As a way to involve the broader public in overseeing budget execution, civil society organizations (CSOs) can use various Community Monitoring methods, which are participatory methods used to engage communities in analyzing government expenditures at the local level and hold government agencies accountable for them. These methods not only can be used to improve budget processes, policies, and outcomes but also can be a means of empowering communities.
Community monitoring may take different forms. For example, the MKSS, a social movement in India uses a method known as Social Audit to engage local communities in holding their government accountable for the effective and efficient use of public resources. Social Audit essentially involves communities examining budget documents, inspecting programs and projects to look for discrepancies, and holding a public hearing to report findings and call for remedies.
A different approach to Community Monitoring has been used by the Uganda Debt Network to monitor government programs from the district level down to the village levela Community Based Monitoring and Evaluation System (CBMES). UDN is using the system in eight districts and approximately 47 sub-counties. UDN has successfully monitored several government programs at the local level and used the information it generated to conduct advocacy at the national level. One of the best examples of this is the case of the School Facilities Grant (SFG), which the government introduced in 1998 to fund improvements in education infrastructure (classrooms, toilets, teacher housing, etc.) in poor communities.
By undertaking Community Monitoring, CSOs can:
- Strengthen oversight
- Identify problems in service delivery
- Uncover instances of mismanagement, inefficiency, or corruption
- Generate evidence to inform ongoing and future budget debates
- Increase the capacity and willingness of ordinary people to engage in the budget process and actively hold their governments to account
Video | In Kenya, members of parliament receive approximately one million dollars per year to spend on development projects in their constituencies through a scheme called the Constituency Development Fund (CDF). The MPs are able to spend this money with no meaningful oversight, so the CDF has been plagued with mismanagement and corruption. This documentary presents the powerful story of how IBP partner organization MUHURI used Social Audit to investigate their local CDF and take on the challenge of holding them accountable.
Guide | This guide is a collaboration between the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU), and the International Budget Partnership. It aims to help community activists and organized civil society groups in South Africa think about, conduct, and reflect on social audits.
Useful Guides and Publications
by Vivek Ramkumar | This IBP guide presents thorough descriptions of the stages of the budget process and various tools and methodologies that civil society can use to influence policy decisions, monitor the effective and efficient use of public resources, and assess budget execution and its impacts. The strength of the guide lies in its detailed case studies of civil society budget work throughout the budget cycle and around the world.