Helping citizens get engaged
In Uganda, citizens have a legal right to participate in local service delivery processes, which plays a critical role in deepening democracy and promoting good governance.
As leading CSOs, AFIC and its coalition partners have facilitated citizen engagement in the country and contributed to real shifts in citizens’ mindsets from passivity to active – even passionate – participation.
Nyamabaare and St. Lawrence primary schools are great examples. These school communities went beyond monitoring the GPE-funded government school projects to mobilizing their own resources to plug infrastructure gaps – a case of ‘positive deviance’, substantive results that were unexpected.
It all started in December 2014, when AFIC received a US$650,000 grant from the GPSA for a project called "Enhancing value for money in social service contracts in Uganda".
The project would facilitate citizen monitoring of health, education and agriculture service delivery contracts in four selected sub-counties in five districts, namely Mityana, Mubende, Nakaseke, Ntungamo and Nebbi.
AFIC would collaborate with the UCMC and its partners, including Transparency International Uganda (TIU) in employing social accountability approaches to achieve that.
One of the components of this work included monitoring GPE’s support to upgrade school infrastructure in these five districts.
Contract oversight leads to improvements
Accordingly, AFIC and partners, working with the communities, selected 10 candidates from each of the 4 sub-counties of the selected districts and trained them as community monitors. Along with government officials, CSOs and community-based organizations they were trained to use pre-tested contract monitoring tools.
In the first stage, 29 contracts from three of the selected districts - Nebbi, Ntungamo and Nakaseke – were made available for monitoring.
The oversight by AFIC revealed a range of issues, such as mismatch of information across various documents and other gaps that could create opportunities for fraud, collusion and mismanagement of resources by contractors and government officials.
AFIC presented these findings to the authorities in all 5 districts, who found them similar to their own. AFIC also presented recommendations for reforms to the ministries of Education, Health, and Agriculture.
The Ministry of Education and Sports responded positively, paving the way for AFIC to gain access to copies of more contracts.
Indeed, the coordinator of the GPE-funded UTSEP provided the service delivery contracts from the five districts for the construction of 16 primary schools.
While the community monitors were monitoring school construction in all 16 schools, they also used radio and community “barazas” (forums for citizens to interact with government officials) to educate people about the contract monitoring, and how to access and use information.
Beyond oversight, communities gain confidence
School communities were initially reluctant to get involved in contracts’ monitoring and to ask for accountability from government.
But, seeing the actual contract copies and understanding them gave them and school administrators confidence in the monitoring program.
In this context, the school communities and AFIC scored some unique victories thanks to effective organizing of the communities, CSO facilitation, and fundraising:
First, the communities at St. Lawrence and Nyamabaare took possession of the ‘hoarded materials’, remaining materials from the construction including old buildings.
Previously contractors had kept these materials but AFIC’s mediation led the education Ministry to compel them to release them to the school communities.
This was enforced at these two schools – to the absolute delight of the school communities, which went on to use the materials to renovate the old structures and turn them into staff houses and nursery classes.