Bangladesh’s Local Government Support Project (LGSP-II) is a national decentralization plan that aims to strengthen local governance. LGSP II provides grants to Union Parishads (UPs) – the oldest and most local government system – so the community can determine which public projects serve them best. Thus, the main purpose of the project is to build the capacity of local governments to manage public services and resources while concurrently introducing changes in the local government practices, especially in fiscal transfer, transparency, community participation and accountability. However, significant gaps remained at the UP level in areas such as community engagement in budgetary processes and active disclosure of information. Likewise, there was low community demand for budget transparency and poor feedback mechanisms to measure citizen satisfaction with local governance and service delivery.
The sub-project goal was to promote citizen engagement and responsiveness from the local government by ensuring accountability and transparency of the Union Parishads (UP) in LGSP-II. Specific objectives included:
- Mobilize and capacitate UP representatives to engage communities in the open budgeting processes
- Strengthen capacities of communities to monitor budget transparency, efficiency, participation, inclusion and accountability at the local level
The project’s primary activity was third-party monitoring at the UP level. The majority of capacity building focused on forming and training citizen group committees charged with monitoring the performance of the local government. The implementing CSOs – Democracy Watch and Agragoti Sangtha – employed the same methodology but covered different geographic areas.
The overall results of the CARTA sub-project were positive:
- 100% of UP committee and community members had knowledge of the LGSP-II scheme, compared to 80% (AG) and 58% (DW) at the beginning of the sub-project
- 100% of UPs properly disseminated information through notice boards, compared to 70% (AG) and 78% (DW) at the sub-project outset
- Information boards were displayed for 80% (AG) and 78% (DW) of the UP “Notice and Information” boards
- The tax collection improved from 77% to 83% (AG) and from 35% to 43% (DW) compliance level.
The primary sub-project activity attributed to the better performance of the UPs was capacity building among community groups about the program, its intended activities and impact.
Although the sub-project only lasted for 2 years, it successfully increased local government responsiveness to citizen feedback. For instance, the LGSP-II team arranged training for local communities after the baseline survey revealed their limited knowledge of their roles in the program. In addition, the Union Parishad (UP) officials worked closely with community groups, who were able to support UP activities with their newly acquired knowledge. It is expected that positive relations will continue to be nurtured among the various stakeholders for the common good.