Enhanced Vocational Education and Training (EVENT)

Enhanced Vocational Education and Training (EVENT)

IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: Vijaya Development Resource Center (VDRC)
YEAR: 2014
GRANT AMOUNT: $134,132
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

In 2011 and 2012, over 385,000 people left Nepal seeking better employment opportunities. Their remittances officially amounted to one quarter of the gross domestic product (GDP). More than 75% of migrant workers from Nepal are unskilled workers, leading to low remittance levels per migrant. Enhancing the skill levels of migrant workers can be a strategy for diversifying the nation’s economic growth.

The enhanced vocational education and training (EVENT) project trains a roster of professionals who can in turn train workers or assess worker skills in key trades. The objective is to improve the skill levels of workers in Nepal and provide better job opportunities emigrating workers. The Department of Education (DOE), which is responsible for implementing EVENT, has sub-contracted project activities to two Nepali organizations: the training institute for technical instruction (TITI) and the national skill testing board (NSTB).

The CARTA sub-project was primarily focused on third party monitoring (TPM). The main objective was to monitor and verify the outputs and activities related to the various World Bank indicators of success. This involved input-tracking of training schedules, compiling trainee lists (with trainee profiles, including photographs), obtaining training records, evaluating training completion reports, direct observation of the training program and interviews with trainees and graduates. The sub-project also assessed the quality of the training and determined the frequency of individual training sessions from the participant’s perspective via satisfaction surveys. These monitoring activities were carried on with the approval and knowledge of the Department of Education (DOE), which requested that the training of trainers, skills test assessors and managers be sampled from 2012-13 and 2013-14 training sessions.

The sub-project produced a monitoring and verification report, which included the results of the beneficiary satisfaction survey. The report made recommendations related to EVENT-type training programs and introducing third party monitoring (TPM) more broadly.

Observations, interviews and the beneficiary survey indicated that participants and trainers believed the presence of third-party monitors led to improvements in the quality of the training. In addition, they considered TPM to be a good practice and believed it should continue. The survey showed that 96% of the respondents from all five EVENT programs responded positively to the question of whether TPM was needed to improve the quality of training. In interviews, both trainees and instructors stated that being aware of somebody watching caused them to perform better. Hence, the verification process had a bonus outcome of enhanced quality of the service delivery.

The primary beneficiaries of the EVENT program appreciated the changes that independent third party monitoring (TPM) produced and expressed their enthusiasm for the extension of TPM. Nevertheless, there is no indication, as of yet, that independent TPM will continue.

Many development projects strive to have an inclusive social outreach and deliver better outcomes to the most vulnerable sectors of the population. However, development projects are often experiencing difficulties reaching their target beneficiaries. The survey indicated that, across all five types of programs, 32% of the trainees were women, 4% were Dalit and 30% were Janajati. Although there was no fixed target for the inclusion of different ethnic groups in the trainings, inclusiveness was one of the objectives of EVENT. Consequently, the sub-project recommendations not only underscored the need for a more transparent and accountable trainee selection process but also the need for social inclusiveness to fully realize the EVENT objectives.

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Community Action for Nutrition (CAN)

IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: Nucleus for Empowerment through Skill Transfer (NEST)
YEARS: 2014-2015
THEMES: Public Saftey Nets

The Sunaula Hazar Din – Community Action for Nutrition (SHD-CAN) Project was designed to address the risk factors of chronic malnutrition in children. From early 2014, Nucleus for Empowerment through Skill Transfer (NEST) undertook independent monitoring of the SHD-CAN project with the support of CARTA. It mobilized seven Cluster Verification Officers to monitor the project implementation process and to verify the reports produced. Through a consultative process, NEST developed checklists for field verification of the RRNI projects. Participatory methodologies such as focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and field observations, etc., were used to collect data and information after the completion of the first cycle and partial completion of the second cycle of RRNI projects.

The Community Action for Nutrition (CAN) program’s objective is to improve the nutritional practices of women and children. The project employs the rapid results approach, supporting community Rapid Results Nutrition Initiatives (RRNIs). Key nutritional challenges are discussed by Ward Citizen Forums (WCFs). The WCFs establish RRNI teams to implement initiatives designed to accomplish nutrition improvement objectives selected from a prescribed list through 100-day initiatives. The process is repeated through several cycles. Nutrition and Food Security Steering Committees (NFSSCs) at the Village Development Committee and district levels approve funding for proposed initiatives, depending on the amount of funding requested. The project also includes support for project management, capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation to support implementation.

The CARTA program provided independent third-party monitoring of first and second cycle RRNIs, to provide feedback at the start of the program. The objectives were to:

  • Verify that key service providers carried out all the activities for effective facilitation of the RRNI process, assisted by the RRNI teams
  • Increase stakeholders’ access to project information
  • Verify reports prepared by the service providers who support RRNI teams

NEST’s monitoring of first and second cycle RRNIs identified several deviations from mandated procedures and inaccuracies in service providers’ reports. For example, there were delays in the approval of initiatives, the release of funds and the completion of initiatives; orientation meetings and planned reviews, and monitoring were delayed or not conducted; and public audits were only conducted in 46% of the first cycle cases. The reports were considered accurate in only 62% of the first cycle cases.

In addition to shortcomings, NEST’s monitoring identified positive developments:

  • Improved sanitation status and behavior
  • Increased community awareness of the importance of proper nutrition, family planning, water purification and arsenic mitigation, and other community issues
  • Inclusion of excluded populations (e.g. women, the poor/marginalized) in project planning, implementation & monitoring
  • Project transparency and minimization of opportunities for corruption
  • Strengthened multi-stakeholder partnerships among health posts, schools, and local CBOs
  • Institution of a MoFALD standard monitoring structure at all governing levels

NEST’s monitoring and interactions with various stakeholders increased their awareness and strengthened their capacities to carry out their roles in project implementation. Its findings alerted project officials and the World Bank to implementation issues, providing a basis for improvements.

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Emergency Peace Support Project (EPSP)

YEARS: 2013-2014
GRANT AMOUNT: $120,549
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

The Emergency Peace Support Project (EPSP) seeks to contribute to the peace building process in Nepal by providing interim cash transfers and services to eligible conflict-affected groups. So far, interim cash benefits have been provided to 14,104 families of the deceased and 4,444 widows. Employment and self-employment services (ESES) have also been delivered to about 3,030 conflict-affected persons (CAPs). Beneficiaries have access to rehabilitation in targeted districts, including widows, orphans, and those injured and disabled in conflict, families of those killed in conflict, families of the disappeared, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and those abducted during conflict. A major component of the project is centered around increasing transparency and accountability in the delivery of benefits.

The general objective of the sub-project was to assess the effectiveness of EPSP and to enhance rights, transparency and accountability through citizen participation by 2014. Specific objectives were to:

  • Assess the extent to which service providers are delivering the rehabilitation support to conflict-affected persons
  • Indicate the level of understanding on benefits and support among beneficiaries, and to increase the familiarity of citizens with peace support packages
  • Improve the grievance redress mechanism at local level
  • Promote accountability among service providers by identifying the key areas of interventions/ improvements

The sub-project produced a report based on the use of citizen report cards and a final assessment. Both reports included recommendations to improve the service delivery of benefits to conflict-affected persons. Local peace committees (LPCs), conflict-affected persons, civil society and political parties publicly committed their support to enhance the effectiveness of EPSP through citizen participation.

Some of the key sub-project results included:

  • Increased level of awareness among conflict-affected persons,  resulting in increased applications for support.
  • Increased citizen engagement and empowerment facilitating the formation and organization of local conflict-affected persons alert groups, citizen charters and LPCs at the village development committee (VDC) level.
  • Establishment of an effective grievance mechanism at the VDC level. LPCs recorded grievances, published updated status and forwarded complaints to the district level when necessary. LPCs, district staff and local radio informed people about grievance management mechanisms and encouraged them to register complaints at LPC.
  • Increased citizen awareness and motivation through media mobilization. Local radios broadcasted interviews with key stakeholders and motivated citizens to follow community organizations and write complaints.
  • Enhanced fulfillment of the Right to Information Act through the formation of an information desk at the district level.

Before CARTA, service providers had neither monitoring nor grievance mechanisms in place. In addition, an overwhelming majority of conflict-affected persons (73.9%) had no information of the EPSP program. After the CARTA intervention, service providers became more transparent and accountable as beneficiaries had a better understanding of benefits, including eligibility criteria, application process, payment disbursement mechanism, service providers, the formation process of local peace committees and grievance mechanisms.

Any positive relationship requires constant effort so it is expected that stakeholders will continue to cooperate and remain actively engaged in improving the service delivery of the ESPS program. If this occurs, ESPS has the potential to set off the path for reconciliation and bring unity and cohesion to Nepal.

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Measurable Results Reducing Corruption in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in Odisha, India

IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS: Visionaries of Creative Action for Liberation and Progress (VICALP)
YEARS: 2009
THEMES: Social Saftey Net

Corruption in India is rampant and especially harmful where the effects of embezzlement, extortion and bribery affect the poorest. Following a report that 75% of the funds budgeted for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) had been shifted into officials’ pockets, VICALP, a local CSO, set out to affect change. VICALP implemented the “Reducing the opportunities for corruption in NREGA in 12 Panchayats of Mohana block of Gajapati district, Odisha” project, using capacity building exercises to empower communities and capacitate citizens to monitor how social safety net provisions were implemented by the authorities. Prompting authorities to be more transparent and accountable in accordance with the rules and regulations that should govern the delivery of social services were an effective way to achieve better service delivery and ensure citizens’ rights to the entitlements as stipulated in NREGA.

Corruption Problem Addressed
NREGA and the Right to Information Act (RTI) are the two most progressive pieces of legislation in the history of India. If implemented in letter and spirit, these historic acts have the potential to transform rural India. While the RTI Act provides provisions for citizens to demand information from authorities, NREGA assures that a certain amount of workdays is given to the unemployed, paying basic wages and complying with the minimum standards of a decent workplace. Odisha is the poorest state in India with a very high percentage of the rural population living in abject poverty and with chronic hunger.

In 2007, the government of Odisha claimed that 154,118 families eligible to receive benefits under NREGA completed 100 days of employment and received respective payment. The Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) conducted a survey on NREGA implementation in 100 villages in the 6 poorest districts in Odisha in the same year. According to CFES, families in Odisha were given an average of 57 days of paid. Furthermore, not more than 5 days of actual employment time had been allotted to each family in average. There was not a single instance of 100 day employment in any of the 100 surveyed villages. The study revealed that 75% of the NREGA funds earmarked for Odisha were pocketed by officials during 2006/2007. With its findings, CFES approached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court charged the Government of Odisha with a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry. This is clear evidence of deep rooted corruption in NREGA in Odisha State.

Actions Taken by VICALP
To initiate the project, VICALP conducted a sample survey in 50 villages and found that corruption in NREGA was even worse than the findings of the CEFS survey indicated. Even for job card applications, people had to bribe officials and many workers never received wages. VICALP targeted 49 villages and indirectly involved 200 villages from 12 Panchayats. Major activities included:

  • Promotion of community based organizations (CBOs) in the target villages;
  • Formation of 12 anti-corruption “Social Watch Committees” (SWCs) in 12 Panchayats;
  • Intensive training of 84 Social Watch Volunteers (SWVs) on NREGA and RTI-use;
  • Panchayat level orientation training for 1031 community leaders;
  • 156 bi-monthly meetings by SWCs to review and monitor NREGA corruption, developing Panchayat level target plans by people’s committees;
  • Instructions an assistance using the RTI to expose corruption;
  • Establishing constructive engagement and a working relationship with government officials to reduce opportunities for corruption to take place;
  • Ensuring peoples participation in Gram Sabha meetings;
  • Conducting social audits in 12 target panchayats;
  • Asserting people’s rights through lobbying and advocacy;

Implementing these activities, VICALP had to overcome a variety of challenges:

  1. Corrupt officials and members of the Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) used strong-arm tactics (threats, physical attacks, false charges, and urging villagers not to allow VICALP workers and social watch volunteers to enter the villages) to block project implementation.
  2. Uncooperative government officials created hurdles – at least in the beginning of the project.
  3. Communal violence proved to be an obstacle for inter-community action for several months.

Despite these obstacles, the program facilitators, social watch volunteers, and campaign leaders made extra efforts to achieve the project’s goals. A mass gathering involving all the department heads and PRI members was organized at the block headquarters. This gathering proved to be a turning point in soliciting constructive engagement with government officials and PRI members. Department heads and PRI leaders were forced to take a public stand on the issue and concluded to be paying special attention henceforth. The anti-corruption campaign received a notable boost. VICALP frequently discussed project progress with the District Collector also, keeping the issues and constructive collaboration with authorities on the top of the agenda. As the District Collector started to pay attention to the grievances of anti-corruption campaign leaders, RTI requests received responses and some of the corrupt officials were punished. The campaign gained momentum.

Impact and Results Achieved
An internal evaluation by VICALP and an external evaluation by PRIYA (New Delhi) assessed the impact of the project: VICALP has established a strong base in 200 villages through village level CBOs. The Social Watch Volunteers have helped the anti-corruption campaign to spread. This has provided opportunities for community solidarity and has strengthened community organizations to fight corruption.

Constructive engagement not only enhanced community confidence but also made citizens more skilful and effective as negotiators and leaders. This community empowerment will ultimately promote the sustainability of the project. The entire process is completely owned by communities. VICALP and the communities also noted that here are sincere and responsible government officers who are looking for opportunities to help fight injustice and corruption. The campaign tried to actively involve these officials to reduce the opportunities for corruption.

The following are some of the impacts of VICALP’s anti-corruption campaign:

  • 100% of job card holders have accounts and passbooks in their name.
  • 110 cases of irregularities were identified and discussed.
  • RTI requests were filed for 55 of these cases, 25 out of them were solved by the block grievance cell, 20 cases are at the second level, 2 cases have been forwarded to the Odisha RTI commission, and 9 others were resolved before the response to the RTI request.
  • A Junior Engineer of the block was fined 15,000 rupees.
  • A Junior Engineer returned money which he had taken as a bribe.
  • A village level worker was suspended for corruption.
  • 74 new NREGA projects were sanctioned.
  • The number of NREGA work days increased.
  • NREGA average wages increased from 35 to 90 rupees per day.
  • Gram Sabha meetings in 11 Panchayats had the participation of 60-70% of the villagers.

These findings document the results that a relatively small intervention can make: Fostering civil society to hold the government accountable to the promises made.

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Using Rural Call Centres and Social Watch Groups to Control Corruption in India

YEARS: 2009-2011
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

Poor service delivery in the government administered National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) have led a local CSO, SAMBANDH, to increase citizen awareness and participation in the Odisha District of Orissa, India. SAMBANDH conducted surveys, mobilized the community and facilitated the formation of Social Watch Groups (SWG) to increase transparency and elicit authorities to exert greater responsiveness. Through its actions, SA has successfully implemented the “Monitoring Corruption using Rural Call Centres and Social Watch Groups in India” project.

Corruption Problem Addressed
SAMBANDH acquired substantial experience in social sector development in Odisha. Based on its experience, focus group discussions and a baseline survey, SAMBANDH identified serious deficiencies in the NREGS. For example, job cards were not being issued as required; government officials charged money for registration; payments were frequently delayed; and work was not done as planned. In addition, people were not involved in the planning process, and mandatory worksite facilities were not available.

The baseline survey revealed that two out of three of the NREGS participants reported that job card entries were not done regularly, and that no one received the officially authorized 100 days of work; 59% mentioned that muster roll entries were not done on the worksite; 62% that work was provided beyond the 5 Km limit; and 67% that they had not participated in the social audit process and other planning activities.  There was a lack of “collective voice”, a weak regional network, lack of support from relevant government officials, and lack of skills and knowledge among the service providers at the local level, all of which contributed to corrupt practices. SAMBANDH concluded that community members lacked information on NREGS. There was a lack of participation on the demand side and of accountability on the supply side.  No corrective action was taken because of the lack of a proper monitoring process, and equally if not more importantly, there was corruption across the board in managing the MGNREGS system.

Actions Taken by SAMBANDH
To overcome the identified corruption problems, SAMBANDH sought to work with all key stakeholders involved. Key activities included:

  • Formation and training of a Social Watch Group (SWG) at the block level to regularly monitor the implementation of the program and identify any corrupt activities. SWGs include 40 volunteer representatives of the media, local politicians, teachers, members of SHGs, and representatives of local NGOs and the community. They met each month to assess the implementation of local government schemes and services and discuss strategies to deal with the failures and abuses that are uncovered. These included holding public meetings and working with the local media to publicize the problems revealed and taking up specific issues with the relevant public officials in a constructive manner aimed at solving problems rather than punishing individuals.
  • Establishment of a Rural Call Centre (RCC) as a viable enterprise managed by a capable entrepreneur. The RCC has played a key role in enabling villagers to access information related to their entitlements under NREGS and other programs and more generally to enable citizens to get information on benefits and entitlements from different public agencies. The entrepreneur participated in the block level meetings and established a good rapport with different agencies to get information and help the community. The Centre manager assists visitors in obtaining the information they are seeking and to resolve their queries. By making data available the Centre assists social auditing under the RTI Act.
  • Selection and training of transparency workers from the villages. This was coordinated with members of the SWG.
  • Organization of media workshops, which provided the people with the opportunity to speak up.
  • Formation of a coalition of social development partners to discuss corruption and related issues at the regional level.
  • Production of IEC materials for community training and advocacy. Materials developed included a Social Watch Bulletin, brochures and posters explaining the work of the SWG and Rural Call Centres and thematic posters against corruption.

Impact and Results Achieved
Constructive community and media involvement from the very beginning contributed substantially to get the attention of all relevant stakeholders and to implement the project successfully. The major innovation was the formation of the SWG and the establishment of the viable RCC. The SWG met regularly, discussed relevant matters, and submitted issues to the concerned authorities for corrective action. Most importantly, the RCC proved to be a successful and sustainable business, while fulfilling all of its objectives with a view to fighting corruption and empowering citizens. More than 1000 people visited the RCC for different kinds of information.

Overall, the project’s activities have led to better implementation of NREGS in the project area, which has benefited the community members.  As a result, false entries in job cards have stopped, muster roll entries are now being made on the worksite itself, 65% are getting full wages for the number of days worked (compared to 35% before the project started), wages paid to men and women is equal, all those who applied for a job got it within the maximum of 15 days, 173 people were finally paid, minimum worksite facilities are available, and there is now participation of community people in the planning process.

The project was welcomed by most of the stakeholders, except for some of the “vested interest” groups, mainly government officials.  During implementation, the main challenges turned out to be poor government budget allocation and utilization; failure of resources to reach the service providers/users, hampered by poor expenditure tracking; weak incentives for effective service providers, leading to low motivation and casual indifference of the people – a serious  problem with collective “voice raising”; weak political buy-in among the different stakeholders, leading to a weak social accountability structure  and also weak regional networking.

Although government officials were initially reluctant, after their participation in the orientation session and a block-level meeting joined by the media, they started to take corrective action on the complaints lodged.  For example, junior engineers were suspended and transferred, and information on the budget allocation for a local road was shared with the community members. Finally, but importantly, various Oriya dailies printed news items on issues regarding the project and MGNREGS which put pressure on local politicians and officials to be responsive.

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Organizing the Community to Provide Corruption-Free Safety Net Entitlements in Karnataka, India

YEARS: 2009-2010
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

Citizens’ and communities’ inadequate knowledge about entitlements guaranteed through the government administered National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have prompted a local CBO, the Nava Jeevana Mahila Okkoota (NJMO), to engage with affected communities, raise awareness, provide education and help capacitate and organize the communities to form sustainable labor groups. The objective is to hold the government and service providers accountable while helping citizens benefit from the programs precisely designed to help India’s rural poor. NJMO has successfully established a model that has the potential to be self-perpetuating in the long run, forming labor groups that can transform into member-financed independent unions afterwards. The project has been successfully implemented and a second phase is currently underway.

Corruption Problem Addressed
In September 2005, the Indian Parliament passed a landmark statute called the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The aim of this legislation was to provide families in rural areas with 100 days of work and pay them no less than the minimum wage for the work completed. Besides providing employment in the off-season (when demand for agricultural labor is low), NREGA was intended to stop rural migration into towns and cities and thus help build a vibrant village economy, investing in soil-moisture-environment conservation works.

Unfortunately, most people in villages were unaware of the new law. Instead, it was elected representatives and officials as well as local contractors who seized the opportunity to indulge in huge levels of corruption and embezzle the earmarked NREGA funds. The funds constitute the one funding scheme under which villages receive most of their funds from. For example, a village with 1,000 families would be allocated about INR 20 million ($400,000 USD) per year, a large temptation for the corrupt.

Based on complaints made by people to officials, 80% of eligible workers’ families did not have job cards (necessary for claiming NREGA benefits) nor did they have bank accounts. At the same time, contractors and middlemen had cards faked for their own people to siphon money fraudulently from NREGA budgets. Corruption was also observed in Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and at various levels of government. Citizens, communities and even NGOs were not prepared to fight and correct this injustice.

Actions Taken by NJMO
After analyzing and understanding the situation at the grassroots level, NJMO planned to tackle the problem in cooperation with officials and elected representatives. Regrettably, less than 5% of them were willing to engage with NJMO to ensure that eligible beneficiaries would receive the promised entitlements. As a consequence, NJMO decided to tackle the corruption problem directly and set out to build confidence and trust among communities empowering them to challenge elected representatives and officials. NJMO calculated that if 700 out of 1,000 families in any one village could be mobilized to demand corruption-free service delivery, they would create the critical mass necessary to obtain work and get paid. Mobilizing the community would thus be beneficial to each single citizen and automatically reduce the opportunity to misappropriate funds.

To implement the revised strategy, NJMO organized community members to form labor groups that would have collective bargaining power. The first step was to arrange village-level meetings with the aim of creating awareness about NREGA entitlements. Out of these gatherings, NJMO advised forming neighborhood groups of 50 people each, with a designated team leader. A second step included community training on how to obtain job cards, opening bank accounts, and applying for work. The third step included educating the groups on wage rates, grievance redress mechanisms and the scope of responsibilities and involvement handled by gram panchayaths (village councils). Building on the Right-to-Information (RTI) complaints filed by the neighborhood groups over time, NJMO linked the groups to district, state and national forums and ensured that their grievances were heard and acted upon.

NJMO selected educated youth from each village and trained them in the basics of the projects implemented under the NREGA scheme (mainly road construction, canals, reservoirs, etc.), including mechanisms and tools on how to take measurements, how to calculate wages and other rates. In addition at least two women from each village were trained in the details of how to fill out job applications and ask for work. Awareness raising programs were undertaken, using easy-to-read pamphlets and pictorial posters, together with local songs.

Networking efforts with other state- and national-level networks formed another important aspect of the project intervention. Many intellectuals and development experts at the state and even national level were regularly briefed about the situation at the grassroots level and NJMO sought their advice and guidance to help take further action. NJMO also shared stories from the villages utilizing both print and electronic media outlets. One of their stories was published in The Hindu and caught the attention of the Supreme Court and High Court Judges. NJMO was able to attract state-level legislators and officials’ attention mainly through the extensive media coverage accompanying their work, securing famous activists’ support.

Challenges during the implementation included serious threats made by local politicians and contractors whose established routes of illegal income were challenged. Moreover, NJMO realized that communities would only subscribe to the project actions if implementation took place quickly and if results could be shown in the short terms.

Impact and Results Achieved
NJMO has achieved impressive results:

  • At the grassroots level, the CBO has organized more than 10,000 poor families in more than 100 villages.
  • These families have received around INR 50 million ($1 million USD) in wages last year alone.
  • In one occasion, NJMO demonstrated for 25 days in front of the district office and was able to get pending payments to the tune of INR 10 million ($200,000 USD). The effort attracted like minded people from 10 other districts and prompted them to start similar processes in their own districts.
  • Citizens receive an unemployment allowance (to be paid when work is demanded and not given), and compensation for late payments (payments not made within 15 days). Fines were levied on officials (for not resolving grievances within 15 days).
  •  Grievance Redress Mechanisms were set up at the district levels.
  • The poor were empowered and have started inquiring and at times even agitating successfully for other public services, like PDS entitlement, schools, housing and health programs. They have started demanding gram sabhas (village assemblies) to be convened regularly and that all decisions taken should be taken at these forums, giving citizens a possibility to participate and voice their concerns. Six villages conducted effective gram sabhas in response to this demand.
  • NJMO has also ensured that community voices are heard at state level by senior officers. As a result of sound networking, advocacy efforts and coalition building exercises, many important orders were passed, for example providing money for work tools and determining a fair wage rates.
  • Furthermore, NJMO in collaboration with the state administration worked on guidelines for social audits to be conducted regularly in the villages.
  • Due to NJMO’s advocacy efforts (and in collaboration with other coalitions advocating for better NREGA service delivery), more officials are being posted at the panchayath level to ensure corruption-free service delivery.

The established labor groups will be converted into unions with annual membership fees of INR 100. The unions will have service staff – one for every 1,000 families and will be paid for by beneficiaries. Similar structures have been designed at taluk, district and state level. The project thus has an excellent chance to be sustainable in the long run.

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How Rural Call Centers and Social Watch Groups Help the Poor Gain Employment and Income: A Success Story from the Grassroots Level in India

YEARS: 2011-2013
THEMES: Social Saftey Nets

In India, the national rural employment guarantee scheme (NREGS) aims to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment for all employment seekers in rural areas above 18 years of age and willing to work.  However, even after many years of implementation of the scheme, the poor in remote villages of India are not benefitting enough from the scheme, mainly because of their lack of knowledge of NREGS, its rules and regulations, the benefits they are entitled to, and a fear to speak up.  Typical problems are: insufficient number of days of employment provided, insufficient or no wages provided, fake job-card entries, petty corruption practiced by middlemen and contractors, and threats from vested interests. Consider the following examples:

45 poor residents of Durdura Gram- Pachayat, Jashipur had worked six weeks under the Government’s rural employment generation program (NREGS), but, due to their lack of knowledge and fear of the authorities, had not been paid for one year.

Because of poor roads, Badajhili village was having major transport problems. It had been promised funding for a road, but, because of corruption, this project was awarded to another village. Illiteracy and lack of knowledge of their rights kept the villagers from complaining.

Bimbla Nayak, 35-year old, lives in Miriginondi village, Karanjia. She has a husband and children, but the husband does not earn enough and the children are too young to work. Therefore, she had been trying to get work under the employment generation scheme, but had not succeeded so far. She tried to get the necessary  papers, but had not been able to get them.

15 poor residents of Deogoan village, Karanjia had not been paid for work provided under the employment generation scheme, and they were threatened by the employment generation scheme officials when they complained.

Parameswar Naik, 40 years old, lives in Badagoan village. He received a very poor education because of financial constraints, and the same thing was starting to happen to his children. When he went to the school to complain, and ask about teaching and school meals, he was told that he was illiterate and should go home.

The people and villages mentioned above are located in Jashipur and Karanjia blocks in Mayurbhanj District in India’s Odisha State. The blocks have large groups of tribal populations. Although the literacy rate in those two blocks is higher than the national average, they are still quite underdeveloped. Mostly because of lack of employment and poor delivery of basic services, many people have migrated elsewhere.

In 2009, with British (DfID) aid, the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF) awarded a grant to a grassroots civil society organization (CSO) – Sambandh – to help citizens implement a project to check corruption in these blocks by setting up Rural Call Centres and Social Watch Groups.  Sambandh started its project activities in Jashipur in 2009, followed by coverage of Karanjia in 2011. This note summarizes the strategies used, results achieved, and lessons for wider use.

Governance and Corruption Problems in the Project Area 
In preparing its activities in Jashipur, Sambandh found major irregularities and corrupt practices in the implementation of the NREGS program, with the rural poor frequently not getting job cards, 100 days of guaranteed employment, timely and full payment for work completed, equal treatment of men and women, and proper equipment. This was worsened by a serious lack of knowledge among those poor villagers of what they were entitled to under NREGS and by efforts of some of the authorities and middlemen to keep the villagers from knowing any better.

Actions Taken by Sambandh to Address Corruption and Poor Governance 
Sambandh thus started a comprehensive project to empower the communities and to encourage them to break the culture of silence and repression, allowing them to raise their voice against the vicious cycle of corruption in the implementation of NREGS activities at the grass root level. To achieve this, Sambandh relied on rural call centres where information on NREGS and other relevant programs was to be made available (using as needed the Right to Information-RTI-  law), on social watch groups to gather all local stakeholders for community decisions, and on transparency workers to reach out to the poor and help them get acquainted and provided with the necessary information to gain access to what they were entitled to.

Since the start of the project, Sambandh helped to upgrade the existing rural call centre in Jashipur, helped to establish a new rural call centre in Karanjia, trained social watch group and transparency members and workers, promoted the involvement of relevant government officials and the media, became part of a local network of CSOs, carried out substantial publicity campaigns, and tried to go beyond small-scale improvements at the local level to also gain up-scale policy improvements. All of these activities were aimed at greater transparency and accountability, ensuring that all stakeholders, starting at the lowest level, had the necessary information on the NREGS rules and regulations, how to access those, and also how to seek redress when needed.

Specifically, the strategies used and activities included:

  • Training programs in social audit and public hearing techniques, community score cards, and RTI for transparency workers and vigilance committees at block and district levels
  • Regular meetings of villagers with transparency workers
  • Distribution of brochures and social watch news bulletins, as well as installation of billboards on NREGS at community level
  • Demonstration meetings on proper planning and implementation of NREGS at block, district and state levels
  • Distribution of community score cards in the communities and with government officials at block and district levels
  • Seminar at district level to share information on NREGS implementation issues
  • Stakeholder workshops at block, district and state levels, including travel media workshops
  • Reaching out to media for publicizing NREGS policy and operational issues

Challenges Faced and Results Achieved
As a result of these activities over the course of only a few years, much was achieved. In Jashipur, 95 percent of eligible excluded households were provided with job cards and in Karanjia 90 percent, with the required 100 days of work for all cardholders. All cardholders also received their full wages of Rs 126 per day, with 80 percent receiving wages in 15 days and 20 percent in 30 days. Wages were equal for men and women. Minimum worksite facilities such as water and shade were adequate. Social watch group and transparency members and workers, as well as many villagers, became better acquainted with NREGS policies, rules and regulations, and on how to demand their rights. And finally, although still much has to be achieved, responsible government officials have started to listed to the villagers, to take corrective action, and to change rules and regulations where needed.

It is because of these activities and the hard work of Sambandh and all of the people involved- the poor villagers, the transparency workers, the social watch group members, the rural call centre staff, the media, and a host of government officials at various levels of responsibility- that the five problem cases mentioned at the beginning of this paper have a positive ending. It can be mentioned that:

Kuar Tudu, a transparency worker, was told about the lack of payment of the 45 workers in Durdura Gram , and made them aware of the law, regulations and rights, as well as the need for them to raise their voices against this injustice. A village meeting was held, and a written complaint was submitted to the responsible authorities. When there was still no corrective action, 30 people demonstrated in front of the government office, and forced a decision. As a result, within three days the 45 workers were paid.

Noha Tudu, a ward member, became aware of the road problem in Badajhili village, and organized a village meeting to collect and share information.  Based on an understanding of their rights, the villagers went to the authorities, who then promised that the next road work would be undertaken in their village. As a result, the villagers can now expect an end to their transport problems, and have gained the knowledge and confidence to speak up when needed.

Transparency and other social workers were told of Bimbla Nayak’s plight. She was informed about the employment generation scheme, and how to file an application. She was also told to keep a receipt of her application, and that she was entitled to an unemployment allowance if she did not get work within 15 days. However, she did get work, and now is able to provide financial support to her family.

A transparency worker heard about the lack of payment and the threats against 15 workers in Deogoan village, and arranged a village meeting to inform the residents of the law and their rights. Despite efforts by some interested parties to suppress the information, the transparency worker did manage to get the necessary information. He then contributed to getting this published in the local newspaper. As a result, the 15 workers received their long-overdue payment within a few days.

A transparency worker told Mr Parameswar Naik about the Right to Information (RTI) law and about how to file for information. Again, various people with other interests urged him to stop his efforts, but he persisted, and filed the necessary RTI documentation with the help of the transparency worker and some social workers. He then received official information on the number of authorized teachers at the school, as well as on the free lunches supposed to be provided to the students each week, and he shared this information with his fellow villagers. As a result of this new information, and at the urging of all villagers, the teachers are now attending school regularly and a timetable for the school lunch is now published.

The overall positive outcome of the Sambandh activities has been confirmed by various sources. Sambandh produced its own project completion report, which documented the results of the project in great detail, and this was confirmed through an independent assessment by PRIA, an Indian CSO contracted by PTF.

Lessons Learned
Although the Sambandh activities only covered a small part of Odisha State, let alone of India, the result of its activities over the course of only a few years confirm that the CAC approach is the right one: fight corruption by providing people with knowledge, the will, the ability, and the support needed to speak up and fight injustice. Get them trained and encouraged to pursue their own interests. In other words, “give them voice”. At the same time, ensure the cooperation of responsible government officials, in which effort the media can often play a major role. Indeed, the involvement of all major stakeholders is of critical importance.

It should be noted that the project outcome was to be expected, since the approach of capacitating and enabling people to handle their own interests has worked around the world. As again shown in Jashipur and Karanjia, corruption is a disease, and it can be fought at the grass root operational decision level, as well as at higher policy decision levels!

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Reducing Corruption in MGNREGS & PDS in Odisha, India Phase 2

IMPLEMENTING ORGANIZATION: People’s Rural Education Movement (PREM)
YEAR: 2012-2013
THEME: Public Works Programs

The state of Odisha, with a high tribal and dalit population, represents extreme backwardness in terms of human development indicators. In general, government institutions, designed for service delivery to the poorest of the poor, hardly function efficiently in a corruption-free manner thereby doubly affecting the marginalized sections residing in the state. In addition to that, the project location i.e. the Nuagada and Gumma blocks are situated in the Gajapati district of Odisha characterised by inaccessible, hill and hillocks where majority of the population belong to schedule tribe (Soura) and schedule caste. Extreme poverty, illiteracy and lack of awareness and information lead to high levels of corruption and low usage of public services by the citizens.  During Phase 1 of the initiative, it was seen that corruption, in general and especially in MGNREGS was a gigantic issue and needed detailed intervention to bring about accountability and transparency in the whole system. While working in Phase 1 it was also realized that PDS is also affected by the clutches of deep-rooted corruption in the block. As a result, Phase 2 of the CAC project has been designed to address both MGNREGS as well as PDS in Nuagada and Gumma blockswith the aim to bring out accountability and transparency in service delivery related to such schemes.

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Reducing Corruption in Indian Public Services

IMPLEMENTING PARTNER: People’s Rural Education Movement (PREM)
YEARS: 2009-2010
THEME: Public Safety Nets

PREM (People’s Rural Education Movement) has been working with the marginalized communities in the states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu for the last two decades. It has immense experience in the field of community mobilization and empowerment especially with tribal and dalit sections of the society. It is here that its experiences and knowledge added to the implementation of the CAC programme in the intervened area. However, it was felt that in spite of the numerous efforts put in by the team; there is still ample room for improvement in the project, therefore the overall achievement rating is 3, i.e. moderately satisfactory.

With regard to the project design it was felt that the goal of the project is very clearly stated in the proposal. It aims at reducing corruption in the delivery of three public services (PDS, NREGA and FRA) through citizen monitoring and further advocating reforms to check the same. The objectives designed to realize the same however, are not very clear (detailed explanation given in point 1 of the completion assessment section). The activities mentioned in the project-planning matrix attached with the proposal do not specifically mention the number of such activities to be conducted, which makes it difficult to monitor their implementation status. Also some of the activities planned are not in coherence with the respective objective. For example, the activities under objective four (annexure 1, project completion report) focus more on awareness generation and education rather than on monitoring PDS.

The implementation performance and results too cannot be said to be completely satisfactory as there are certain gaps that have been identified in the same. Although corrupt practices have been exposed and reduced to some extent due to the efforts of the community, but still more needs to be done on the monitoring and tracking implementation of the provisions of the targeted government schemes. However, the project has done a commendable job in terms of forging alliances with the media, government officials and PRI members at the local level as well as capacitating the two people’s organizations, Palli Vikas and Margdarsi.

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