The introduction of “citizen engagement” into law is an idea that is gaining popularity around the world.
New provisions in Kenya’s recent Constitution enshrine openness, accountability and public participation as guiding principles for public financial management. Yet, as citizen engagement practitioners know, . Experience has shown that in the absence of commitment from leaders and citizens and without appropriate capacities and methodologies, public participation provisions may lead to simple “tick the box” exercises.
Thanks to the support from the Kenya Participatory Budgeting Initiative (KPBI)* and the commitment from West Pokot and Makueni** County leaders, participatory budgeting (PB) is being tested as a way to achieve more inclusive and effective citizen engagement processes while complying with national legal provisions. The initial results are quite encouraging.
Perhaps, as recent events have shown, no greater challenge confronts statesmen and women than this one: when should leaders yield to public opinion and when should they resist it or lead it?
In many democratic societies there is a presumption in favor of yielding to public opinion on the great public issues of the day. Proponents of direct democracy, for instance, argue essentially that leaders should always yield to public opinion. The assumption here, of course, is that you can always trust “the people”. In any case, it is argued, not to trust the people is to favor rule by unaccountable elites, the same people who almost always look after their own interests…and nothing else.
There are at least two problems with always trusting “the people”. The first is the problem of expertise or civic competence. Many public issues are complex and many sided, and you need to be able to wade through boatloads of often contradictory expert opinion. Your average citizen in a democracy, even while reasonably educated, is not likely to be terribly well-informed generally let alone be able to decide complex issues. Deliberative Polls try to solve the problem of expertise by (a) selecting a representative sample of the people (b) exposing them to a full range of expert opinions on the key public issue they will vote on (c) allow them to discuss the issue at length before (d) asking them to vote on the issue. These polls often produce fascinating opinion shifts.
One journalist used it as a data source for a story on solar energy in Makueni County. Another accessed the data for inclusion in a piece on sanitary napkin distribution in East Pokot. Development partners reported relying on the data to coordinate specific activities in the Central Highlands of Kenya. And this is to say nothing of the government users of the data managed by the Electronic Project Monitoring Information System for the Government of Kenya (e-ProMIS), Kenya’s automated information management system on development projects funded by both domestic and foreign resources.
Procurement is an essential aspect of World Bank operations and international development projects worldwide. The World Bank’s policy on procurement encourages the use of country systems in procurement implementation process while ensuring the consistency with the Bank’s regulations .
Making procurement information publicly available promotes openness and transparency and creates a level playing field for bidders. This, in turn, fosters competition and potentially decreases corruption risks.
With this in mind, World Bank teams in East Asia and the Pacific successfully collaborated with government procurement agencies to increase and improve the publication of procurement information and to pilot e-procurement portals for Bank-funded operations.
The following story shares our experiences and successes in both China and Vietnam.
I recently visited one of Bioversity International’s project sites in Begnas, where I met farming couple, Surya and Saraswati Adhikari. They proudly showed me around their biodiverse farm, pointing out some of the 150 plant species they grow and explaining that each one has a specific use. They showed me the vegetables, rice, gourds and legumes they grow to eat and sell; the trees that provide fruits, fodder and fuel, and the many herbs for medicinal and cultural purposes.
While countries around the world reap the benefits of an expanding digital environment, development challenges persist, adversely impacting low-income countries from achieving that same rate of growth.
The 2016 World Development Report (PDF) recently highlighted these findings in addition to three factors that contribute to a government’s responsiveness towards these digital changes.
According to the report, public services tend to be more amenable to improvements through digital technologies if the proposed system allows for fluid feedback, a replicable development process, and an outcome that can be easily measured and identified.
Inclusion is the new buzzword in international development. From promoting citizen empowerment to fostering pathways out of fragility, it is all about political processes that are more inclusive and representative.
The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals are perhaps the most ambitious articulation of this consensus, with Goal 16 in particular calling for building more “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
And there are good reasons for this call-out. Two findings from research that I undertook for a paper I wrote recently on Political Settlements and the Politics of Inclusion are particularly striking in highlighting the centrality of inclusion:
GoPro videos have become ubiquitous among mountain bikers. The more adventurous the journey the better. Go viral on social media, and you have a winner. You might even get a payout from YouTube. But we want to discuss another way to make money. Money for local roads in the Philippines. We want to discuss a way that officials and citizens could make a GoPro-type movie, convert it into a digital map, and possibly receive a payout from the Department of Budget and Management under a new program called Kalsada.
It’s More Fun in The Philippines!
The Philippines is a tropical archipelago of over seven thousand islands, making for many jewel destinations. The country’s tourism slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” tries to capture the spirit of a friendly, welcoming and fun-loving people which the adventurous tourist will experience. Palawan was recently voted as the planet’s best island destination by a top travel magazine. In search of fun, we tried to visit one of its towns, Port Barton, two years ago. But chronic infrastructure means that sometimes you are in for a rough ride. Confronted with bad roads, we were only able to actually make it to this idyllic destination many months later.
Also available in: Español
Note from the editors: The following is an interview with Patricia Arriagada, former acting Comptroller General of Chile, and Patricio Barra Aeloiza, Head of Accounting Analysis Division of the Comptroller General Office, who have been instrumental in recent reforms of public financial management systems in Chile.
Starting in 2010, Chile embarked on a journey to improve public sector accounting by converging to an international standard of financial reporting by 2016. The country expects to produce its first fully compliant financial statements in 2019. One main objective of this reform is to ensure that financial information generated by the government accounting system is comprehensive, reliable, and useful for decision-making. Another is to increase the levels of fiscal and financial transparency and accountability in the public sector.
These reforms were driven by the Comptroller General office, is what is known as a “Supreme Audit Institution,” and is responsible for monitoring revenues and expenditures in all parts of the government – in particular, ensuring the quality and credibility of financial management and financial reporting.
A recent World Bank report “The Small Entrepreneur in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations” looked into the motives and challenges of small entrepreneurs in FCS countries and made a number of interesting discoveries. They found that compared to entrepreneurs elsewhere, entrepreneurs in FCS have different characteristics and face significantly different challenges. FCS enterprises tend to be small, informal and to be engaged in sectors that are trade and service oriented.
Three other things they found are illustrated in the charts below. These findings came as quite a surprise to us.