Local Government Support Project (LGSP II)

Local Government Support Project (LGSP II)

IMPLEMENTING PARTNER:  Agrogoti Sangstha; Democracy Watch
YEARS: 2012-2014
GRANT AMOUNT: $224,916
THEMES: Local Governance

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.

Strategy
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.

Results
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.

Lessons
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.

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Benchmarking and Curbing Corruption in Local Service Delivery in Brahmapur City, India

IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: Youth for Social Development (YSD)
YEARS: 2008 – 2009 (Phase I); 2009 – 2011 (Phase II)
GRANT AMOUNT: $15,000 USD (Phase I); $31,870 USD (Phase II)
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

Petty corruption permeates basic service delivery in the city of Brahmapur in Odisha State, India. Youth for Social Development (YSD), a local CSO, decided to survey different corruption issues at the local level in order to map magnitude, prevalence and possible entry points for civil society to hold the government to account and demand corruption-free service delivery. During phase one, YSD implemented the ‘Urban Corruption Survey in Brahmapur City’ -project and successfully raised citizen awareness. Phase two of the project concentrated on mobilizing the community and building capacity.

The second phase was named ‘Enabling Citizen Monitoring of Public Services, Preventing Bribery to Foster Effective Service Delivery in Brahmapur City of Odisha’. Throughout both phases of this ‘Citizens against Corruption’ (CAC) project, YSD advocated on behalf of the poor and supported citizen monitors and communities to constructively engage with local officials. Based on the results of phases one and two, an extension of the project (phase three) was recommended and a new grant signed in 2011.

Corruption Problem Addressed
Modern governments play a significant role in the provision of basic services, including supplying drinking water, primary education, health care, social safety nets, maintaining roads and many other services. These services are essential in providing infrastructure for economic growth and helping citizens lead better and healthier lives. Problems arise if services are not provided corruption-free and ordinary people, especially the poor, are hard pressed to pay speed money in order to gain access to services controlled by a few public officials. Refusal to pay often leads to delayed decision-making or outright denial of services, posing a clear violation of citizens’ rights to entitlements as stipulated by the law.

A study by Transparency International India found that 62% of all Indians have had first hand experiences paying bribes or “using a contact” to successfully receive services that should be provided corruption-free. Citizens are increasingly vocal about the absence of transparency and accountability in public service delivery and are looking for ways and means to hold governments and officials accountable for their actions (or inactions).

YSD decided to map the magnitude and prevalence of corruption in six basic services provided by government agencies in the city of Brahmapur to establish a baseline and help communities target their ensuing anti-corruption efforts. Key findings of the survey were:

  • 82% of the citizens were required to pay bribes
  • The Brahmapur Development Authority (BDA) and Land Record and Administration Services offices were rated among the most corrupt agencies
  • Common citizens pay up to $1,28 million USD in bribes per year (estimate)
  • The two most important reasons for citizens to engage in bribery are a) fear of harassment and b) delay in service delivery
  • The top two procedural reasons propelling citizens to succumb to bribery demands are a) unavailability of information and b) non-transparent application procedures

Actions Taken by YSD
YSD conducted a comprehensive survey of 2008 households (4.5% of the total population) during the first phase of the project. The areas surveyed included (1) provision of drinking water, (2) municipal services, (3) public health care, (4) public distribution system (PDS), (5) BDA services and (6) Land Record and Administration Services. Completing the study, YSD arranged for focus group discussion with public officials, academics, the community and civil society organizations.

To present its findings, YSD – in partnership with the district administration – then organised a report release workshop, inviting senior officials of selected service agencies and the vigilance department. Three major daily newspapers, including the national media ‘The Hindu’, as well as various local media outlets reported.

YSD facilitated communities to start deliberating on how to best engage with authorities and other stakeholders to demand corruption-free services

YSD facilitated communities to start deliberating on how to best engage with authorities and other stakeholders to demand corruption-free services

Following the survey, YSD engaged in the following activities to raise awareness, mobilize the community and enable constructive engagement between authorities and citizens to improve service delivery in phase two. YSD –

  • conducted 24 awareness and sensitization camps
  • mobilized 8 slum communities
  • trained 32 citizen monitors, introducing anti-corruption tools, such as filing RTIs and social audits
  • engaged with public officials through 2 trainings and 3 public hearings
  • facilitated the formation of a CAC coalition
  • produced IEC materials (10,000 leaflets, 1000 pamphlets, 2 toolkits, 1 hand books, 3 reports and 6 newsletters)

To make use of the outputs created and to facilitate constructive engagement between the various stakeholders toward achieving results in the fight against corruption, YSD facilitated CAC and citizen monitors meetings with public officials from various departments, PDS fair price shop owners and a few elected representatives.

Obstacles and challenges encountered

YSD experienced opposition from elite groups with vested interests. While this observation can be interpreted as an indicator for tackling the right issues, it nonetheless made YSD’s work challenging to the degree that YSD staff was threatened by officials and a few corrupt ration shop owners. It also serves as an indicator why communities might come under duress, fearing to get involved in rights education and/or championing the fight against corruption.

In addition, there was some difficulty in identifying anti-corruption champions within the upper echelons of local government, inviting and involving senior officials to participate meaningfully in the proposed activities. Junior level staff however pushed the agenda to the upper level.

Impact and Results Achieved
The survey results, citizen monitoring observations as well as social audit reports produced, are not just used in the activities conducted by YSD but served as important indicators and benchmarks for activities undertaken by other CSOs, media and government agencies alike. A short video on PDS, a toolkit on the use of RTI and a citizen handbook on RTI applications are continuously used to raise community awareness on governance issues not only in Brahmapur but also in other communities,  for example in Gajapati and Ganjam.

Other measurable results include the filing of a total 161 RTI applications, 3 social audits, 3 public hearings and a community score card (CSC) survey conducted in communities to assess the provision of PDS and Water services. As a result of the various interventions facilitated by YSD and follow-up discussions with stakeholders, YSD has observed the following impact:

  • 28% decrease in bribery (baseline vs. end-of-project survey)
  • Participation in citizen monitoring increased
  • 12 vigilance committees active in the project area to monitor PDS shop operations

    Four slums have been provided with access to public water in a corruption-free manner after waiting for a long period prior to the project intervention

    Four slums have been provided with access to public water in a corruption-free manner after waiting for a long period prior to the project intervention

  • Increased discourse among civil society and public officials on corruption at public agencies
  • Citizens groups are empowered to effectively monitor service delivery
  • Proactive information disclosure by six public agencies has improved
  • Service delivery norms and procedures were  disclosed and disseminated by three authorities
  • Office orders were issued to mandatorily display and update information on citizen information boards  by three government agencies
  • 30 beneficiaries’ cards were transferred to another shop due to a corrupt shop owner
  • 4 slums have been provided with access to public water in a corruption-free manner
  • 4 communities were provided with rationed items in a corruption-free manner
  • 2 PDS shop owners were required to provide full quota of kerosene in two slums in Brahmapur city
  • 1 PDS shop owner was suspended due to complaints from the beneficiaries.
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Civic Engagement Using Right To Information Laws in Rajasthan, India

IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS: CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART)
YEARS: 2009-2011
GRANT AMOUNT: $30,000
THEMES: Local Governance; Rule of Law

Corruption and a lack of transparency in government administered service delivery schemes have led a local CSO, the CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART), to mobilize and educate citizens and citizen organizations to engage in coalition-building and hold the government to a higher standard of accountability. CUTS CART has built the initiative on the success of prior project and has been able to kick-start a process of empowerment which appears to be sustainable and self-reinforcing beyond the completion date of the original project.

Corruption Problem Addressed
Citizens experienced massive corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability in government administered welfare services in Rajasthan, India. CUTS CART targeted this corruption problem in its project: “Reforming the Processes in the Rural Development Department through Policy Dialogue and Civic Engagement based on RTI Act (2005) in Rajasthan, India.” The project identified the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and the Rural Development Department as responsible counterparts in the Government of Rajasthan, delivering the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and two other welfare schemes.

A survey revealed that – although entitled in theory – every beneficiary of the schemes had to bribe officials to actually receive services. CUTS CART identified a lack of awareness and knowledge in the community regarding the scope and use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, established in 2005, which could help citizens demand greater transparency and enhance administration accountability. Citizens and community-based organizations (CBOs) lacked empowerment and coordination among themselves to strategically advocate, create watchdog groups and ultimately succeed in obtaining corruption-free services.

Actions Taken by CUTS CART
CUTS CART initiated forming a consortium of 17 Groups for Combating Corruption (CGCCs) in 17 districts of Rajasthan as well as organizing a network of CGCCs, civil society organizations (CSOs) and interested individuals to work together on the issues of transparency and accountability making use of RTI tools. CUTS CART conducted surveys on the reality of RTI usage and corruption vulnerability at the beginning and at end of the project. The results of these surveys were widely disseminated through village meetings. CUTS CART and the consortium raised awareness and empowered citizens to correctly file RTI petitions. Furthermore, two Model RTI Gram Panchayats (local self-government units) were established. An RTI Advisory and Information Centre (RAIC) was started to advise and educate citizens about the RTI Act and how to use best make use of it in order to obtain corruption-free service. As an immediate output, more than 450 RTI applications were filed and 288 were resolved successfully. The information demanded in most of the RTI applications was related to suspected acts of corruption. A 10-member delegation of the RAIC visited Kerala to study best practices using RTI.

At least 30 dialogue and peer learning events were conducted over the course of the project. These events mobilized stakeholders against corrupt processes, allowed them to share their experiences as victims of corruption, and educated them in using the RTI Act to fight corruption. At least 85 case studies document how empowering citizens has contributed to demanding corruption-free services.

Two advocacy meetings were organized at the state level for policymakers and the media. These meetings were extremely useful in terms of informing policymakers about the findings of the corruption survey and the reality on the ground. The project also created a set of recommendations for simplified and transparent service delivery. Newsletters were distributed among project stakeholders, CGCCs, policy makers and service providers to share project activities, findings and experiences with the community and the government. An RTI toolkit was produced to allow for the replication of best practices.

The attitudes of policymakers and bureaucrats towards the anti-corruption initiative undertaken by CUTS CART and the consortium were not encouraging at first. Most of the service providers either avoided public discussions or addressed comments noncommittally. The frequent transfer of bureaucrats and service providers interrupted the anticipated rhythm of project progress envisioned, however, did provide opportunities to replicate the model with new officials transferred. In most of these cases, the project team had to start from scratch orienting the new officials toward the project objectives, working toward buy-in and constructive engagement anew. Some officials were however cooperative.

Advocacy with the government regarding the reform of identified systematic corrupt practices in the delivery of services proved to be very difficult. Building on the identification of issues at the grass-roots level, subsequently complemented by an additional top-down advocacy approach through the cooperation of the Rajasthan Rural Development Minister and the Directors of two of the government programs, motivated lower level officials to join the effort and resulted in greater responsibility and less corrupt service delivery: All Gram Panchayats and Block Development Offices were instructed to maintain a complaint/suggestion box. The media, CBOs and NGOs were very supportive of the initiatives taken and jointly pushed the agenda.

Impact and Results Achieved
Assessing corruption levels through the surveys conducted provided strong and convincing evidence to high-level officials on the extent of corruption observed. This led to a number of office orders relating to enhanced transparency and greater accountability.  The surveys furthermore helped awareness raising amoung citizens on the importance of local governance and people’s participation. It also built the capacity of the CGCC members administering the questionnaires and provided support to community members facing corruption. The popularity of RTIs and relevant knowledge on how to best use RTIs has increased significantly. People now recognize how they can leverage the law to hold the government to a higher standard of accountability ensuring access to corruption-free services. However, the overall awareness level remains low in rural areas.

The study tour in Kerala inspired participants to adapt some of the best practices observed to their own context in Rajasthan. Government officials gained awareness about the RTI provisions and their anticipated responses. The post-project survey showed a change in official’s attitude towards the role of transparency in service delivery. Yet, they are still not fully familiar with the procedures and their own responsibilities, casting a shadow over the successes achieved.

While the post-project survey showed reductions in the size and frequency of bribes paid, mostly due to increased awareness on the demand side, challenges remain: the scale of the corruption problem is huge and opportunities for new forms of corruption make preventive action difficult as they need to be adapted continuously. It will take more than one project phase to tackle the deeply ingrained practices of corruption as they are considered normal. The momentum created by the project activities, trained CGCCs and proactive citizens suggest however that the impact will deepen and widen over time and on its own.

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