Status: Completed Start Date: Mar 2015 End Date: Feb 2016 Geographic Coverage: Districts Thatta, Badin and Karachi in Sindh Districts Multan, Muzaffargarh and Khanewal in Punjab Focus Area: Governance SDG Goal: 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions Implementing Partner: SPO Funding Partner: USAID
Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) in partnership with USAID implemented a 12 month Capacity building and Advocacy project in targeted districts of Sindh and Punjab.
The project titled ‘Enhancing Capacities for Transparent and Accountable Local Governance’ focused on transparency and accountability pillars which anchor good governance of any country.
In developing countries like Pakistan, the issue of lack of good governance can be multifaceted. Governance at local level constitutes for (ordinary people) a duly struggle for survival and dignity. Ordinary people are too often humiliated at the hands of public institutions. For them, lack of good governance means police brutality, corruption in accessing basic public services, ghost schools, teacher’s absenteeism, missing medicines, high cost of and low access to justice, criminalization of politics and lack of social justice. These are just a few manifestations of the crises of governance. It has been demonstrated that the country’s governance has been largely perceived as non- transparent and unaccountable.
The reason is either the non-availability of proper transparent strategies for implementation of local governance system and structures or the lack of awareness on roles/ responsibilities or the capacity issues of the office functionaries practicing the system. Even if the strategies, mechanisms and Laws are available such as Punjab Right to Information Act, Sindh Freedom of Information Act, and Procedures for Supporting Transparency and Accountability; the lack of awareness and capacity about the roles and responsibilities towards public service and community interests of the functionaries who are the custodians of the government systems has always been highlighted as a major dilemma of the effective implementation of governance system in Pakistan.
Pakistan in its constitution urges on making the governance systems at national and local level transparent and accountable. The details are chalked out in 18th amendment in the form of certain steps such as having proper laws for ensuring good governance, building the capacity of government institutions and office bearers on the importance and practice of transparent governance system and having freedom to and access to information by the local citizens regarding their basic rights to services and good governance.
In this connection SPO designed the scope of the project which envisioned to build the capacities and developing linkage among the target groups of Community Based Organizations and politicians and their interaction with the related departments of health, education, Local Government, Women development. The office of Ombudsman and Information Commission were closely involved in the project interventions. The broad strategy of the project revolved around;
Baseline and end-line assessments with the target groups (CBOs & politicians) for demonstrating gaps in their capacity building related to their role as watch dogs for monitoring the accountable mechanisms/ systems in local governance (district & provincial)
Capacity building of the target groups on RTI &FOI and budget tracking mechanisms
Developing linkage among the target groups and the relevant stakeholders from public and private domains on ensuring transparent and accountable governance in in their respective districts and provinces
Presenting token of appreciation to the best performers (individuals & departments) for their performance in ensuring transparency and accountability in their respective departments
Disseminating information to the wider range of audience through case studies on complaint mechanisms and complaint handing by the office of ombudsman and information commission.
The aforementioned interventions helped SPO achieve its commitment to;
Enhance citizen’s and politician’s knowledge and capacity on RTI and FOI to strengthen transparency and accountability mechanisms in Punjab and Sindh.
Increase number of people aware of Right to Information(RTI) and Freedom of Information (FOI)legislation at provincial and district levels and have grievances redressed through better engagement with Provincial Standing Committees.
Improve instances of transparency and accountability amongst service delivery departments due to oversight and recognition by the civil society groups, stakeholders and legislators.
The capacity building component of the project led to successful campaign at community level. The CBOs received hands on knowledge and practice skills for running successful advocacy around issue raising (demand & supply) against service delivery of the target provincial departments. Total 60 advocacy action plans were prepared by local communities to raise their voices.
SPO works in close coordination with relevant departments, which is why it earns ownership of the government representatives at district and provincial level. The coordination meetings were held with health, education, LG &RD, Women Development and PHED departments in both the provinces for better understanding of the officials (men and women) of these departments on RTI and FOI. Secretaries and deputy secretaries of the respective ministries and departments, section officers and other office bearers of these departments that have a role in formulating policies and following procedures of transparency were reached out. The meetings helped in sensitizing the officials in these target departments on RTI and FOI and that such laws can be effectively used by the civil society/ local communities and other office bearers for ensuring transparency and accountability in local governance. These meetings held in the provincial capital with a purpose to sensitize the target department functionaries at provincial level in addition to district level interventions in this project.
This project was successful because SPO engaged with people and local leadership on a voluntary basis to be the leaders of their own development. SPO has always aimed to strengthen local governance in a way that can continue advocating for transparent and accountable mechanisms in the district even beyond the duration of the project.