Accountability to Women in Development Spending: Experiments in Service-Delivery Audits at the Local Level


Goetz, Anne Marie, and Robert Jenkins. 1999. "Accountability to Women in Development & Spending: Experiments in Service-Delivery Audits at the Local Level." Paper presented at the UNDP Conference on Gender, Poverty and Environment-Sensitive Budget Analysis, New York.

Authors: Anne Marie Goetz, Robert Jenkins


What matters to consumers of public services is local-level accountability. Local monitoring and auditing is the only way to ensure commitments on paper at the local and national level - particularly in areas of concern to women - are translated into practice. This paper shows how groups in India hold governments accountable for their spending and the delivery of public services. Gender-sensitive analysis and monitoring of this spending at the local level can give women the tools to campaign and lobby directly for money that should go to them and their families. Citizens can participate in monitoring spending in two key areas: decentralised local government budgets and large development programmes. These are the areas in which women and the poor most closely engage with public sector spending programmes. In India, some village assemblies have gained the power to examine annual budget statements and to audit reports. However, many challenges are still faced and women are often sidelined with the local administration, local politicians and many male citizens colluding in order to divert funds intended for women's benefit.

In Kerala details of workers and their wages plus costs of materials must be posted at the site of all public works. Noticeboards are installed at the headquarters of every ward with information about panchayat (local government institutions) spending. This new transparency revealed that women were being illegally paid less than men. Women are also given the job of monitoring those who are on the local "Below Poverty Line" lists for resource allocation in anti-poverty programmes. In Rajasthan, the MKSS (Mazdoor Kisan Shakthi Sangathan - the Workers' and Farmers' Power Association) made up of 60 per cent women, played a key role in the introduction of the Right to Information legislation in 2000. MKSS also instituted a public hearing method where accounts are read aloud to assembled villagers who are able to testify on the differences between budget and actual expenditure, exposing corruption.

Further findings from this paper include:

·         Local-level analysis and activity make it easier to identify the impact of spending patterns, to understand the use of resources at local government level, and to pick up on corruption and mis-spending of funds.

·         Elites who may have control over resources at local government level, can be more firmly patriarchal than at the national level.

·         The differences in men's and women's work and time use have implications for their ability to participate in monitoring activities.

·         Social norms dictate the extent to which women can claim allocations and speak out against corruption.

·         Despite the work in Kerala and good conditions for effective engagement of women in budgeting and auditing, local spending priorities have not been redefined from a gender perspective.

·         Effective citizen monitoring requires considerable resources, including finances to build technical skills for monitoring and auditing, and to build basic literacy.

Key recommendations made by the paper include the need for:

·         The institutionalisation of the rights of service users to set priorities and monitor spending through legislation which ensures public access to information.

·         Methods such as public hearings and "translation" of official information to suit the needs of those who are illiterate are needed to ensure that these rights are realised.

·         Revenue to provide for women's participation in auditing.

·         Technical training including collection and collation of information, verification of local accounts and skills needed to undertake consultations with beneficiaries as to whether spending plans adequately meet their needs.

·         An understanding of women's varied roles and how they constrain women's participation in auditing processes.

·         Ensuring that women are not sidelined in local assemblies, where elites continue to divert funds intended for women's use to other areas.

·         Capacity-building among civil society institutions, which is essential to encourage women to stand up in public hearings and to demand accountability. 

Topics: Economies, Poverty, Gender, Gender Budgeting Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: India

Year: 1999

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