Enhancing Accountability and Performance Of Social Service Contracts
Sector: Education, Health, and Agriculture (Third Party Contract Monitoring)
Executing Agency: Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Grant Amount: $650,000
Closing Date: December 2018
Frame and Challenge
Lack of transparency and limited public participation in government institutions severely undermine service delivery and frustrate development plans and programs in Uganda. Over the last decades, Uganda has adopted legislation to improve governance and reduce corruption, but its impact has been limited. More often than not, there is a gap between what reforms promise on paper and their implementation on the ground. This creates real concerns and vulnerabilities in the use of public resources. It particularly affects government activities related to public procurement and contracting that have an estimated annual value of USD 2.4 billion.
More specifically, weak procurement systems have negative impacts in critical sectors such as health, education, and agriculture. Medications are often missing from health centers, and staff absenteeism is prevalent in several regions. Investments in infrastructure geared towards education have been marred by corruption scandals. There is lack of accountability for funds used in the biggest agricultural program in the country, National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), that was designed to boost the income of rural households.
AFIC, a pan-African organization with extensive experience in open contracting and access to information laws, has received a GPSA grant to improve service delivery in the agriculture, education, and health sectors by enhancing accountability and transparency in public procurement in five districts. This will be done by: 1) providing training and supporting citizens to engage with government authorities, monitor contracts, and track funds in the agriculture sector: 2) strengthening a network of community monitors in the education and health sectors to provide feedback to government and ensure contracts and infrastructure projects are executed in a transparent manner; 3) leveraging resources and knowledge to strengthen the institutional Capacity of Uganda Contracts Monitoring Coalition (UCMC) to engage effectively with government authorities; and 4) documenting and sharing project tools, experiences, and lessons learned to both national and international audiences.
The GPSA has helped the AFIC to achieve the following project results thus far:
- The government made its procurement portal compliant to Open Contracting Data Standards, as per recommendations from project Monitors.
- The national and district governments have accepted and implemented 13 recommendations from the Community Monitors.
- Detailed information about 33 contracts was made accessible to citizens by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority.
- 476 citizens have been trained in accessing public contracting information, monitoring contracting processes and tracking funds.
- 186 of the trained citizens work as Community Monitors, who directly monitor contracts and infrastructure projects in health, education and agriculture, using monitoring tools specifically designed for the project.
The design of this grant benefits from the lessons learned by AFIC in developing tools to allow citizens to monitor important sectors and provide feedback to government authorities. This project will scale up this initiative to the agriculture, education, and health sector.
- Preventing corruption and fraud within the system of service suppliers requires regular attention and monitoring by implementers and government actors. In the Ugandan case, this forethought was accomplished by 45 participating government organizations, ranging from the Planning and Economic Development Group to the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity.
- Project leaders, evaluators, and participants should be aware of the shrinking of civic space amidst project implementation. Shrinking civic space, the shut down of CSOs and even the freezing of CSO financial accounts can make achieving more efficient and fair service delivery more difficult.
- Interactions with district level stakeholders have revealed numerous social accountability challenges including one as basic as citizens limited awareness of the right to access public information, particularly contracting information, which cannot be taken for granted.