Local-level accountability in Ghana

Ishac Diwan reflects

“Everyone agreed that silent corruption was endemic, but they rejected our call to organize parents and beneficiaries to push back on the state and try make it accountable. They thought that this was unrealistic. When school spots are limited, people are nice to the school master to have a chance to get their kids admitted. The poor need to fight for themselves and do not have the luxury of fighting on behalf of the whole community, especially when that comes at a cost”

This might be a big dampener for projects that aim to say, strengthen School Management Committees or Parent Teacher Associations to reform public schools. Social audits for public works might be slightly different since they usually affect, directly or indirectly, a large swathe of the population in any given community. Is it that for any project that entails individual-level benefits, competing for (perceived) scarce resources among potential clients trumps mutual cooperation for greater collective benefit? All is not lost, though – 

“After initially feeling disappointed, I found this sentiment profound. What I learned from our discussion is that our much touted civil-society-driven accountability model can only work if we put equal effort into getting the state to agree to an internal system of vertical accountability – vertical and horizontal accountability need to act as complements not substitutes” 

The state needs to promote horizontal accountability systems within it various arms that act as checks and balances to each other. But at the same time, as Ishac points out, there is no substitute for vertical accountability along the chain of command within the state. Civil society alone cannot win every battle.

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