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South Asia

Shining some light on public procurement in India

Shanker Lal's picture
 Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

In large, developing countries the government spends much of its budget on social safety net programs and building infrastructure, which involves procuring goods and services. But the ways in which these goods and services are purchased – the procurement process – can sometimes be inefficient and opaque to citizens. The procurement data is not easy to find or easy to understand; the policies are not always clear. In short, taxpayers often don’t know how their money is being spent.

In India, with help from the World Bank, there’s a promising initiative that is trying to address this problem, which is fundamentally one of transparency and accountability in government. But it is entering a critical new phase, in which it will need to become more self-sufficient and wean itself off of the initial World Bank seed funding.

When the emperor reaches out to the citizen, that’s new

Julia Oliver's picture



If you want a passport in Pakistan, you wait in line – possibly for hours. You might get to the passport office at the crack of dawn to avoid the queue. The process might be unclear, and there might be people – “agents” – waiting outside the office, offering to help: “For a few hundred rupees, I can fast-track your application.”
 
The government of Pakistan is trying to fix these problems, including the requests for bribes, rude treatment, and inefficient processing. Their approach is simple and creative and made possible because there are an estimated 123 million mobile phone users in the South Asian nation – about 64 percent of the population, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
 
Beginning this fall, staff at each of the passport office’s 95 locations began collecting the cell phone numbers of all passport applicants. Shortly after each visit, the central headquarters sends the applicant a text message: “Did you face any problem or did someone ask you for money?”

What does “Good Governance” really mean in higher education?

Jessica Lee's picture
Photo: WorldSkills (under Creative Commons)


Visiting a technical institution (one that is focused on science and engineering) in India can be a mixed experience. I have been to campuses that have state-of-the-art lab equipment with dedicated staff, and I have also been to others that barely have enough textbooks in their libraries and lab equipment from the 1960s.

Regardless of the type of institution, one thing is certain – even if the buildings are brand new and WiFi abundant, without good governance practices technical institutions in India would be less able to provide good higher education services to students.

To provide some more practical advice on how to embody good governance in the higher education sector, I visited seven institutions in two different states (Maharashtra and Karnataka) to explore best practices, which are summarized below:  

A straightforward way for local governments to engage more with their citizens

Ravi Kumar's picture
​​Photo: © Jonathan Ernst/World Bank


A neighborhood road a minute walk away from my house in the southern plains of Nepal used to be paved. When I was a kid, it was usable during all seasons. Not anymore.
 
A few years ago, I’m told, residents worked with the municipal officials to get drinking water to their houses. Officials broke the road so they can connect drinking water pipes from the nearby main highway to neighborhood homes.
 
That road has yet to be repaired. When I asked my parents and neighbors why it has taken so long for the road to be repaired, they responded by saying the municipality officials have ignored it.
 
The town’s municipal officials said locals haven’t contacted them yet about that road and there are other projects the municipality is working on. The broken road in my neighborhood isn’t one of those projects. To put it gently, public services in my hometown remain in dire condition.
 
Would things have been different if residents of my hometown engaged more with their local government? Maybe.

How a professor started a campaign to fight everyday corruption in India

Alice Lloyd's picture
Also available in Spanish,  French and Arabic
Photo credit: 5th Pillar


An expatriate Indian physics professor, when traveling back home to India, found himself harassed by endless extortion demands. As a way to fight corruption by shaming the officials who ask for bribes, the professor created a fake currency bill: the zero-rupee note.

The notes are identical to Indian banknotes, but carry the slogan, "Eliminate corruption at all levels," and the pledge, "I promise to neither accept nor give bribe".

Vijay Anand, president of the non-governmental organization 5th Pillar, thought the idea could work on a larger scale. Initially, the NGO printed 25,000 zero-rupee notes and distributed them to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Since 2007, the NGO has distributed more than one million bills in five languages, covering 600-plus institutions. Volunteers hand them out near places where officials often solicit bribes, such as railway stations and government hospitals. 

Four ways governments are making girls’ lives better

Alua Kennedy's picture

Also available in: العربية



As the International Day of the Girl Child is coming up on October 11, it reminds us of an important role governments can play to help girls lead their own lives. Investing in girls’ empowerment is a smart way to invest in a country.
 
Check out these four videos about how governments of Liberia, Senegal, India and Burundi are working to empower girls in their countries. 

Engaging community in monitoring of road projects

Shanker Lal's picture
Photo: CUTS International

Citizen monitoring is a relatively new concept in infrastructure sector in India. Even though the country has vibrant democracy and policy interventions like right to information act, citizens lack awareness and necessary toolkit for exercising their rights through social audit. 
 

The role of ombudsman institution in improving public service delivery

Danang Girindrawardana's picture



In May 2015, I was a panel speaker at the 2nd World Bank – International Ombudsman Institute Roundtable on the role of ombudsman institutions (OIs) in promoting citizen-centric governance and inclusive institutions. This was a great opportunity to share the experience of my office, the Ombudsman Republic of Indonesia (ORI) in promoting greater government accountability and also learn from other countries’ experiences presented by the other panelists. 

The OIs come in various shapes and sizes, thus encompassing different roles depending upon their national mandates. While OIs are mostly known to deal with complaints regarding maladministration issues not addressed at the agency level, our panel discussed how OIs could contribute to service delivery improvements, while also promoting citizen engagement in demanding accountability.

As fellow Ombudsman Peter Tyndall from Ireland noted, OIs are capable of not only looking into individual complaints regarding poor service delivery often caused by one-off incidences, but also investigate and uncover roots of more systemic problems within public institutions. 

Swept up in work: My years in the Kabul office

Paul Sisk's picture
Family on Motorbike in Afghanistan
Afghanistan. Photo by Graham Crouch/World Bank


I spent the past 11 years working and living in Afghanistan.  I didn’t intend to stay that long in one country office, but I got swept up in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which under the World Bank, was financing 50% of government expenditures earlier on.  Its budget operations grew from $600 million in 2004 to more than $5 billion in 2014.

For anyone working on public financial management, there were a lot of challenges to tackle and no good time to leave. Our work in Afghanistan is the World Bank at its best. Moreover, Afghans are excellent hosts and have been very receptive to World Bank collaboration.

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