In August 2012, we awarded Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) a grant to undertake work with voluntary social accountability committees (VSACs) to monitor service delivery in a number of communities. The following post from WOUGNET’s Information Officer, Lillian Mercy Apio, reflects on some of the successes and challenges that the project team have encountered.
The volunteering Social Accountability committee (VSAC) is a committee instituted by Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) in the year 2011 to monitor service delivery. The project monitored and sought feedback from service providers (duty bearers), such as health workers, teachers, sub-county officials, and district officials, as well as service users (rights holders) on various aspects of development. WOUGNET facilitated Face-to-face meetings between service providers and users to discuss issues of poor delivery and to develop appropriate action plans to tackle these weaknesses.
With increased awareness of service delivery, rights, entitlements, and standards,
communities have become better organized and are easily mobilized through the VSAC to get involved in collectively identifying problems and looking for solutions.
The poor health of people in Aloni parish was largely blamed on the lack of health centre in the area. Most of the time, people have to move long distances to access health services in Iceme sub-county and Aboke Heath Centre III. As a result of the active VSACs in the area community members complained to the local leaders and demanded they tackle the problem. The Government has finally provided funds for the construction of a health Centre II in the area to improve health services to the people.
In Amuru district, five health workers from Otwee health center III were arrested and detained at Otwee police post for negligence of duty after Amonikoma VSAC members reported the matter to the office of the Resident District Commission (RDC).
The VSAC’s have been successful for a number of reasons, including:
- The VSACs are made up of community members who have a track record of working with their communities on a voluntary basis for a relatively long period of time. Their positive attitude towards development has been a key factorin their success. They also represent a wide cross-section of the community and include retired civil servants, teachers, women and men and youth. This brings a lot of experience to the activities of the group.
- Responsible leaders have also been key. Dedicated sub-county officials and CSOs have encouraged VSACs to pursue their cause and not give up.
- Quarterly meetings and participatory monitoring by WOUGNET staff have helped VSACs identify key challenges and possible action s for improvement, applying a technical mix of approaches at various levels of the community.
Lessons and best practices
- Empowered communities can define and design the best ways for handling their problems to improve their quality of life.
- Working with the VSACs improves responsibility and ownership of programmes and project activities.
- When establishing community structures like VSACs, the community itself must be able to select those individuals it trusts most, rather than have strangers impose their own wishes on the community.
- Monitoring service delivery empowers both the VSAC and the community at large. Communities are aware of their rights and duties, while VSACs can help ensure those rights and duties are respected.
- Monitoring enhances the service provider’s responsiveness to the needs of the communities they serve. The service providers get honest feedback from the consumers through the VSAC.
- Through constructive dialogue and honest continuous engagement, transparency and confidence is restored in the service providers and other public actors.
- VSAC and community members feel appreciated when they are involved in service delivery.