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.
Destination = citizens secure their socio-economic rights within available resources – based on needs analysis and prioritisation of needs
Current location = where they are now at – this is identified through a rigorous needs analysis
The strategic plan = map of how to get from the current location on a journey that ultimately leads to the destination.
The budget = how much is available to get there.
Road map must cover the entire journey (or leg of the journey)
Effective strategic planning should result in effective service delivery if sufficient resources are allocated and the strategic plan is properly implemented.
According to PSAM, a rights-based approach to monitoring strategic planning would at a basic level ask the following questions:
- Is the plan informed by a rigorous and up-to-date needs analysis? i.e. has is correctly and accurately identified people’s socio-economic needs?
- Will the implementation of the plan result in the realisation of socio-economic rights? i.e. have people’s socio-economic needs been prioritised in the objectives and corresponding activities of the strategic plan?
- Is the plan a clear road map from identified needs to service delivery that meets the needs?
- If resources are allocated to planned activities, will prioritised citizens’ needs be met?
Resource Allocation and Strategic Planning processes are interlinked:
- The Budget is the financial mirror of the strategic plan.
- However, government institutions must plan within anticipated available resources
- Final plans are therefore adjusted to actual allocations
Resource allocation decisions are made on the basis of a detailed and realistic strategic plan.
Basic steps in the resource allocation process are:
- Establish macroeconomic framework and determine resource envelope.
- Prioritisation of needs
- Pre-budget statement (including issue of budget guidelines) should be made available to the public to enable them to provide feedback
- Preparation of budget proposals
- Negotiation of budget proposals
- Approval by Cabinet
- Tabling of budget before the Parliament for approval/rejection/ (or amendment)
- Fiscal discipline – It should only spend what it can afford.
- Strategic allocation of budgeted resources – Government spending should always be consistent with strategic plan, objectives and the budget
- Good operational management –
Efficiency: government spending buys all that is needed and only what is needed to be available when it is needed.
Effectiveness :achieving the outcome for which the output is intended
- Value for Money: government spending does not pay more for goods or services than they are worth.
As for any CSO, good expenditure management by government also depends on: setting up sound procurement procedures that are followed; a functioning accounting system with oversight, checks and balances; and financial management, audit and reporting systems. Across the framework, risk needs to be assessed and managed at every stage.
- Managing People
Making sure that the right people are in the right jobs doing the right things. This requires human resource management systems – performance appraisals, recruitment and retention strategies, and training and staff development.
- Managing Processes
Implementing what is planned and monitoring to find out if you are on track to the desired destination is the second essential component of performance management. This requires various internal control mechanisms for both financial and performance management, risk management systems – and performance management and reporting systems to capture data on how effectively these are working and monitor results..
- Managing Results
Measuring results and continually adjusting what is done to ensure that optimal results are achieved and that potential obstacles are overcome. The monitoring of service delivery results is an essential of a performance monitoring system. The following are the standard documents that a government would produce in order to manage results: PSAM suggest that the following information are the basics of what should be produced:
- In-year performance reports
- Year-end performance reports
- Internal audit reports
- Reports by oversight bodies
- Supreme Audit Institution Reports (performance and financial audits)
- Additional useful documents
- Policy speeches
- Strategic plans
- Previous year-end reports
- Media reports
- Independent research reports
PSAM also holds that a rights-based approach to onitoring performance management would at a basic level ask the following questions:
- Were the activities and objectives set out in the strategic plan implemented effectively, efficiently and economically?
- Did the responsible department account for any failures or weaknesses within the performance management system or in its service delivery?
- Did the responsible department move over time progressively towards realising people’s socio-economic rights within available resources through its delivery of public services?
It is also important that civil society reinforce constantly the fact that it is in the public interest for public resources to be managed effectively – everybody loses out when they are not well-managed. And finally, civil society needs to put a constant focus of public attention on the key principles that underpin social accountability systems:
o access to information
o accountability & participation in decision-making.
There therefore needs to be clear written understanding on how public officials are expected to behave so that they are operating fully in the spirit and the rule of the laws, regulations and norms that govern the country. These documents will cover: their roles and duties, performance standards, personal conduct, relations with the public, accountability & private interests and will include declarations of interest & the public registering of interests.
Given that strategic plans provide clear guidelines on which activities need to be undertaken, by whom and at what cost, it is possible for public officials to identify when there have been problems in either the implementation and performance, or in the misuse and abuse of public resources.
In addition to the expectations that line managers throughout the system will be constantly vigilant within their own realm of authority (be they the internal audit function, a head of department or line manager, within the human resources directorate and so on) there have also been specific bodies set up to support Public Integrity Management:
Monitoring, investigating, judicial & prosecuting bodies: Includes Public Service Commission, the Investigator General, police investigators, a prosecuting authority, and judiciary.
o Responsible for cases involving: misconduct, maladministration and conflicts of interest within public service departments; conflicts of interest and breaches of ethical conduct within the Legislature; conflicts of interest and unethical conduct by members of the executive; acts of corruption and criminal offences by public officials, parliamentarians, ministers and private individuals or corporations (involving public resources)
Supreme Audit Institution
o Responsible for auditing expenditure and performance and reporting any instances of the ineffective use or abuse of resources to the head of department and relevant Legislature oversight committees. Also responsible for conducting forensic audits into instances of the ineffective use or abuse of resources.
Legislature oversight committees
o Responsible for overseeing the implementation of disciplinary processes. Also for obtaining and evaluating constant updates on the performance of officials including any instances of the ineffective use or abuse of public resources, and for obtaining justifications regarding corrective action
So that the progress of each part of the Public Integrity Management system can be monitored, the following reports should be produced across the year and they should be made publically available : Year-end reports on misconduct and incapacity; Human resource management directorate disciplinary reports; Auditor-General annual financial audit reports, special forensic audit reports & internal audit reports; Registers of private interests; minutes and reports of Parliament Committee hearings; and public statements by government departments.
PSAM propose that a rights-based approach to monitoring public integrity management would at least ask the following:
o What mechanisms exit to address and prevent the ineffective use or abuse of public resources?
o What corrective action is taken in response to the ineffective use or abuse of public resources?
International Covenants show where a state is committed to delivering a range of human rights by international human rights covenants – so oversight of government’s performance in realising these rights is critical for their realisation.
Effective oversight requires that oversight bodies recognise the right to social accountability – and actively welcome the input and information that the public can provide them in their day-to-day activities. A very useful function that civil society can perform is therefore where they have gathered evidence that a government is not effectively living up to its obligations in relation to international covenants.
A number of bodies are responsible for oversight in Zambia, including:
o Parliament, Legislature and Legislature oversight committees – responsible for holding the executive to account for the use of public resources and the implementation of an effective accountability system
o Office of the Auditor General is the supreme audit institution in Zambia – responsible for auditing financial statements and performance reports
o Ministry of Finance (www.mofnp.gov.zm) – responsible for oversight of the implementation of the budget and strategic plan and for reporting to oversight bodies
o Internal audit committees – responsible for conducting risk-management throughout the financial year; responsible for reporting any potential problems to the Administrative Head of Department
o The Investigator General (email@example.com), Commission for Investigations, is the Zambian Ombudsman. Receives complaints from aggrieved persons against government agencies, officials and employees. She has the power to investigate, recommend corrective action and issue reports. This work complements the work of Parliament and the judiciary to make sure government performs in an effective and efficient manner.
o Anti-Corruption Commission –( www.acc.gov.zm) , is, according to itself, “the lead institution in the fight against corruption in Zambia, the Commission is geared to professionally execute its mandate through investigations and prosecutions of suspected offenders; establish corruption prevention mechanisms; mobilise support and enlighten the citizenry of Zambia through community education programs.”
The following information outputs should be generated by an effective oversight system and made available to the public:
o Supreme Audit Institutions: external & internal audit reports; in-year and year-end oversight reports by an Internal Audit Committee
o Legislatures: Hansard; and recommendations and findings of the oversight committee hearings, and a report on responses to the recommendations they made.
Two key oversight questions that PSAM propose should be asked in evaluating public integrity management are:
o Was corrective action taken in response to all instances involving the ineffective use or abuse of public resources by duty-bearers?
o Did duty-bearers effectively implement all institutional mechanisms designed to prevent the ineffective use or abuse of public resources?
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.