Accountability Structures still weak in India

Hindustan Times, December 17, 2009

The benefits of development schemes are not researching the target groups even though social accountability tools like social audits are being used to monitor them because of lack of transparency, cultural factors and the mindset of government officials, according to experts.
Development experts and policy say this understanding comes from the study of the social sector development schemes such as NREGA, which have not yield desired results.
While the country has witnessed good economic progress in several areas since independence, there has not been a proportionate increase in accountability.
“The outcomes are not always in proportion to the amount of expenditure made on social development schemes and programmes. This is where the question of accountability comes in,” said Rajasthan Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Bharat Singh.
He was speaking here today at the inaugural session of a tow-day workshop on “Social accountability in India: Moving from Mechanism to Outcomes and Institutionalization in Large Scale Public Programmes”. The workshop has been jointly organized by the World Bank and CUTS.
According to Pramesh Shah, leading rural development specialist at the World Bank, interventions done in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra have established that citizens can be engaged in social accountability approaches to demand greater accountability and responsiveness from officials.
“The cost of these interventions is just 1 % of the total budgets of these public programmes, but they have impacted outcomes within just one year. This is a small price to payto make a billion dollar programme work,” said Shah.
Giovanna Prennushi, economic advisor of the World Bank, said in her keynote address that World Bank is trying to incorporate social accountability mechanism in flagship schemes for better public expenditure outcomes.
Participants at the two-day workshop include policy makers, government officials from Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, and experts from academics and civil society organizations, who will share their experiences of social accountability in social sector programmes.