Social accountability (SA) is an approach that aims at building accountability which relies on active participation of ordinary citizens or civil society organizations that participate explicitly or implicitly in demanding accountability. Social accountability refers to a broad range of actions and mechanisms that citizens, communities and civil society organizations can use to hold public officials and public service providers accountable for their actions and decisions.
Conventionally, efforts to tackle the challenge of accountability have tended to concentrate on improving the “supply-side” of governance using methods such as political checks and balances, administrative rules and procedures, auditing requirements, and formal law enforcement agencies like courts and the police. These “top-down” accountability promoting mechanisms have met with only limited success in many countries.
In recent years, increased attention is being paid to the “demand side” of good governance that is to strengthen the voice and capacity of citizens (especially the poor, marginalized and discriminated citizens) to directly demand greater accountability and responsiveness from public officials and service providers.
GoGo Foundation works to enhance the capacity of citizens to engage with public service providers and politicians in a more informed, direct and constructive manner through applying various social accountability tools such as Public Hearing, Public Audit, Social Audit, Citizen Report Card, Community Score Card, Public Expenditure Tracking Survey and Community Monitoring, among others.
As demanding social accountability from public institutions is a new mechanism, especially in the rural areas, capacity building is of paramount importance. GoGo Foundation has been engaged in capacity development of community-based organizations, citizens and its district-based partners to enable them to use social accountability tools effectively and competently.
GoGo Foundation has been working to institutionalize these SA mechanisms by linking them to existing governance structures and service delivery systems. It strongly believes that effectiveness and sustainability of SA mechanisms are improved only when they are fully ‘institutionalized’ and when the state’s own ‘internal’ mechanisms of accountability are made open to civic engagement.
Governance refers to the way in which public officials and public institutions acquire and exercise political power to manage country’s affairs and resources. Good governance has been a top priority in development discourse for at least a decade now. Developing and least developed countries like Nepal have enormously felt pressures at all levels to create a more dynamic, proactive and deeper culture of citizen engagement in decision making processes and streamline its service delivery and governance process through enactment of historic laws like Good Governance (Management & Operation) Act. Nepal is the first country in South Asia to promulgate this law in 2006.
Swiftly changing roles of the state underlies the need to go beyond bureaucratic set up to reach beyond immediate circles of participation into wider reaches of the community. Engaging citizens in governance beyond the use of ballot box is an emerging phenomenon in governance discourse and is an essential element of participatory governance today. Getting citizens engaged in different levels of governance has also become an important step toward reinvigorating concept of good governance in recent decade. And in the last decade, Nepal has seen growing political commitment at the highest levels to give citizens more of a voice in public decisions by engaging the marginalized and discriminated communities and groups in making the state more responsive and accountable to their needs and priorities.
Good governance and anti-corruption are one of the thematic areas of GoGo Foundation. It works to build capacity of the ‘demand side’ so as to enable people to claim their entitlements, public goods and services. It lobbies at policy level and disseminates cases of governance failure and issues of corruption through regular in-house radio programs and bulletins to bridge them up to the policy level. GoGo Foundation also collaborates with local-level FM radio stations to disseminate anti-corruption messages and jingles to create demand for good governance from the bottom-up and uses social accountability tools to engage people in exacting accountability and transparency.
GoGo Foundation also conducts researches on governance and anti-corruption issues, and directly communicates the findings to the policy framers. It has been also collaborating with anti-graft bodies like the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and National Vigilance Centre (NVC) for strengthening their capacity and partnership approach to beef up campaign for good governance and corruption control in Nepal.
Nepal was the first country in the South Asian region to have formal constitutional recognition of the Right to Information (RTI) at Article 16 of the 1990 Constitution. The incumbent Interim Constitution (2007) of Nepal also guarantees the right to information as a fundamental right at Article 27. The full-fledged Right to Information Act enacted in 2007 is Nepal’s further commitment towards it.
Right to information is one of the eight basic consumer rights as per the UN Guidelines on Consumer Protection and is also an integral part of our Consumer Protection Act. With this constitutional and legal guarantee, Nepali citizens enjoy every right to question the government, demand it to perform better and hold it to account for the actions undertaken or for the resources spent in various development and welfare programs.
GoGo Foundation belives that when people start demanding information and details on government spending, public officials will have limited chances not to open up or to indulge in misallocation of public funds. One of the many ways to promote good governance is to create a huge public demand for accountability and transparency. And RTI law has this power to generate huge public demand for accountable and transparent governance.
RTI has given Nepali citizens the opportunity to ensure greater oversight of government functioning and enhance transparency and accountability in governance. It renews ‘social contract’ between the state and citizenry by strengthening public trust in the government machineries. From development sector to service delivery to aid effectiveness, RTI is the key to transparency and accountability in all these sectors.
GoGo Foundation strongly believes that RTI is fundamental to the realization of socio-economic rights including civil and political rights. In order to realize these rights, application of this landmark legislation must be guaranteed through the increased access to public information. To this end, GoGo Foundation has been operating RTI Help Desk at its office to provide free services to people helping them to write RTI applications and file them at the concerned public bodies.
GoGo Foundation works to generate public awareness and sensitization about the importance of right to information through media campaign and capacity development approaches. It forges collaboration with the community organizations, builds capacity of the people and public bodies alike, and catalyses local networks for its wider dissemination to promote informed application of the law by the community itself. It also conducts research on different aspects of right to information and communicates them to policy makers in various ways.