An example of Social Accountability

In Chawama Constituency , the Community Action Groups (CAGs) – platforms for dialogue between the community and the Ward Development Committee (WDC) members – were created. The community members questioned the WDC officials about how they had used the Ward Development Fund (WDF). Unfortunately, it was discovered that the WDF implementation had been decided upon by councillors without the participation of the WDC. The meetings led to more dialogue between the CAGs and the WDC officials on how in future they would together ensure that budgets as allocated by the Lusaka City Council would be implemented.

When to do it

The Public Service Accountability Monitor, a department in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa and proponent of social accountability in the region, identified a process called the Social Accountability System [SAS].  SAS in an effective Public Resource Monitoring (PRM) framework composed of the five inter-connected processes. The diagram below depicts the SAS process.

The Social Accountability System

The Social Accountability System


Process 1 - Strategic planning and Resource Allocation
Process 2- Expenditure Management
Process 3 - Performance Management
Process 4 - Public Integrity Management
Process 5 - Oversight

Together these make up the social accountability system.

Citizens can engage with government at each point in the SAS because every state is obliged to justify and explain its decisions and actions, and take timely corrective action where weaknesses are identified, as regards:

  • the choices it makes in setting service delivery plans and allocating the resources available to service delivery;
  • its decisions and actions as regards the manner in which it spends resources;
  • the quality of implementation of service delivery in accordance to the resources available to it;
  • preventing and redressing the misuse and abuse of public resources; and
  • public resources being used to realise people’s rights.

Further, all citizens have the right to demand these justifications and explanations from the state when it fails to provide them adequately and to require corrective action where necessary.

How the Zambian State can develop its Social Accountability System

For a well-functioning public resource management system, there needs to be public pressure to demand for continual improvements to the system. This demand needs to be evidence-based – and the state needs to be open to receiving and engaging with the evidence and civil society.  To achieve this, the state needs to institutionalise the right to social accountability by developing strategies to:

  • Ensure that citizens (the rights-holders) have the opportunity, information and capacity to demand for explanations regarding the prioritisation of needs and the allocation and management of public goods and resources; and
  • Ensure that those duty-bearers responsible for public goods and resources have the capacity and motivation to supply such explanations and the ability to take any required corrective action.


Process accountability