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.

Why is Social Accountability important?

Social Accountability practices are important in a number of ways:
Through social accountability practices:

Corruption and lack of competence can be discovered and prevented
Policies and plans can be more oriented towards citizens’ needs
Citizens understand to which services they are entitled
Resources can be more efficiently used
Service delivery can be strengthened and improved

Through different Social Accountability practices, the performance and conduct of duty-bearers can be monitored and the voices of ordinary citizens made heard. The practices of Social Accountability may be started and set up by the state (for example, passing an Access to Information Bill, setting up and funding an Anti-corruption Commission, appointing an Investigator General), or they can be set up by citizens, CSOs or service providers (awareness-raising on rights, budget tracking, community scorecards, setting up a dialogue table). These activities help to develop the skills and confidence of citizens, CSOs, the media, academics, and the private sectors at engaging in dialogue with duty bearers and ultimately holding them to account to achieve improved development results.
Where the state is open and responsive to such activities, social accountability can also build the capacity of the state in the three key principles of governance that the World Bank ( Source ) has identified as being central to Social Accountability: being transparent, participatory, and accountable to citizens.

The World Bank has also identified that the effectiveness of these principles depend on several conditions, including the following:

  • an enabling political environment for civic engagement
  • an appropriate policy and legal framework
  • capable and supportive state actors
  • the institutional capabilities of non-state actors

Remember to also check an Overview on different Social Accountability Tools and practices.