Andrew Lavali is the Executive Director of the Institute of Governance Reform (IGR), and one of World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) partner grantees based in Sierra Leone. On 27th  April 2021, the President of Sierra Leone awarded Andrew the Presidential Order of the Rokel in recognition of his contribution to improving the performance of public institutions by providing ‘high quality citizen-driven evidence into national decision making.’ The Order of the Rokel is Sierra Leone's highest and most prestigious decoration and may be awarded to recognize Sierra Leoneans who have distinguished themselves by making valuable contributions to the country in the areas of to the public service, arts and sciences, and philanthropy. 

As part of World Bank GPSA’s support to Sierra Leone, Andrew with colleagues in IGR and Oxfam last month launched the Service Delivery Index. The Index sheds light on citizen concerns in the health and education sector and the effects of COVID19 on Human Development and has generated priorities for top government action. On 7th May the GPSA’s Consultant, Rosemary Rop caught up with Andrew to shed light on his views of the significance of the award, and the lessons he has learnt in promoting social accountability. 
 
Below is an excerpt of the citation and a summarized version of the hour-long interview. 

Andrew Lavali, Presidential award of the Rokel for 2021:
Andrew Lavali's distinguished track record in bringing high-quality citizen-driven evidence international decision-making has had a tremendous impact on the performance of public institutions in Sierra Leone. Over the last 15 years his innovative and non-combative state citizen engagement model has brought us honor as Sierra Leoneans by making Sierra Leone a reference point on how governments and citizens are better able to co-create solutions. At the conclusion of a divisive election in the USA in 2020 one of Andrew's work the ‘Citizen Manifesto For Sierra Leone’ was discussed by two international news corporations. CNN touted it as a possible model towards facilitating reconciliation among contentious groups in the USA, while the BBC saw it as a way to make elections meaningful in Africa.

As Executive Director of a leading public policy think tank the Institute for Governance Reform IGR Andrew has tirelessly impressed upon institutions the need for accepting an international standard for citizens monitoring of public sector performance which has put Sierra Leone to push democratic accountability beyond the ballot box. Andrew's commitment to making institutions deliver on their mandates and his personal focus on data-driven decisions makes him an excellent choice for this award.

To read the full citation, follow the link here.

GPSA: Congratulations once again Andrew and thank you for agreeing to share your thoughts on this award, and your experiences in promoting social accountability.

Andrew, IGR: Thank you very much Rosemary.

Rosemary, GPSA: What is the Order of the Rokel, and what does it mean in Sierra Leone? 

Andrew, IGR: In Freetown we have the River Rokel. The Order of the Rokel represents a true contribution to Sierra Leone. It's the highest presidential order in the country. There are several levels: officers, ordinary members, commanders. I was awarded Commander of the Rokel

GPSA: What did this award mean to you, and what is its significance for IGR?

Andrew, IGR: Personally, I feel honored, and I think the entire team at IGR feels the same way. On the day of the award, a family member of mine - my sister, and one IGR staff accompanied me to State House to receive the award. So, at both the family and professional levels we were elated. Sometimes we do these things in our little corner, and we never know that we are affecting or effecting the big picture. The award gives a big motivation to our team and civil society to do more.

GPSA: What would you say are the biggest lessons – benefits, opportunities, drawbacks, that you have learned about promoting social accountability in a collaborative manner in Sierra Leone?

Andrew, IGR: You know for us, in social accountability, results matter. You look beyond the number of radio broadcasts that you do, or the number of citizens engagement activities and ask what is this translating into. At the Institute for Governance Reform, we measure ourselves by the number of recommendations of our work that are taken on board by policy makers.

Being mindful that politicians want either to gain or retain, we always ask how do we play to that understanding? Which incentives do we give? Citizens on the other hand want better services. 

So how do we reconcile the two? If you give us service, we can always support you to gain or maintain power. We have realized that parliamentary turnover is about 82 percent. 82 percent of members of parliament who were elected in 2012 did not get re-elected in 2018. This is huge. 

What we do in our citizens engagement work is make sure that emotions are positively channeled in demanding accountability from institutions and people in the driving seat of power. Sometimes we let them know they are doing well. But there are times, you know, that we are not happy. 

So instead of just going on radio and blasting decision makers (for their misdeeds), we use incentives. They must know that we have carrots to offer. Our goal is to change institutional behavior for the good of all. 

GPSA: What is the partnership you had with the GPSA and how did the SDI progress the conversation around Human Development?

Andrew, IGR: In our work with the World Bank Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) we developed the Service Delivery Index. We asked citizens about the results they want to see, and what are the current levels of services are. We then provided citizens with the data for them to understand the situation, and how improvements would leave them better off. 

The SDI is a way of illustrating that social accountability is not a technical fix, it is a deep political process. If you have a government that says, ‘I want to deliver education, I want to deliver health care,’ our approach is to ask, how do we ensure that we part of the conversation; we are in the room; and that around the table citizens voices matter? Alternatively, you do not engage in a way when you are not even invited in the room in the first place.

The GPSA was very instrumental in starting this partnership five years ago, starting with this grand idea of monitoring Ebola. You know for both COVID-19 and Ebola, at the center of the recovery of health and education services. Rebuilding services are fairly and squarely the territory of local communities. For those services to be effective citizens voices matter in shaping policies. For example, in Ebola we saw citizens supporting government lockdowns and working with local chiefs to generate local buy laws.

First and foremost, we want to be in line with government's priorities. The World Bank supported its partner Oxfam and IGR to ensure that the SDI is in line with Government's Poverty Reduction Strategy, and this ensured that there is a convergence of our interest with Government plans and programmess.  

We monitor if Parent-Teachers Associations are meeting, or whether drugs or learning materials are getting to facilities. This work links with the government's Health Management Information Systems, the HMIS, and the Education Management Information System, the EMIS. What the GPSA empowered us to do is a parallel data collection by citizens, to ensure a triangulation and validation of official statistics. 

Not that the (SDI) document is full of praises. In that document you will see for example only 22 percent of health care personnel are met by government. That is worrisome. Only 35 percent of citizens said they are receiving drugs. In fact, the further you move from urban areas to rural communities the more negligible is drug availability.
 
We value collaborative social accountability because we know that when civil society speaks, it is weak. But when members of parliament and CSO speak with one voice it stronger. When parliament speaks, It becomes authority. It becomes policy. Sometimes it becomes law. That is why we ensure that members of parliament are involved. The Clerk of Parliament launched the Service Delivery Index and said we should ensure that the report is debated in parliament.

GPSA: In Africa they say it takes a village to raise a child. Building on what you have said, who has informed, motivated and shaped your professional decisions and the work that you've been doing? 

Andrew: When I finished my studies, I worked in a DFID statebuilding project that seeks to strengthen the interface between citizens and the State to improve people's lives. We gave small grants to civil society. It opened my eyes to the challenges that civil society face. I then became the manager for Westminster Programs. That gave me understanding of how parliamentary institutions work. 

It was the OSIWA, the Open Society Initiative West Africa that was the first institution to give us a seed grant to kick start activities at IGR. They believed in us and supported our first Service Delivery Index and other benchmarking and thought processes.  OSIWA helped track the promises made by the campaign president. There were 556 promises, so at any time you mentioned monitoring government promises, in Sierra Leone the name that comes to your mind is IGR.
Earlier in my life, I worked with Jeff Thindwa of the GPSA, where we did a study of the landscape of civil society in Sierra Leone. Later the World Bank GPSA provided training through the annual Partner Forums. We used to go to DC (where we meet with other grantees). It was very stimulating, and sometimes I come back thinking. ‘how do i apply this?’  We convene with my colleagues and one of our advisors Fredline Mc Cormack to share what we learned and how we can move forward on it.

We have developed rich partnerships with universities and research institutions in Africa and the US. The partnership with the Afrobarometer, Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts at the University of Chicago has deepened our understanding on how to do high quality research. 

What I have found most fulfilling is the work we did with 720 groups in 2018 to develop the Citizens Manifesto for Sierra Leone’s election. We did a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice study of how people feel about elections and the report informed voter education programs and was used to produce a summary citizen’s policy priorities which political parties were asked to reflect in their manifestos. 

GPSA: We wish you the best as you generate step wise progress for the people of Sierra Leone. Thank you very much. 

Andrew, IGR: Thank you too, Rosemary.

 


This is an abridged version of the 1-hour long interview. The interview was conducted with Andrew Lavali by Rosemary Rop, Senior Social Accountability Consultant with the World Bank Global Partnership for Social Accountability on 7th May 2021.