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‘Local government system needs strong, sustainable accountability forums’

  • Published at 02:36 am August 30th, 2019
‘Local government system needs strong, sustainable accountability forums’
Speakers at the unveiling ceremony at BIGD on Thursday Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

The study report also found that, except school management committees (SMCs), the existing social accountability institutions or forums tend to remain largely dysfunctional unless they are activated and nurtured by the NGOs

To obtain the state of social accountability in the local government system, strong and sustainable social accountability forums is required, according to a study. 

The study report also found that, except school management committees (SMCs), the existing social accountability institutions or forums tend to remain largely dysfunctional unless they are activated and nurtured by the NGOs. 

When these spaces are operational, citizens of different spheres are eager to aggressively seize the opportunities to voice their demands and rights, said a report, prepared by Mirza M Hassan, senior research fellow and head of Governance and Politics Cluster, Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD).

The study was unveiled at an event titled “State of Social Accountability and Deliberative Democracy in Bangladesh; Current Dynamics and Future Pathways,” organized by the BIGD at its conference room in Dhaka yesterday.

In the report, Hassan argues that there is a need for long-term external interventions to make existing social accountability forums efficient, robust, and sustainable. Such interventions would require a synergy of state-NGO-community, since the goal can only be achieved when all these three actors work together. 

He also emphasized malfunction of social accountability institutions.

He said social accountability is the strong incentive of the elected leaders of the local government to avoid accountability, because often their financial and other activities are not transparent. They maintain mutually-beneficial links with the elite, relatives and supporters or followers using public resources. They get involved in leakages of funds or materials related to development projects and social protection services.

Speaking as the chief guest at the event, LGRD Minister Tazul Islam said: “It is true that if we want to continue the development, we need active participation of local government under social accountability.”

The present government is working to ensure the accountability in union parishads, educational institutions and school management committees, the minister said. 

Badiul Alam Majumdar, country director of the Hunger Project Bangladesh, stated that the method of liability to the people is fair election through vertical social accountability, but there is absence of horizontal and vertical social accountability in the society.  

“Currently, union parishad chairpersons use their own resources to organize social accountability forums, which undermines citizen empowerment and breeds cynicism among the local citizens about the usefulness of engaging with the public authority,” he said. 

Anna Minj, director of Community Empowerment, Integrated Development, and Gender Justice and Diversity Programs at Brac said: “Generally, we have seen that service providers are more powerful than service takers in our society. The responsibility of service providers is to provide and right of the people to get the services.” 

Another major reason of ineffectiveness of the social accountability institutions appears to be resource constraint. Even though the government has established social accountability institutions, it did not allocate central funding for their operations, the study says. 

The study also pointed out that citizens are also benefited if robust forums help them to get better information, which they can use for holding the leaders accountable. The front line and local government officials are also benefited from it.

BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin moderated the session. Rasheda K Choudhury executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, and Anowarul Haq, social development adviser at DFID Bangladesh spoke at the event.