Social Audits of Local Governments in Bangladesh: Lessons for Increasing Voice and Accountability

The World Bank's South Asia Multisectoral Decentralization Group announces a presentation by Nilufar Ahmad, Senior Social Development Specialist.

LPSI News: Posted January 21, 2012

The Local Governance Support Project (LGSP-I) in Bangladesh is the centerpiece of a broad program to strengthen accountable forms of local governance. Through the US$170 million program, block grants were provided to the the lowest tier of rural local governments (4501 Union Parishads -UPs) to be utilized at their discretion on community priorities identified through a participatory process. In doing so the local governments are being held to a higher level of accountability for their performance through a number of accountability measures. The project has more than quadrupled transfers to UPs and financed a number of small local infrastructure and service delivery schemes responding to local needs. Among the measures undertaken to improve accountability are a system of local government reporting, providing basic training to local public officials in planning, budgeting, public financial management, safeguards compliance, and good governance, improved transparency, voice and participation through mandatory disclosure obligations and a system of formal audits by chartered accountants for each UP for the first time in the country.

In addition to formal audits it was felt that for greater voice and accountability, some form of social audits involving the community directly should be undertaken for a more bottom up approach to accountability. A social audit program funded by SDC and AusAID was undertaken in 50 UPs in 2010-11 on a pilot basis. This was done by designing a training program using a creditable NGO Village Education Research Committee (VERC) and training community members as social auditors. The communities in these 50 UPs used community score cards to review the performance of their local government functionaries and agreed on social contracts to work together to improve local governance and development outcomes. An innovative media campaign was also undertaken to ensure participation from the local government and communities. Taking into account the lessons from this pilot, the program is being expanded to all UPs with the Second Local Governance Support Project (LGSP-II).

Based on this experience the presentation will examine the role of social audits in increasing voice and accountability at the local level and the key issues for successful social audits. Where do social audits fit on the continuum of social accountability measures? Is there a role for both formal and social audits? If so how do they reinforce each other?

Presenter: Nilufar Ahmad, Senior Social Development Specialist
Chair: Maria Correa, Sector Manager, Social Development, SAR
Discussant: Junaid Ahmad, Sector Manager, AFTUW
Tuesday, Jan 31, 12:30 - 2:00 PM, MC 10-850

The presentation is at the Main Complex of the World Bank, 1818 H Street N.W. For a visitor's pass or more information, please contact Tara Sharafudeen at tsharafudeen@worldbank.org.