Project: Social Engagement for Budgetary Accountability (SEBA) Project
Executing Agency: Manusher Jonno Foundation
Grant Amount: $848,968
Closing Date: April, 2017
The Government of Bangladesh has sought to strengthen community involvement in local governance in order to improve services for the poor. In 2009, the Government passed an Act emphasizing needs for greater accountability and community participation in Bangladesh’s 4,550 Union Parishads (UPs), which are the smallest administrative units responsible for law and order, social welfare, and public services. The Government also passed a Right to Information Act in 2009 to improve transparency. Bangladeshi officials and donors have since supported initiatives to support these reforms, such as the World Bank’s Second Local Governance Support Project (LGSP2).
Despite these positive developments, local officials face difficulties in improving governance at the local level. UPs are not being managed transparently and citizens have limited channels to participate in public budgeting. There are serious challenges in both supply and demand side. On one hand, officials at the UP level lack a clear understanding of their roles and the skills they to manage and disseminate budgetary data. On the other hand, the poor have limited capacity for mobilizing themselves, applying social accountability tools, and engaging with local authorities in a results-oriented manner.
The Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), an NGO working in governance and human rights, received a grant from GPSA to increase transparency and accountability in 45 UPs, representing diverse geographic areas, and enhance participatory channels for women and the poor in public budgeting processes. MJF plans to select 5 CSOs through a competitive process and train them to implement social accountability tools in the 45 UPs. This grant complements a 2013 GPSA grant to Care Bangladesh supporting similar capacity building processes in UPs. The grant to MJF has four components, which aim to: 1) train community groups in social accountability tools and ways to disseminate budget data; 2) build the capacity of CSOs to implement social accountability tools; 3) harness tools introduced in UPs, such as citizen report cards, to develop policy notes and advocate for changes at local and national levels; and 4) develop and share knowledge materials and lessons with broader social accountability practitioners.
The grant is expected to lead to solid gains in citizen participation over its three-year timeframe, such as:
Increase in the percent of people aware of UPs’ budget processes from 2% to 10%, partly due to publication news stories on UP budget processes, community engagement, and related topics.
Increase in number of channels for disclosing UP budgetary information from 2 to 5.
Increase in the number of social accountability tools – such as citizen report cards and social audits – used in UPs from 2 to 12.
Establishment of supervision committees to monitor UP budgets, and involvement of 2,500 people in community pressure groups to advocate for their interests.
Development of policy notes outlining community recommendations, and an increase in recommendations acted on by UP governments.
Production of knowledge materials and research products to document and share grant-related lessons.
The grant is at its early stages and lessons will be added as they become available. However, the design of the grant builds on lessons learned from MJF’s previous work on governance, leveraging social accountability as tools to feed critical information and help organizations to manage for results.