wanted to ask a question that relates to a point by @walterflores earlier in the conversation, regarding political analysis and politically-informed strategies for engaging state accountability institutions in challenging contexts where accountability institutions may have limited capacity, mandate and/or political will, or may be undermined by other political actors (scenarios highlighted by @aguillonmontero and @carolina among others).

    Several people have mentioned building trust as important for engaging SAIs, but also I’m curious how your analysis of the political context and power relationships related to state institutions and mechanisms has informed the wider strategies for engagement. Enrique Peruzzotti’s presentation a couple of weeks ago highlighted an example of a complex scenario where grassroots groups, NGOs and SAI actors interacted and cooperated and leveraged legal mechanisms to address a pressing challenge.

    Have your experiences with SAIs also included facilitating engagement between organized citizens groups and state actors? Have they included mixing tactics (media, legal tools, direct citizen monitoring, policy advocacy, etc) based on your analysis and experiences of engagement? In other words, how has your engagement with SAI’s fit into a larger, system-wide approach to improved accountability and responsiveness?

    I’d be particularly interested to hear from @lucia-nass @diegodelam @madina-aliberdieva @kedar-khadka @jihene and @viensuerte-cortez and anyone else!

  • #3750
    Profile photo of Sarai
    Sarai
    @saraif
    México

    Apologies for the late post
    Thanks for sharing your experiences on achievements and challenges that promotion of engagement between institutions and citizens means. The discussion generated has been enriching so far. Clearly, the junction between horizontal and social accountability mechanisms is a relative few explored field. Therefore, it is worth to share information on specific cases in which public participation has been encouraged decisively.
    Peruzzotti states that the main challenge is to discover how positive experiences and success stories related to citizen involvement may last longer and become durable organizational management policies. Often, institutions start ingenious and attractive projects on social sharing but are discarded over time because they don´t prove their practical feasibility.
    As we know, all policies have a life cycle, however, in the case of projects aimed to improve accountability, hence also the democratization level of a country, it is essential to think about the mechanisms or processes that could facilitate that a citizen participation project becomes a component of organizations management.
    An essential element for the consolidation of these policies is the decreasing information asymmetry between organizations managers and citizens. In this regard, the main task for institutions is to ensure an adequate level of transparency as well as access to information. This component provides the basis for getting society involved in the labor of public agencies.
    This is particularly relevant if we consider the technical complexity of the work of those charged with authority to monitor and evaluate the performance of other agencies (horizontal accountability), such as the case of SAI. In many cases, citizens are unaware and won´t understand the duty and scope of these institutions. It is necessary to note that SAI use standards, guidelines, criteria and rigorous procedures for carrying out the audit, therefore, audit reports can be difficult to understand for most of the population.
    In this regard, I present you four strategies that Mexico´s SAI, [Supreme Audit Institution of Mexico (ASF] has been using to increase the supply and improve the quality of available information to citizens.
    1. “Citizen’s Guide: What is and what does the Supreme Audit Institution of Mexico do?” In this document, citizens can know the scope of the SAI of Mexico and learn how audits are performed. This guide is written in simple language and includes diagrams and illustrations to facilitate the understanding of concepts.
    2. “Public Audit Consultation System”: it’s an online platform that allows knowing the results of all the audits that the SAI of Mexico has done since 2000, as well as the status of the observations and recommendations arising therefrom. These systems also allow generating statistics and make information crossings according the user needs.
    3. “ASF Kids”: it’s an educational video aimed to kids. It exposes the SAI of Mexico’s labor, how it does and why it is important within an accountability framework. This program also includes visits to schools in order to present the video and distribute brochures. Its objective is to contribute to the accountability culture and transmit to children the importance of audits.
    4. “Summaries for citizens”: these documents are a synthesis of the national audit results. The relevant information is synthetized in on page, which concentrates the findings of each audit.
    These four policies are a sign that one strategic objective of the SAI of Mexico is to reduce the information gap between the institution and citizens. It is clear that transparency policies are necessary but not sufficient. The lack of information is the first barrier to entry for citizens; therefore, it is essential to develop innovative projects that encourage an increasingly active citizen involvement.
    As we know, SAIs have an enormous responsibility to make accountable those who exercises public resources. It’s clear that their work is central to narrow the level of public actors discretion and thus reduce corruption. However, this impact is reduced if the public ignores these results.
    I hope this information will be helpful to encourage debate. You can consult the 4 mechanisms described above at the following site: http://www.asf.gob.mx/

    • #3782
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      Thanks for sharing the experience of Mexico’s SAI. Concerning the Public Audit Consultation System, could you elaborate further on who monitors the SAI recommendations and observations from the audit reports, and how it is done. Also, what type of statistics/ data collected in this regard?

    • #3787
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      @brendan-halloran asked – how has your engagement with SAI’s fit into a larger, system-wide approach to improved accountability and responsiveness?

      In the case of Ethiopia, SA projects all over the country are currently having very good service improvement results – so there is interest now with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (the “owner” of the CSO projects) and with the Ministry of Civil Service to institutionalise SA. In one of the earlier discussion papers on this, the need to safeguard citizens voice and needs was noted, and the question was how this might be organised in Ethiopia. That is how the Ombudsman came into the picture. In my experience with systemic intervention, it is not always helpful to have ‘acedemic discussion’ about questions like the one we asked. You need to run into practical issues on the ground, so that “the system” can look at it and reflect on the way forward. In other words, why bring the ombudsman on board if citizens voice and needs get heard and addressed locally – if there is a clear response from service providers?

      In my view you need to have a systemic understanding of the SA environment, even if you don’t actively work with each actor/policy/legal framework in the system, This is what I find fascinating – when do you lead on bringing actors into the picture (e.g. decide that it is time to bring the Ombudsman on board even though “the system” is not thinking about it yet, and there is no clear need for it yet…), and when do you let the situation lead? We let the situation lead (monitoring for situations where things go wrong, where there is no responsiveness), probably also because we are not in a position to “lead” (actually who is, except the government?), but we are in a position to showcase issues and facilitate reflection. The interesting side effect of this (i.e. not proposing solutions, but getting local actors to find them) is that it builds relationships and trust, especially in environments where it may be sensitive to bring State Accountability Institutions into the picture.

  • #3766
    Profile photo of Carolina
    Carolina
    @carolina-cornejo
    Argentina

    Hello everyone, and welcome Brendan, Sarai and Gus!

    As we approach the last days of this forum, I´d like to make some reflections on the latest contributions:

    @saraif pointed out that information asymmetry between state institutions and citizens can account for the failure of policies aimed at strengthening accountability, and shared the strategies the Mexican SAI has been delivering to increase the supply and improve the quality of available information to citizens. Similarly, @markososic commented on a CSO initiative to promote follow-up on audit recommendations, which builds up on information provided by Montenegro´s SAI. While they both shared experiences to address state responsiveness, it´d be interesting to assess how such initiatives may go beyond single-driven efforts so as to advance effective collaboration between AIs and CSOs towards improved public accountability.

    In this line, following @walterflores´s intervention, @brendan-halloran brought up the importance of analyzing the political context and power relationships related to state institutions and mechanisms, as they may inform wider and mixed strategies for engagement. So far, although it seems that there are few experiences illustrating multiple stakeholder engagement (as raised in Prof. Peruzzotti´s webinar), there is still the question on how bringing third parties on board (other CSOs or AIs, the media, etc.) may help connect to AIs and join efforts towards improved state responsiveness.

    Also, we´ve barely addressed costs involved in engagement, especially for CSOs. @viensuerte-cortez shared a successful experience of collaboration with the COA regarding citizen participatory audits, and noted that ANSA-EAP supports current efforts to strengthen relationships with the SAI. We should further explore how CSOs are financially backed and what it actually takes to address long-term collaboration with AIs.

    Finally, as noted by @tom-pegram, the benefits of AI-CSOs´ engagement go beyond those we´ve been discussing, and he acknowledged that civil society can also support AIs that are being politically targeted by other powerful groups in an attempt to influence or prevent their work. He also raised an important issue by noting that “civil society has an important role to play in holding HAIs to account, but also in raising expectations as to what HAIs can and should be doing”. The question then would be: “Who controls the controller?”

    I hope to hear from you in the next days , given that the forum ends on Friday (reactions to the draft note I shared last week are also very welcome).

    It´d also be great if you could give us some feedback on the forum by filling this brief survey: http://bit.ly/1C3zFQV

    Thanks!

  • #3770
    Profile photo of gustavo
    gustavo
    @gusmaurino
    Argentina

    Hi everybody: Amazing discussion, so much information and analysis. Really great. Congratulations, and thanks so much.

    I’d like to try a reaction to the note that Carolina posted and to some of the previous exchanges, by throwing another element to the puzzle of collaborative work between Accountability Agencies (A.A.) and CSOs.

    I like the idea of exploring the “incentives” (benefits to obtain, risks to avoid, etc.) of A.A. and CSOs to engage in some collaborative experience (and I cannot think of others than those that have been mentioned so far). I also think it´s very important to identify the tools and strategies that can spark collaboration and minimize its costs. Equally important is to understand the pre-conditions that enable collaboration and the conditions under which it can flourish.

    Nevertheless, even with all these elements on the table, collaborative work is not really happening. Even with this knowledge and tools, real, meaningful, intense, structural, sustainable, collaboration is not there yet; and most of the experiences are based on the initiative and energy of CSOs, not on the institutional culture of the A.A.

    After being engaged in some initiatives that tried to foster collaboration between CSOs and SAIs (and to some point HHRR institutions) I’ like to add an element to explore why the institutional culture of A.A. is not friendly enough ¿? to collaborative work (they engage in collaborative experience as a “favor” to CSOs, out of some external imposition, due to some particular individual’s commitment -or “champions”, as some of you have noted-, etc.).

    I think that this could be related with the dominant Conceptions of Democracy (and the democratic role of accountability institutions) nested in those institutions, especially in countries with a short democratic story. In Latin America, for example, the dominant public conceptions of democracy are the “populist-majoritarian” (P.M.) and the “pluralist-elitist” (P.E.) ones.

    P.M. democracy directly rejects a strong role for A.A., moreover it discourages strong relationships between them and non-majoritarian social groups.

    P.E. democracy acknowledges an important role for A.A., but conceived as a purely technical and politically neutral actor. For that reason these agencies need to be preserved from political engagement. In that role, active collaboration with CSOs is also discouraged.

    In countries where P.M. or P.E. are the dominant or prevailing “public conceptions of democracy”, strong dynamics of collaboration between A.A. and CSOs are not likely to develop -no matter the incentives, tools, strategies and conditions that could be created- because those dynamics are disruptive of –and inconsistent with- dominant institutional culture, modeled by those conceptions.

    That could be bad news, only if those were the only or the best ideas for our public conceptions of democracy. But they are not, of course.

    Pluralistic-Participative and Deliberative conceptions, for instance, are best ideals to inspire institutional frameworks in democratic countries. The agenda, then, should include the task of promoting better understandings of the democratic role of A.A. according to better conceptions of democratic governance. From that perspective, and recalling on @tom-pegram´s contribution, it is a important to explore collaboration from the onset, once A.A. are formally established, as a way of influencing the conception of democracy embedded in these institutions.

    Thanks Carolina!!!

    • #3788
      Profile photo of Lucia
      Lucia
      @lucia-nass
      Ethiopia

      @gusmaurino Very interesting reflection! It makes me think back to the start of our discussion – where prof Enrique was stressing the fact that both sides, SAI and CSOs need to shift their thinking about each other and their behavior towards each other. What many SA experiences now start to bring to the fore is it gets CSOs away from a culture of blaming and demanding – to a culture of dialogue and finding joint solutions for the future. Apparently it is in this context where successful collaborations start to emerge.

  • #3772
    Profile photo of Joy
    Joy
    @joyaceron
    Philippines

    I just had an activity in Naga City, which is a city in Southern Luzon Philippines, considered in the country as a best practice in good local governance. They have been sustaining participatory and transparent local governance for over 20 years now that resulted in an improved socio-economic status of Naga – from a third class city to a premier city in the country considered one of the most competitive and economically advanced.

    I asked them how they interfaced with state accountability institutions (SAIs), particularly in the past when they were still building practices of transparency and participation. Their answer is very interesting. In many instances, a SAI even became a hindrance because many cases have been filed against the LGU which took up so much of the time of the LGU. Most of these cases were deemed to be motivated by partisan political interests. None of these cases progressed, but they became a form of nuisance or even harassment.

    What I want to raise here is the needed nuancing in dealing with SAIs. In countries like the Philippines, where institutions are weak and easily captured by vested interests, SAIs can easily be used to deter well-meaning/ well-performing public offices/ officials. It pays to note that SAIs cannot be considered an immediate/ inherent allies of governance reform. They can also become an enemy.

    Politicization of SAIs is a critical issue. How to insulate SAIs from vested interests/ partisan political capture is a critical challenge – and a difficult challenge to address at that. Institutional reform measures can address it – such as addressing how to make the appointment process of SAI officials transparent and accountable. Effecting changes in an institution such as an appointment process is hard by itself, but addressing causes of politicization that is rooted in the historical development of institutions in the country as well as the over-concentration of power in the hands of a few, which leaves SAIs vulnerable and generally weak, is the bigger question and issue that needs deeper reflection and much broader, comprehensive and systemic response.

    • #3781
      Profile photo of Marcos
      Marcos
      @marcosmendiburu
      USA

      @Joyaceron raises a key issue about “Who watches the watchdog?,” that is, Who oversees oversight bodies? As I mentioned earlier, it would be interesting to discuss the extent to which it is possible for CSOs to do so while also exploring collaborative engagement with AIs. Maybe, CSOs could build broader coalitions with different type of CSOs (service delivery, advocacy, etc), media and other accountability institutions so some of them could play a watchdog role over the AIs while other coalition members could seek engaging with them.

      While the transparency of appointment and/or removal of heads of AIs is an important dimension for preventing co-optation by the ruling party (and their some interesting initiatives undertaken by CSOs in this regard which we briefly mentioned in the draft note shared during this forum earlier), their budget and operational autonomy are important too. In addition, AIs must also be accountable to society, for instance, by submitting annual reports with key data about their performance.

  • #3774
    Profile photo of Adrian
    Adrian
    @adriangurzalavalle
    Brazil

    Hi Carolina,

    Many thanks for this nice opportunity to be part of this very interesting discussion, although I’m jumping in quite late… so sorry for the late post.

    I know you (GPSA) are working on paper on Strengthening Accountability Systems which intends to summarize the intense weeks of work and exchange since Peruzzotti’s talk. I would like to share with you some brief comments based on Brazilian experience in social accountability, taking into account the preliminary version of the paper.

    One can always find good examples of how useful are HAIs and how its interaction with CSOs is beneficial for both agendas legal a social accountability. Good examples are powerful tools for practitioners and insightful for those interested in replicate them. However, most policy makers tend to find good examples les persuasive than practitioners because there are a number counter examples and to many embedded contextual factors. Despite we know there are not silver bullets, they do rather prefer general orientations and lessons….

    In the Brazilian case we have strong experiences of AIs for social accountability: around 30,000 councils and hundreds of thousands of councilors; national conferences which mobilized thousands of stake holders along over a span of one year, approximately; participatory urban strategic planning, social licensing hearings, and many others. Unlike participatory budgeting, all those experiences are mandatory and, therefore, widely diffused. However, the reach and success of this set of experiences is heavily dependent on distinctive features of Brazilian political history.

    We have learnt something by looking at less institutionalized and diffused experiences nevertheless. Highly effective and sustainable social accountability experiences articulate a range of CSOs with key market actors or key public bureaucracy sectors, especially within HAIs. I think William already point out the role of market actors. CSOs may have expertise and social mobilization capacity, but their actions repertoire is limited to achieve sustainable processes of social accountability over policies and public authorities. There might be HAIs bureaucracies in place, but that does not necessarily leads to articulation with CSOs. Building trust between HAIs bureaucracies and CSOs matters, but of course the latter must be interested in such partnership and that is not always the case. When specific sectors HAIs bureaucracies are engaged in the institutionally strengthening their position and that depends on showing effectiveness vis-à-vis other state actors or public opinion, articulation with CSOs appears as a valuable goal for those sectors. Public Prosecutorial Service is a clear example of that in Brazil. Note, turning the blind eye may be as well a way for HAIs bureaucracies to keep their roles or jobs safe. On the other hand, articulation with key market actors is also a way to reach effectiveness. In this second front, media and peak associations and networks committed to corporate social responsibility are especially relevant. Again, exploring synergy between the interest of CSOs, media and firms is possible.

    Let me mention a brief example: “Rede Nossa Sao Paulo” (Our Sao Paulo Network –similar to the famous Bogota Como Vamos–) “Programa de Metas” Project was a joint initiative of social responsible corporate actors and CSOs which become a law and now works as a effective sustainable regular process of social accountability which also incorporates media. Initially, Nossa Sao Paulo launched a project for producing data and descriptive evaluations on pressing problems and related policies. However, “shaming and blaming” strategy trough media was not an easy task because city hall had never explicit goals to use as a parameter, although there were stated general objectives in municipal level programs and policies. Therefore, corporate actors and CSOs, with support of media, launched a campaign to pass a law (Plano de Metas) in order to make mandatory for city hall to translate if specific goals (numbers) all its programs during the first year of each administration. A Rede Nossa Sao Paulo continue to produce indicators on relevant issues and once a year publish an inform evaluating the performance of the city hall according to the goals stated in the Plano de metas. City hall has to publicly justify under achievements or to implement quick corrections in municipal policies.

    Just one last comment, somehow often we do not differentiate enough citizens and CSOs when we talk on social accountability or on the role of AIs. However, different mechanisms are in place for activating citizens as accountability agents and when they do so, they act in different interfaces of AIs and fulfilling diferent accountability roles.

  • #3777
    Profile photo of Dante de los Angeles
    Dante de los Angeles
    @dantedelosangeles

    3. Collaboration with the Office of the OMBUDSMAN

    Our collaboration with the Office of the Ombudsman spanned three periods. Our engagement with this office started during the term of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo. He cited our projects as good practices in combating corruption . We also campaigned for civil society organizations to join corruption prevention units (CPUs).

    When Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez assumed office (following the resignation of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo), she established the Multi-Sectoral Against Corruption Council (MSACC) which was mostly composed of executive bodies and only three civil society organizations. We crafted and refined the provisions of the bill on procurement which later became RA 9184 of 2003 better known as Government Procurement Reform Act.

    Our last year as MSACC member was when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales assumed leadership of the office. With more civil society organizations, we reviewed the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of which our Philippine Government is a signatory. The MSACC at the moment is under review by the current Ombudsman. In its place, there is now a functioning Integrity Management Council whose membership is mostly coming from executive bodies in the government.

    We have helped file corruption charges against perceived mismanaged programs years ago but each time we follow up the cases, the response is always “We are still consolidating the results”. The Office of the Ombudsman is sorely lacking in personnel. High profile cases involving the high and the mighty are given priority.

    Pura Sumangil
    Guarding the Integrity of the CCTP
    March 25, 2015

  • #3783
    Profile photo of Paul
    Paul
    @maassenpaul
    The Netherlands

    Hi all,

    What a rich discussion! I wanted to talk a bit about the role of ombudsmen in opening up government, and the role they are playing/could play in the Open Government Partnership. I guess what goes for ombudsmen goes for other independent accountability institutions too.

    The Open Government Partnership is an international, voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative that brings together domestic reformers to create, with their governments, concrete commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Trust of citizens in government, in institutions, is declining. By opening up government, in partnership with society, that trust can come back. That is one of the places where OGP and the ombudsmen thinking meet.

    Countries that join OGP must develop an ambitious action plan with concrete commitments that go beyond already existing plans to stretch the country. Each country has their own context and starting point, and OGP provides space for that. Within the national frame a tailor-made plan can be defined with the appropriate level of ambition. 3 years since its inauguration, the 65 countries that are part of OGP have made about 2,000 concrete commitments around transparency, accountability and participation, often with a technology element to it.

    The action plan should be developed through a consultation – or dialogue – between government and society. A guaranteed seat at the table. OGP provides guidelines for that consultation and monitors it. Progress on process and commitment delivery is assessed by independent researchers that use the same monitoring methodology in all countries.

    The involvement of society, however, does not end with the development of the action plan. OGP participating countries are to “identify a forum to enable continued and regular multi-stakeholder consultation on the action plan implementation beyond its development.” That’s a crucial element for success! Having a platform for permanent dialogue can help build trust and understanding and provide a forum to exchange expertise and monitor progress. A number of countries have made progress in setting up dialogue mechanisms that allow for this continued engagement, and I personally think this is one of the most interesting and innovative parts of OGP. Accountability institutions sit on some of these dialogue mechanisms. In Mexico, the national Tripartite Committee was instituted to manage the OGP process in the country. Mexico’s Federal Institute of Access to Information and Data Protection (IFAI) sits on this committee. In Peru, the Ombudsman Office sits as an observer in the OGP Executive Committee. In Honduras, the Institute of Access to Information (IAIP) sits on the OGP Technical Committee. In these contexts, these independent accountability institutions play a significant role the in governance of the OGP in their countries.

    Why is it important for these institutions to be at the table?

    The OGP provides these institutions an opportunity to engage/dialogue. Ombudsmen have a general mandate to support improvement of government administration, good governance and promotion of accountability. Quite simply, the OGP provides the opportunity for these institutions to meaningfully engage with government and other domestic reformers to advance concrete reforms in their areas of work – be it service delivery, freedom of information or anti-corruption.

    It also provides a platform for these institutions to get concrete asks around the strengthening of national accountability frameworks and institutions into their country’s action plan. Where challenges exist to the performance of their duties, the OGP provides independent institutions, such as the ombudsman, an avenue to surmount these challenges through getting commitments to reform any legislative or structural constraints that may need addressing. The OGP therefore provides these institutions with the opportunity to make them more effective in their work and in so doing advance open governance.

    And why is it important to have these independent institutions at the table?

    Some thoughts. Accountability institutions have, as matter of course, a lot of useful data on the performance of various governance agencies, which they obtain through the investigations they carry out. This information is important as it can be used to identify priority areas for reform in the country.

    They are also, in some cases, better placed to convince government on the importance of the OGP in advancing reform; and public participation in governance processes. Where government is not comfortable of civil society, offices such as the ombudsman may help to break down these walls. They are a trusted party for both government and civil society and can broker dialogue and trust.

    Furthermore, they also can help keep the pressure on government to actually deliver on what it has promised.

    Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman articulated all of this very well last year at the OGP Regional Meeting in Dublin (see video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycvnx_10RcQ; starts at 59.28). She is keen to connect more to OGP and we need more champions like her. The upcoming OGP Summit in Mexico (October 26-28) is a great moment to discuss this further. I hope that a year from now we will see more OGP countries include accountability institutions – in all forms and shape – in the design, implementation and monitoring of their open government reform agendas!

    Best

    Paul (@maassenpaul here and on Twitter)

    p.s. with great thanks to Maureen Kariuki, Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Africa and the Middle East for her early work on this!

  • #3784
    Profile photo of Tom
    Tom
    @tom-pegram
    United Kingdom

    Great to see momentum continuing on this forum with such interesting contributions from participants. A few additional thoughts in response to recent posts:

    @brendan-halloran makes a very interesting point regarding how we incorporate political context and power relationships into our analysis of state institutions and their wider strategies for engagement. As we know, seeking accountability is a deeply political enterprise which often provokes powerful pushback. This poses a particular challenge to HAIs, as independent but state-funded institutions with a mandate to hold other (horizontal, but in practice much more powerful) branches of the state to account. As many practitioners observe, an HAI which is universally-liked in the corridors of power is probably not doing its job properly. But it does beg the question how can pro-accountability reform networks – both within and outside state structures – work to best ensure that HAI’s are enabled by their political principals (i.e. elected officials) in terms of human and financial capacity/capability to fulfill this important function?

    @saraif point on information asymmetry is really interesting. Indeed, HAIs clearly have an important role to play in terms of disseminating information. As public policy scholars note, one of the most powerful weapons policy-makers can give HAIs is the ability to generate and disseminate information that is politically powerful. Just this week, we see the Peruvian ombudsman releasing a report on how foreign migrants are treated in the country and proposing new legal protections on working conditions – an issue which has been picked up by a range of media.

    @gusmaurino contribution on the relationship between AA and CSOs is very thought-provoking. To what extent is limited interaction due to a lack of strategic/instrumental interest-alignment between actors, or is it actually symptomatic of systemic background norms stemming from the distinction Gustavo draws between PE and PM democracy. This is a really important observation for understanding the experience of HAIs not only in Latin America. To what extent can HAIs become vessels for promoting a different more pluralist conception of democracy in political practice? I think we do see examples of that happening in some contexts, such as Peru. Perhaps in Argentina we might point to the work of the Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación? But I entirely agree that this really is a crucial challenge for HAIs operating in contexts defined by clientelistic historical practices. As my PhD supervisor, Professor Laurence Whitehead, once said to me, “in a way, the ombudsman represents the last bastion of the hope of universality”. Of course, the corollary to that observation may be, how can such an institution really satisfy the hopes and aspirations of the public?

    • #3785
      Profile photo of Carolina
      Carolina
      @carolina-cornejo
      Argentina

      Tom, you´ve highlighted key points. When you mentioned the work of the Procuración Penitenciaria de la Nación (PPN) in Argentina, I realised how important it is to bring into the debate other state accountability institutions -beyond SAIs and OIs- that advocate for increased accountability and promote a more comprehensive and pluralist conception of democracy, as noted by @gusmaurino

      Following your intervention and @saraif´s concerning information asymmetry, I must note that the PPN has been delivering innovative strategies to advance openness to the citizenry (closely related to its mandate to protect HHRR). It recently launched open datasets on two key areas (main features of prison practices, and procedures and interventions under the PPN´s protocols), thereby making relevant information accessible, understandable and usable.
      http://www.ppn.gov.ar/?q=Se_inaugura_el_espacio_%E2%80%9CDatos_P%C3%BAblicos_de_la_PPN%E2%80%9D_en_la_web_del_organismo%09
      I guess this is the kind of politically powerful information you acknowledged AIs can generate and disseminate. Although we haven´t explored the role of ICTs in accountability initiatives, I believe they are very useful tools to consider when developing strategies to narrow the information gap between state institutions and citizens, and empower the latter.

      In line with this, and recalling on @maassenpaul´s interesting contribution, the PPN has been trying to get involved in the OGP. So far, it has been taking part in biweekly meetings between CSOs and government agencies (coordinated by the Executive office in charge of leading the process in Argentina), and is seeking to formally engage. Paul noted that in some cases AIs are “better placed to convince government on the importance of the OGP in advancing reform”. I would add that in challenging contexts where the Executive is distrustful of AIs´s role, bringing them on board may prove quite difficult given that the national government is the one who leads the process (at least, when signing up to the OGP, and by backing approval of state agencies pursuing engagement). However, the good news is that when AIs are close to civil society, no matter government´s willingness to engage, reform can somehow be side-driven.

      BTW, many thanks to @adriangurzalavalle @maassenpaul @dantedelosangeles @gusmaurino for your contributions!

      Also, feel encouraged to give us your feedback on the forum by filling this brief survey: http://BIT.LY/1C3ZFQV

  • #3786
    Profile photo of Guillermo
    Guillermo
    @gmcejudo
    México

    I’m Guillermo Cejudo, from CIDE in Mexico City.
    I’ve been following the discussion and learning from all your posts. It’s clear to me to that we still have a lot to learn about the interactions between civil society and accountability institutions. In the webinar, Enrique Peruzzotti pointed out that there is not a single way of engagement, and I think that it would be useful to start thinking of ways to conceptualize and categorize the different ways in which accountability institutions and civil society organizations interact.
    Many of the examples put forward in this forum are about accountability institutions reaching out to organizations in order to foster participation by opening up channels of comunication or to empower them by giving them the tools to carry out their own strategies (like the information assymetries suggested by Sarai). But these are not the only purposes for which accountability institutions need/want to interact with civil society. In one extreme, they may look for legitimation; in the other, as continuation of their own work.
    On the other hand, there are many possible reasons why civil society organizations may try to work with accountability institutions: for information, for political leverage, for activating formal processes of accountability, etc.
    It would be extremely useful to come up with a more comprehensive typology of purposes and strategies of engagement, so that we could come up with a more nuanced understanding of how and why civil society and accountability institutions interact. Then, we could learn more from each specific example, and make comparions across institutions, sectors and countries. We could them make sense of how different regimes, as professor Maurino explained, shape these interactions.

  • #3789
    Profile photo of Lucia
    Lucia
    @lucia-nass
    Ethiopia

    As the Forum is drawing to a close, I just wanted to thank everyone for an educative couple of weeks. Thanks for responding to my many questions – and hope to meet you again here on the platform.

  • #3795
    Profile photo of Enrique
    Enrique
    @enriqueperuzzotti
    Argentina

    I have enjoyed the discussion and debates that took place after the webinar. They reflect the challenges that many societies are facing while they attempt to redesign and improve the traditional machinery of governmental accountability. The conventional approach tended to consider accountability to be the exclusive prerogative of horizontal or intrastate mechanisms. However, such structure has become insufficient in addressing the claims of a more demanding and active citizenry. As problems grow in complexity and public policies involved a plurality of sometimes heterogeneous stakeholders, it is advisable to promote more participatory forms of accountability. The many examples that were presented in the debates show that increasingly civil society and horizontal institutions are willing to develop novel forms of collaboration. New agencies such as ombudsman and old ones, such as SAI have opened channels of communication with different sort of civic organizations. The most interesting ones are those that bring together into a common oversight network, the resources and know-how of different types of actors and organizations. ‘Articulated oversight’ is one interesting example of coordinated collaboration between accountability institutions and civil society actors. By bringing together different sorts of ‘knowledge’, experiences of articulated oversight generate a more effective mechanism to oversee the implementation of public policies or the provision of public goods to specific constituencies that a traditional form of horizontal oversight could not do on its own. It was very interesting to me to learn of many efforts in very different places to build collaboration between state accountability institutions and civil society.

    What is the necessary context for such a collaboration to take place? Many of you wondered about the question of how to create, borrowing Lucia Nass’s expression, an ‘enabling environment’. As many of you have argued (Aranzasu, Lucia Nass, Mendoza), trust is an important prerequisite for the establishment and subsequent functioning of a mixed accountability network. It is important for all involved to establish a trustful environment, both within those civic organizations that will participate in an experience of articulated oversight, among the horizontal institutions that will be part of it, and between state and civil society actors. Maybe it is important to build such trust beforehand, by promoting before less demanding forms of collaboration, such as spaces for mutual dialogue and interaction (Walter Flores’ point). Walter Flores mentions other forms of accountability agencies – civil society relations such as the ones developed by the office of the Ombudsman in Guatemala. It also helps the reputation that the agency has publicly built as committed to an agenda of governmental accountability. The pioneering work of Tom Pegram on ombudsman institutions in Latin America shows how the reputation that some of those agencies built place them in a placed of great trust by the citizenship. The track record is thus crucial.
    A second important condition is that the accountability initiative should bring tangible benefits to both state and societal actors. For SAI or ombudsmen, opening up channels of collaboration with citizens can enhance their social legitimacy, increase their visibility, and improve their capacities. This is particularly important when those institutions operate in a hostile context due to lack of collaboration of other state institutions or of unresponsiveness of state actors to SAI’s recommendations. For many accountability institutions, the main obstacle is lack of collaboration within the web of intra-state institutions which goes in detriment of their efforts in promoting governmental transparency and upholding citizen’s rights. In this sense, civil society can be an important (and sometimes the only) ally that those public officials have in their efforts to fulfill their task. Civil society, as well as the autonomous media can amplify the impact and visibility of SAI/ombudsman work and indirectly exert pressure on other unresponsive state agencies or powerful interests that seek to prevent or undermine their work. As Joy and Gustavo Maurino mentioned, politicization of horizontal mechanisms is sometimes a strategy to disempower accountability in the name of an alternative form of democracy. SAI and other autonomous agencies can thus find political allies in civil society that could defend their democratic accountability ideal. For civil society, collaboration with state accountability institutions gives them a crucial leverage to their work and many times bring them into a network with ‘teeth’, that is, with agencies that have the capacity of imposing formal sanctions on wrongdoers or unresponsive state agencies. And it also is a way of finding allies within the state that are willing to stand up for what their consider should be the acceptable model of democracy.
    A third point is that ‘articulated oversight’ is just one of a more varied repertoire of social accountability mechanisms. In some occasions, other mechanisms might be preferable and more effective, depending what is at stake: exposing wrongdoing, agenda-setting, establishing a collaborative framework between citizens, service providers, and public officials. Civil society should engage in a plurality of strategies, depending on the context and the goals it seeks to promote.

    Lastly, the issue of ‘sustainability’ came up repeatedly. This brings me to the last point: perhaps there is no single strategy that is sustainable in the long run: collective action has its cycles, and the same happens with agenda setting, etc. So perhaps, rather than forcing a collaboration beyond an specific case, it is better to be ready to resort to another form of strategy when the employed one starts resulting less attractive to some of the involved stakeholders.

  • #3808
    Profile photo of Lourdes
    Lourdes
    @lourdesmoralescanales
    Mexico

    test

  • #3849
    Profile photo of Lourdes
    Lourdes
    @lourdesmoralescanales
    Mexico

    The Accountability Network (www.rendiciondecuentas.org.mx) which houses the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), is a “second tier” organization that seeks to create a context of social and political demands to design of an accountability policy in Mexico, arising from both academic research and excellence as the most extensive disclosure and open discussion of knowledge and organized social experiences, as well as the effective coordination of work between social organizations, public institutions and academic institutions engaged in this subject matter. The Federal Supreme Audit Institution (ASF) is part of our board and membership. We also work with some of the local SAI’s at the subnational level. Many of them have problems such as: lack of political independence, lack of transparency or total absence of relationship with CSO’s ( I strongly recommend this report made by IMCO and UDG http://imco.org.mx/wp-content/uploads/2013/5/resumen_ejecutivo_imco_udg.pdf) Mexico’s is actually going through a crisis of credibility and legitimacy. Corruption scandals such as the “White house” or public infrastructure mismanagements have created the conditions to advance a wide anti-corruption agenda based on social participation. In the Acc Network a working group integrated by CIDE’s academics and members of social organizations (Mexico Evalua and FUNDAR) analyzed the possible impact of an AntiCorruption Agency proposed by President Enrique Peña and supported by political parties in the Senate (PRI-PVEM)- Empirical evidence shows that a number of anti-corruption agencies have increased dramatically over the past decades. Nevetheless the value of ACAs is been questioned because they have failed to produce effective results. The problem is that many of them lack of social support, credibility but also articulation with other public powers or agencies that could improve check and balances mechanisms. The working group made a proposal based on prevention and correction of institutional behaviours that favor corruption. It also pointed out the “dangers” of creating an autonomous, highly centralized institution that could be used for political control. Activities included five public forums, many interviews with journalists and representatives as well as a dialogue with the President’s staff. In the public forums political representatives of the Senate and lower chamber, social organizations and public institutions actively participated. The purpose was to make a public statement that could lead to modify the President’s initiative. The working group supported by the Accountability Network proposed the creation of an anticorruption system based on: i) improving the check and balances mechanisms (not only one agency but at least four institutions involved in the process supported on citizens participation), ii) attacking corruption on its causes and not only on its consequences, iii) make “institutional intelligence” possible, that is, correction and prevention of corruption.

    The outcomes were very positive: different organizations inside and outside the Accountability Network assumed the proposals as theirs. It was relevant to notice that entrepreneurs and bishops joined the claim for accountability. The three main political parties also adopted the speech of “an anticorruption system” and a proposal that considered most of the Accountability Network recommendations just passed at the Congress (lower chamber). We are expecting results regarding social support and institutional changes in the coming weeks.

  • #4881
    Profile photo of Jeffrey
    Jeffrey
    @jeffreymaganya
    Kenya

    Hunger Safety Net Programme Phase 2 (HSNPII)

    The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) is an unconditional cash transfer programme targeted at the chronically food insecure. The goal of the HSNP is to reduce extreme poverty in Kenya. The purpose is to support the establishment of a government-led national social protection system delivering long-term, guaranteed cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable 10% of Kenyan households. The programme delivers cash transfer in four of the poorest arid and semi-arid counties in northern Kenya; Turkana, Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir making regular cash transfers to about 80,000 households every 2 months.

    There is an accountability framework for the programme that is undertaken by HelpAge international, community members and state institutions that are responsible for complaints and grievances including Kenya National Commission on Human Rights; The Kenya anti corruption Commission and the office of the Ombudsperson. These institutions partner with HelpAge. HelpAge has c. 400 Rights Committees whose members collect complaints and grievances from beneficiaries. these are channelled to the government and to the payment service provider (Equity Bank) for resolution. In the last quarter there were c. 11000 complaints and updates. 20 percent of these complaints are usually resolved. Most complaints are about wrongful exclusion and inclusion as a recipient, misspelled names, lack of Identification Documents and distance from payment points.

    The background to this

    Kenya Constitution 2010
    In Kenya the very foundation of good governance is established in the constitution. Social protection like all other state activities are prone to poor governance and corrupt practices. So the constitution of Kenya has the following provisions that support social protection and cash transfers:
    Right to:
    1. to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care;
    2. to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation;
    3. to be free from hunger, and to have adequate food of acceptable quality;
    4. to clean and safe water in adequate quantities;
    5. to social security; and
    6. to education.
    7. emergency medical treatment.
    8. social security to persons who are unable to support themselves and their dependants.

    There are also provisions on delivery of services, including participation, non discrimination, transparency and accountability in policy making, policy interpretation and policy implementation(including an obligatory participatory budget making). Participation of the people as part of the national values and principles of governance and public participation as one of the principles of public finance alongside openness and accountability.

    International law
    The Kenyan constitution 2010 recognizes international law as part of the domestic legal system. That means that the right to social security which cuts across a number of provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – e.g. provisions on the right to work, to just and favourable conditions of work, to adequate standard of physical and mental health, adequate standard of living etc.

    Article 9 provides that “the States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of
    everyone to social security, including social insurance”. These have become provisions that may be challenged in local courts.

    Practice of participation
    In terms of practice all the cash transfers has elaborate mechanism for allowing citizens to participate. HSNP has a Proxy Means Test and Community Based Targeting as a means of identifying beneficiaries.

    Practice of Non discrimination
    The cash transfers in Kenya are a de facto tool that that deals with discrimination as they targeted people who are most discriminated against. Older persons cash transfers. Cash transfers for orphans and vulnerable children, cash transfers for people with severe disabilities and Hunger Safety Net Programme which targets Kenya’s 4 poorest counties.

    Practice of transparency and accountability
    All CTs in Kenya have general agreement that transparency and accountability is important. HSNP has a vibrant accountability framework with 4000 volunteer rights committee members, an MIS for reporting complaints and a system where duty bearers may respond to and resolve complaints.

    The Accountability framework for HSNP
    The Kenyan Accountability framework is anchored in the constitution. There are various constitutional commissions that deal with complaints. These include The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, The Kenya anti corruption Commission and The office of the ombudsman. Other state bodies include the legislature and judiciary. The constitution has widened their powers and independence. HelpAge works with these to handle complaints and grievances that are not administrative in nature.

  • #5176
    Profile photo of Pier Paolo
    Pier Paolo
    @pierpaolofanesi
    Italia

    Hi, I would like to know what do you think about the new technology into the citizens engagement. I mean, I know it is important but could not be the risk to lose the quality of deliberate citizen choices that we could have in a real, and not only virtual, citizens meeting?

    • #5183
      Profile photo of Kevin
      Kevin
      @goga-kevin
      Kenya

      Hi Pier Paolo,

      I like your question on the role of technology in the whole social accountability debate. I think it’s a debate whose time is long overdue. The same extends to the e-government programs implemented by states. What if they don’t achieve the desired outcomes of the citizenry they are supposed to account to?or what if they are used irresponsibly just to further certain interests? What’s the role of CSO’s in this… #FollowingTheConversation

  • #5181
    Profile photo of Sreenivasan
    Sreenivasan
    @sreenath
    Singapore

    I believe the accountability process need to be transparent between civil society and institutions. However it is not the case in most of the countries. For example the Housing Development Board (HDB) is constructing the flats for the residents. However HDB don’t reveal to the resident on the actual cost of the flat constructed and hence the profit made by them.

  • #3511
    Profile photo of Walter Flores
    Walter Flores
    @walterflores

    I am replying to Lucia Nass´questions. In Guatemala, my organization, implements social accountability processes in health in 37 rural indigenous municipalities. We have been working with the Ombudsman as a part of our social accountability strategy. For us, engaging with the Ombudsman is part of our strategy for vertical integration and sustainability. What we have learned during our work is that in order for the Ombudsman to play a key role, the problems identified through social accountability must be presented in legal terms rather than administrative. For instance, many findings in relation to the performance of municipal health care services are framed as failings in applying administrative procedures and protocols set by the Ministry of Health. When framed as such, the Ombudsman cannot intervene. However, when the failings are presented as leading to consequences and rights violations then the Ombudsman intervenes. Because of this, what we have done in Guatemala is to move from describing administrative failing to present cases of right violations. By following this strategy, we have been able to engage in addition to the Ombudsman, also the Parlamentarian Commission on Health, the Defender of Indigenous Women´s Rights and the National Commission against Racisms.

  • #3514
    Profile photo of Janet Oropeza
    Janet Oropeza
    @janet-oropeza

    Walter, the experience of Guatemala is really interesting. I like your idea of moving from an administrative or efficiency approach to a human rights one. I wonder, in the case of Guatemala, after the Ombudsman Office has taken up cases, what has happenned? How has the government responded to the Ombudsman demands? Are there any good results emerging from that collaboration between citizens and the Ombudsman Office?

  • #3544
    Profile photo of Aranzazu
    Aranzazu
    @aguillanmontero
    US

    Hi Marko,

    I am really glad to see that you have joined the discussion! I am looking forward to knowing more about this recent event you have just mentioned. But it would also be great if you could share with participants in the e-discussion some information on the interesting work that Institut Alternativa has been doing in Montenegro regarding one key issue: follow up to audit recommendations.

    At the webinar and in this discussion, many have asked about the teeth of accountability institutions and how we can ensure that they have a real impact on changing state behavior and actions. This has a lot to do with the relations and linkages between different accountability institutions within the particular institutional context of each country. However, it is also important to note that citizens and civil society can play a role in strengthening those teeth by monitoring and overseeing the enforcement of accountability institutions’ decisions and recommendations. There are not many CSOs working on that specific area, so having some additional information from you on this regards can be very interesting for many others.

  • #3775
    Profile photo of Dante de los Angeles
    Dante de los Angeles
    @dantedelosangeles

    Hello everyone. This is Dante delos Angeles of Partnership for Transparency Fund based in the Philippines. We are a partner of Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government in the implementation of the GPSA-funded “Guarding the Integrity of Conditional Cash Transfer Program in the Philippines” which we call Project i-PANTAWID. My colleague, Pura Sumangil, Chair of CCAGG and Project Director of Project i-PANTAWID, for some reason could not access the eForum. So she asked me to upload inher behalf her SAI article entitled: Citizens’ Engagement with Accountability Institutions to Improve Government Performance”. This consist of three sections.

    Here it goes.

    Citizens’ Engagement with Accountability Institutions
    to Improve Government Performance

    I am PuraSumangil from the Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG). Our CSO is a GPSA grantee. With three other partners, the PTF, RECITE and ANSA-EAP, we are implementing aGPSA-funded projectGuardingthe Integrity of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program in Northern Philippines.

    First of all, let me say something about our organization. The CCAGG was an election watchdog as NAMFREL during the snap presidential election in 1986. NEDA, the planning and development agency of the Philippine Government, invited us to participate in the pump priming program of President Cory Aquino to address unemployment. Something novel about this project is that it invited CSOs to monitor project implementation. A MoA was signed between us, NEDA and the DBM, the budget and management arm of the government.

    As per the MoA, NEDA would provide us the list of projects to be monitored, location and implementing agency. It would also train us on the technical know-how of project monitoring and evaluation. DBM on the other hand would provide us the project costs, and dates of fund releases. CCAGG would monitor the projects based on the guidelines provided by NEDA and DBM and submit regular feedback reports.

    But nowhere was there a provision on what to do when irregularities were found out in the course of project inspections. Anyway, our monitors found falsified project documents by no less than the project engineers. Twenty-one projects which had not yet begun or were midway in implementation were published in the newspaper as “finished” and “turned over” to the local government units.
    We reported the matter to our partner agencies. They must have been caught by surprise and did not know how to react. And so, on our own, we decided to pursue what we judged as an infringement of our right to development and good governance. Mobilized by our long years of deprivation of social services, advocacy on the issue drew a public outcry. Other CSOs joined in and together we passionately pursued the demand for sanctions to the erring agency. We filed an administrative case against eleven erring public works engineers. During the hearing of the case, the Abra-based auditors of the Commission on Audit (COA) stood by us and enriched our findings with their documents and testimonies. In the end, the engineers, mostly unit heads of the district office of DPWH in Abra were punished for falsifying certificates of project completion and suspended from office for 4 to 9 months without pay. As a result, the President of the Philippines, Mrs. Cory Aquino cited the CCAGG as the Most Outstanding NGO in Region 1 in a ceremony at Malacanan Palace in Manila. The Regional Director of DPWH also decreed that no payment of projects in the Abra province will be released without the monitoring report of the CCAGG.

    The above made news. CSOs from our neighboring provinces came to ask us to introduce them and to share with them our experiences and knowledge. This endeavor expanded our CSO partnership which is now in 3 regions. We have organized ourselves into the Northern Luzon Coalition for Good Governance (NLCGG). It is composed of 23 CSOs and we are actively pursuing various development and good governance initiatives like monitoring of public infrastructure projects and promoting social accountability. NLCGG members also help implement our GPSA project in their respective localities.

    1. ENGAGEMENT with the COMMISSION ON AUDIT
    The successful intervention of CCAGG in the Abra province in curbing corruption with the participation of the citizens caught the attention of many including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It made efforts to partner CCAGG with the Commission on Audit in Manila in its project “Enhancing the Public Accountability Program of the Philippine COA” in 2000. This was the firstParticipatory Audit (PA)in the Philippines approved by COA under the helm of Chair CelsoGangan.

    PREPARATIONS FOR THE PA

    Prior to the proposed engagement, a seminar was held in Baguio City which was attended by COA, NEDA and CCAGG. A COA commissioner headed the team from his agency. It was an opportune time to get to know each other and to understand better that though COA and CCAGG were coming from differing backgrounds, each could contribute to the attainment of improved fiscal management and good governance. A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between COA and CCAGG. It spelled out the functions and responsibilities of each party. CCAGG almost backed out of the partnership because of a provision in the MoA which ran counter to our practices. CCAGG provides immediate feedback to the public after each monitoring trip but COA’s policy stated that there should be no premature disclosure of audit findings. NEDA even insisted that sufficient safeguard should be established in order to protect the confidentiality of public documents and information.

    After the signing of the MoA, COA, NEDA and CCAGG came together to identify the training needs in preparation for field work. The partners attended joint trainings on: results-oriented monitoring and evaluation, laws on the conduct of audits, audit evidences, infrastructure audit, fraud audits, financial audit and value for money audit (VFM) or performance audit. In addition, the parties also did team building activities which were facilitated by a professional group to enhance team work and team spirit.

    During the planning, possible auditees were identified and agreed upon. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were chosen.
    The Value – for – Money Audit (VFM) was thought of as the appropriate tool to use in PA. Its choice was prompted by the observation that VFM is very relevant to the thrust of the government to promote transparency, people empowerment and enhancement of public accountability.

    PA was conducted in 23 road projects of the DPWH. Among the audit team’s findings were:
    a) The government was shortchanged with the disbursement of 15% of mobilization fees amounting to millions of pesos to contractors of four projects. And yet months after, when the audit team came for inspection, the projects have not yet been started;
    b) A 41.8 meter stone masonry collapsed at an intermediate potion of the Abra region (locos Norte Road) with only an aggregate length of 7.30 meters remaining.
    c) Project engineers’ easily granted extension to projects without documentary evidence to support and justify extension. This is abused by contractors to lessen charges of liquidated damages;
    A comment of DPWH Management during the exit conference: They have few accredited project engineers and their projects are far apart.

    Audit team’s rejoinder: The alleged lack of qualified project engineers may be compensated by way of equitable scheduling of site inspections and the full enforcement of the monitoring system. The contractors are supposed to implement the project following the required standards and specifications. The presence of the contractor’s engineer should be required and monitored. Management should also explore the possibility of utilizing independent private sectors/NGOs that are willing to help in monitoring.

    What were the gains made by Participatory Audit?

    a) Participatory Audit was a break through. CCAGG monitors inspect on-going projects while COA does post audit.

    b) CCAGG was tasked to do contract review during the PA. Its view was strengthened that when pre-management or pre-construction stage is skipped by an audit (which includes the bidding process, the detailed estimates and prices of materials and labor), a big chunk of the project cost can slip away. What is left for monitoring groups (like CCAGG) to check is but the quality and quantity of the physical component of an ongoing project. (COA said that they will not go back to pre-audit!)

    c) The stakeholders’ participated in assessing the social impact of projects in their locality. For example, questions like “Is the project needed? Is it a response to the expressed need of the community? What benefits are derived from the project? These questions are important to consider to find out if these projects really match expressed needs and that scarce government funds are judiciously used and not wasted.

    d) The biggest gain derived from PA is the realization that civil society organizations are just as sincere, competent and effective as the government auditors in safeguarding scarce government resources.

    PuraSumangil
    Guarding the Integrity of the CCTP
    March 25, 2015

  • #3776
    Profile photo of Dante de los Angeles
    Dante de los Angeles
    @dantedelosangeles

    2. THE CITIZEN PARTICIPATORY AUDIT (CPA)

    In 2012, the above pioneering accountability partnership was further fortified when COA Chair Gracia Pulido – Tan implemented Phase I of the new Citizens’ Participatory Audit (CPA). CCAGG was engaged in the audit of the CAMANAVA Flood Control Project along with two other CSOs, the International Alert and the Diaspora for Good Governance. The CAMANAVA Flood Control Project, was implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and funded by the JICA. It cost 5 B pesos and covered the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela. The performance audit was in fact a late response to the nagging question why the areas continued to be flooded when an expensive flood control system was already in place.

    The major activities of the joint audit team ranged from ocular inspection of the whole flood control project, individual interviews and social interaction with the communities where flood water did not easily recede. Test run of the water pump was also done to check the efficiency of the mechanism in the discharge of the flood water to the major waterways. The flood control project which could not take off for a long time was found out to have been caused by the informal settlers who threw their household wastes into the drainage thereby blocking the free flow of flood water into the major waterways. Their recommendation: the concerned LGUs will conduct Information & Education Campaign (IEC) on the proper disposal of household wastes, relocation of the informal settlers and safeguarding the cleared areas.

    In 2015, CCAGG will once more engage with the COA in its forthcoming Participatory Audit of farm-to-market roads in 27 municipalities of Abra. This time, accredited tobacco farmers’ associations will join in. The monies involved in the construction of farm-to-market roads will be aroundhalf a billion pesos –a big amount considering the poor economy of Abra province.

    I would like to believe that it was our inclusive local track record of exacting accountability and transparency in the DPWH that brought us to the consciousness of institutions ‘up there’ which served as our preliminaries in working with COA’s participatory audits. For how else will the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) get to know you except by ones’ performance?

    PuraSumangil
    Guarding the Integrity of the CCTP
    March 25, 2015

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