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SEND-GHANA and CUA Walking the Downward Accountability Talk in the DFATD-funded FOSTERING Project  

Accountability of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to direct beneficiaries, target groups and local government authorities is uncommon. In most development projects, financial management systems, monitoring and evaluation reporting are established by the funders to hold their implementing partners accountable.

For example, if SEND-GHANA failed to submit satisfactory semi-annual financial and narrative reports for Food Security through Co-operatives in Northern Ghana (FOSTERING) to Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), funding for the continuation of the project would be jeopardized.  On the other hand, if direct beneficiaries and local stakeholders are not satisfied with SEND’s work, they have little leverage to demand better performance.  

In the implementation of FOSTERING, SEND-GHANA is promoting accountability, not only to the donors, but also to its target groups, which SEND calls “principals” (e.g. farmers co-operatives and women groups) and to its local partners, including the District Assemblies. Through a downward accountability strategy, the principals and stakeholder agencies are empowered to hold SEND-GHANA and Ghana Credit Union Association (CUA) accountable. 

SEND and CUA are being funded with C$8.5 million by Canada’s Department for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) and the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) to implement FOSTERING from 2013 to 2018. FOSTERING is promoting increased food security, income, gender equity and climate change resilience for 42,000 farm households. The operational districts are East Gonja, Nanumba North, Nanumba South, Chereponi, Kpandai, Zabzuu, Tatale-Sangule and Krachi Nchumuru.  

These 8 District Assemblies, 9 Credit Unions, 130 family-based cooperatives and 8 Rural Commercial Women Associations are the direct stakeholders in FOSTERING. They have been mobilized, trained and will be supported to hold SEND and CUA accountable for the project’s financial resources and key development outcomes.

SEND West Africa’s Downward Accountability Principles 

SEND’s downward accountability approach mainstreamed in the implementation of FOSTERING is underpinned by four principles:

Honesty / transparency: providing project financial data and programming information to the principals and stakeholders, regularly, in a timely fashion, in ways that are easy to understand and utilize. Possible actions include: sharing of work plans, celebrating successes and admitting failures. Radio programs, community notice boards, town hall meetings and newsletters are tools for delivering transparency.  

Empowerment:  equipping the principals and stakeholders with skills, tools and confidence to use the project information to demand accountability. A key activity is building their capacity. This will require leadership training for principals and stakeholders, and accountability training for SEND staff.  

Accessibility:  creating spaces and platforms for principals and stakeholders to query SEND and CUA and to get feedback.  The key activities are consulting with communities and engaging stakeholders in monitoring and evaluation. The tools are: community forums, project steering committee, radio discussions, joint quarterly and project review meetings.

Stewardship: adding everlasting values and significant changes in the lives of the principals or beneficiaries. Possible activities are:  joint planning and following through on plans, proper use of resources, long-term commitment, and monitoring and evaluation.  Audit and financial reports, mid-term reviews, MOUs, and staff and project evaluation are the key tools. 

Operational mechanisms for downward accountability

To operationalize these principles, actions and tools, four mechanisms for downward accountability have been established. 

First,  8 Community Accountability Committees (CAC) have been formed including representatives of District Assemblies, District Gender Officers, Rural Commercial Women, Traditional Authorities, Zonal Co-Operatives, family-based farmers co-operatives and persons with disability.   The distribution of 258 CAC members per district is presented in the Box below.

DISTRICT

# Members

East Gonja

33

Kpandai

29

Nanumba North

28

Nanumba South

36

Chereponi

32

Zabzugu

33

Tatale-Sanguli

29

Krachi-Nchumuru

38

The stakeholder agencies and target groups nominate their representatives to the CAC. The main task of the CAC is to demand accountability for project resources expended on activities within their communities.  This includes training workshops, farm inputs and credit facilities. To facilitate the work of the CAC, SEND has put up accountability notice boards and regularly pastes financial information covering expenditures on activities. Every quarter a senior staff of SEND will meet with the CAC to discuss the information on the notice board and respond to any concerns or issues members might have related to expenditures made in their communities. At the end of each session, SEND and  CAC will  develop and agree on an action plan  to include: (i) provision of  additional  information  on  issues that were not  adequately addressed and (ii) verifiable  commitments to improve  SEND’s accountability.  CAC meetings and discussions are co-chaired with SEND’s Director for Livelihood and Food Security and the District Coordinating Director.

Second, 8 District Advisory Committees (DAC) includes representatives of implementing stakeholders: District Agricultural Development Units (DADU), Department of Cooperatives, Ghana Health Services (GHS), Ghana Police Services (GPS) and District Assembly (DA). Each of these agencies is represented by their head in the district. The DAC will ensure that FOSTERING activities are aligned with district priorities,    facilitate coordination of implementing partners, prevent duplication and promote synergy with other development interventions. To facilitate the activities of the DAC, SEND staff will provide members with quarterly reports and work plans. FOSTERING Programme Officer and District Planning Officer will co-chair the DAC meeting. 

Third, FOSTERING Hour Accountability will be hosted every quarter by the following community radio stations:   

Kanyeti Radio, East Gonja

Gbantambo FM, Nanumba North & South

Asaase FM, Kpandi

Kaakyi FM, Krachi-Nchumuru

Gaaki/Radio Savannah, Tatale, Zabzugu

Labaari FM, Chereponi

Citizens  interested in  holding  SEND accountable  are expected to use the data pasted  on the  notice boards in  their communities and any  other information they might have about FOSTERING to query  SEND senior staff  during Accountability Hour.  SEND’s Director for Livelihood and Food Security and FOSTERING’s Programme Officer will participate in the radio discussion.  After each Accountability Hour, SEND will prepare a detailed report with action points to be submitted to the CAC.  The CAC will follow up to make sure that SEND and CUA address the action points. 

Fourth, the Project Steering Committee (PSC) has been established with 40 members presented in the table below.

 

 

District Agriculture Directors

8

 

Traditional Authority for Host District

1

 

Regional Agriculture Director

1

 

Regional Planning and Coordinating Unit

1

 

Member of Parliament for the Host District

1

 

Credit Union  

2

 

Rural Commercial Women

2

 

Community Accountability Committees

8

 

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA)

1

 

Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF)

1

 

Local Civil Society Organization

1

 

District Gender Officers

2

Total

40

 

Traditional authorities will be represented by a chief from the district hosting the PSC. Parliamentarians from the operational districts will be expected to nominate one of their members to represent them in each PSC. The inclusion of the other two DFATD-funded food security projects (CHF and MEDA) and a local development NGO will promote experience sharing on downward accountability.  The PSC will assess and approve semi-annual financial and narrative reports before submission by SEND and CUA to CCA. Project work plans, activities implemented, outputs realized, challenges and lessons learned followed by expenditures and budgets  will be presented by SEND and CUA to the PSC to examine, debate, validate  and adopt. SEND-WEST AFRICA’s CEO or SEND-GHANA Country Director and host District Chief Executives will co-chair the PSC Meetings. 

 Lessons learned

The main lesson learned is that the target groups and implementing stakeholders are interested in downward accountability, but possess limited skills and experience to use project data to demand accountability of SEND and CUA.  In addition to training on the roles and responsibilities of the various mechanisms, information should be disaggregated, presented in user-friendly fashion and cover short periods of not more than six months. High illiteracy among women will constrain their participation in the accountability activities.  Women members of the different accountability mechanisms are encouraged to enroll in non-formal literacy training to acquire and improve on basic numeracy, reading, writing, leadership and confidence building skills. 

Conclusion 

The establishment of mechanisms for downward accountability was a key milestone for the second year of FOSTERING. The significance and impact of downward accountability on FOSTERING’s principals and stakeholders are already being felt.  This was noted by the District Chief Executive of East Gonja, who participated in the first PSC meeting in Salaga, the district capital, 

“Usually, NGOs keep their budget and indicators to themselves. They think when they pay per diems, people should not be asking about money. But for the very first time, I have seen an NGO presenting their reporting indicators that we are able to measure and most importantly, the expenditure – the money spent on the program for the past year and the money intended to be disbursed for the current year. We are very happy about that. This is BIG accountability –accountability put to practice. I believe that when SEND comes to ask my Assembly to publish our finances on the notice board, I know they will also be ready to share their financial reports with us.”

Article by Siapha Kamara, CEO, SEND-WEST AFRICA

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SEND Ghana
Box A28 Regimanuel Estates,
Nungua Barrier, Sakumono,

Tel: +233 (0) 302 716830 / 302 716860

Email: info@sendwestafrica.org