Donors became interested in government accountability after the release of the World Development Report in 2004. Subsequently, the World Bank and international donors supported interventions that were designed to increase transparency which in turn was expected to promote accountability in developing countries. The limited evidence from impact assessments of such
interventions steered by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) indicates that there is more impact in Rwanda than other African states. This trend occurs because of the stronger government
institutions and commitment to development in Rwanda (Wild et al., 2015; Honeyman, 2017). However, Rwandan CSOs operate with constraints on their freedom of expression, therefore
criticism of the government is muted (Francois, 2017).
This rapid literature review is based on sources from academic and grey literature. It comprises of audits of civil society in Rwanda undertaken by international CSOs such as Civicus and Transparency International and assessments of accountability programmes using randomised control designs or case studies. The audits are based on surveys, in-depth interviews or focus
groups with members of the public who are asked to rate the effectiveness of CSOs in providing information or advocating on behalf of citizens. The literature on impact assessments of social
accountability programmes is sparse (Joshi, 2013; Fox, 2015) and there are very few studies on Rwanda. This review was able to find two assessments of civil society and three case study
assessments of social accountability programmes in Rwanda. The literature on social accountability or transparency and accountability initiatives does not highlight issues pertaining to
the role of donors in accountability programmes.
Recent scholarship on social accountability notes that the theory of change which assumes that transparency leads to accountability relies on the premise that citizens, including marginalised
groups, have agency to effect change. However, this premise is overly optimistic in most developing countries (Fox, 2015). Consequently, there is a push for adapting programmes to suit local conditions (Wild et al., 2015), and for the ‘sandwich strategy’ which requires that multiple coalitions advocate for accountability (Fox, 2015). Furthermore, CSOs play a useful role as intermediaries which purvey information in user-friendly formats and advocate for accountability on behalf of the community (van Zyl, 2014).
The main findings on the impact of social accountability programmes in several developing countries are as follows (Joshi, 2013; Fox, 2015):
- The evidence on the impact of social accountability interventions is mixed;
- Public expenditure tracking surveys, citizen report cards and community scorecards have resulted in improved performance outcomes in some cases;
- Interventions have been more successful in reducing corruption than enhancing service delivery; and
- Voice and accountability interventions which are targeted directly at women and other marginalised groups have yielded some impact on empowerment (Joshi, 2013). For example, in Bangladesh, the parents of girls in schools mobilised to monitor teacher attendance and discourage absenteeism.
In Rwanda, the key findings from impact assessments of accountability programmes are as follows:
- The impact of civil society on accountability is perceived as moderate by citizens (Civicus, 2011);
- Over 70% of citizens state that CSOs influence public policy and 66% assert that CSOs engage with the state (Transparency International Rwanda, 2015);
- An evaluation of the CARE Community Score Card (CSC) found that it had a positive impact on service delivery. Feedback from the CSC was communicated to local government by service providers, leading to tangible improvements in service delivery such as mobile clinics and more health workers (Wild et al., 2015);
- The Rwanda Threshold Programme which aimed to promote civic participation did not have a positive impact on accountability;
- The Rwandan government has utilised performance contracts, referred to as imihigo, to raise service standards in the public sector. In the education sector, imihigo has limited impact on the quality of education although there is a positive impact on school infrastructure. Bottom-up initiatives are less effective (Honeyman, 2015); and
- CSOs are aid-dependent and 75% rely on international aid (Transparency International Rwanda, 2015).