This report summarises interventions by more than 30 civil society organisations (CSOs) to increase government accountability in varied sectors and contexts. CSOs use a wide variety of different media to gather information from citizens, which they then use to press for accountability. Their strategies and tactics for engaging with local and national government include: informal networking; formal engagement in parliamentary committees; high-profile meetings with political figures; and collaborating directly in government-led programmes (as formally-contracted monitoring agencies). Choice of intervention is likely to depend on political context. The range of interventions includes:
- legal mechanisms
- media campaigns
- public hearings/social audits
- citizen report cards
- community scorecards
- community monitoring
- research and advocacy
- open data
The examples included in this review provide evidence that CSO interventions have:
- Changed government policy: In Mexico, FUNDAR monitored the distribution of farm subsidies, highlighting that most of the subsidies were going to large agro-business, rather than small-scale farmers as the government had claimed. This helped usher in reforms to ensure small-scale producers benefited in the future. In India, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) successfully lobbied for social audits to become part of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
- Increased transparency: In DRC, a coalition of 300 CSOs – Réseau Gouvernance Economique et Démocratie – produced a citizens’ budget and successfully lobbied for more budget data to be published. In Brazil, another large-scale coalition convened by the Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas was effective in improving the financing and transparency of a large publicly-owned bank.
- Improved education, health and livelihoods outcomes: One rigorous impact evaluation showed that community scorecards increased teacher effort in the Anantapur district in India. In Ghana, the Social Enterprise Development Foundation’s monitoring of the child feeding programme motivated the government to perform its mandated functions. Research by the Urban Resource Centre in Karachi helped prevent the construction of an expressway that would have uprooted 100,000 people and caused immense environmental damage. A coalition of religious groups, health professionals and CSOs – the Social Justice Coalition – successfully advocated changes in policies governing sanitation in Cape Town, with important health implications.
- Exposed and reduced local-level corruption: Community groups are sometimes best placed to identify whether projects (e.g. roads, infrastructure) that have been reported as ‘completed’ are in fact completed. In one social audit process convened by Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in Rajasthan, Rs. 20 million of programme funds were recovered. Monitoring of the Health Department of the Eastern Cape by the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) helped reduce the discrepancy between budgets and actual expenditures from R1.9 billion in 2009-10 to R0.8 billion in 2011-12.