Sunday, April 07, 2013

Importance of Social Accountability in Water, Sanitation Projects

Source: Emmanuel Ato Quansah
Extension Services Specialist
CWSA, Upper West Region

The Government of Ghana (GoG) has been supported greatly by Development Partners (DPs) in the provision of sustainable portable water, sanitation and hygiene projects throughout the ten regions of Ghana particularly in the rural-sub sector since 1994.

Notable among the development partners are the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), European Union (EU), International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), World Vision International (Water Vision) and Plan International, Ghana (Plan Ghana ).

The support from DPs to the GoG has enabled the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) to fulfill its core mandate of ‘‘facilitating the provision of safe drinking water and related sanitation services to rural communities and small Towns in Ghana’’ (Act 564 of 1998). This is evident in the implementation of a number water, sanitation and hygiene projects in the country since 1994. Notable among these projects are the Community Water Project (COWAP), Community Water and Sanitation Project, Guinea Worm Eradication Project, Rural Water Supply Project, 20,000 Borehole Project, Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Project (SRWSP) and the AFDB Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (CWSA, Corporate Brochure, 2012).

Through these interventions, about 1,511 hand-dug wells and 13,935 new boreholes have been drilled from 1994 to 2011. Also, from the same period, 493 new Small Town Piped Water / Limited Mechanized Systems and 71,386 latrines have been constructed (CWSA, Corporate Brochure, 2012). However, despites these joint efforts from GoG and DPs, what is lacking in the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene projects in Ghana is Social Accountability.

What is Social Accountability (SA)?

Social Accountability (SA) is an approach used by citizens and civil society organizations to demand accountability from public servants, group leaders and other service providers through civic engagement in a non-confrontational or non-accusatory manner (Allah Mensah, 2011). The approach enables community members who benefit from projects to ask service providers such as consultants, contractor, District / Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies or other government agencies to give account of their services through the use of tools and mechanisms.

SA enable members of the community members benefiting from the water, sanitation and hygiene services or facility to have full information on the source of funding and cost of project, project duration, design and processes, effects of the projects on the livelihood of community members, effects of the projects on plants and animals and the role and responsibilities of the beneficiaries during and after the project implementation.

The tools and mechanism of the SA simply seeks to help the community members benefiting from WASH projects to solicit for all important information regarding the projects to enable them to assess the performance of the service provider.

Social Accountability Tools

It is therefore imperative to intensify SA in the implementation of WASH projects to enable the country to boost performance from service providers to enable Ghana to meets its targets under the Millennium Development Goal. There is the need to recognize the relevance of the SA tools such as the Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS), Citizens Report Card (CRC), Social Audits (SA); Citizen’s Charter (CC) and the Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRM) in the implementation of WASH projects throughout the country especially in the rural-sub sector.

(i) Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS): - This is a process to track the flow of resources to determine how much of the allocated funds from central government get to local/district levels for the intended activities, (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports-2008/2009).

(ii) Citizens Report Card (CRC): - This is a participatory survey that solicits client feedback on the performance of public service providers. It is used to assess the quality and adequacy of public services from the point of view of clients with the aim of finding out bottlenecks and possible solutions through the cooperation of both service providers and service beneficiaries (NDPC -2006 and AMA-2011).

(iii) Community Score Cards (CSC): - Here, citizens generate their own indicators for assessment of a particular service or activity they perceive as critical. Its application requires information from the public institution or organization delivering the service, using the information and knowledge to generate a set of indicators against which performance will be scored.

(iv) Social Audits

This is a monitoring tool by which project information is collected, analyzed and shared publicly in a participatory fashion. The aim is to ensure that planned activities are indeed executed (on the ground) and any shortfall is explained clearly. This is to ensure that there are no leakages or unauthorized cost cutting and also ensure quality of services provided.

(v) Citizen’s Charter

These are public agreements made between citizens and service providers that clearly codify citizen’s rights, expectations and standards for service delivery.

(vi) Grievance Redress Mechanisms

This is a system structured to receive complaints, and address them towards achieving project objectives. It helps in addressing risks in projects upfront. It also entails a system by which queries or clarifications are responded to, implementation problems resolved and complaints and grievances addressed efficiently and effectively to avoid risks or reduce risks towards achieving results.

Significance of Social Accountability (SA)

The significance of SA cannot be overemphasized. The approach simple seeks to protect the right of the beneficiaries in project implementation and allow them to acquire all project information to assist them to demand for accountability from service providers. Social accountability helps to increase the voice and participation by beneficiaries and increase their understanding of government programs and projects. Integration of SA in project implementation helps to improve the relationship between public officials, consultants, contractors on one hand and their clients their client on the other.

The project beneficiaries also become aware of implementation progress and what roles they can play during and after implementation. On one hand, through SA the beneficiary communities are able to assess the performance of the service provider based on the project information whilst on the other hand, service providers become more alert, effective and efficient in their output since the citizens and civil society could ask for information about a particular activity or project being undertaken. It brings about transparency in transactions and effective and efficient services. SA also creates a platform for vulnerable groups like women and the youth to effectively participate and be heard whilst contributing to the process of development and project implementation and monitoring.


To ensure that the performance of service providers of WASH sector is improved, there is the need for GoG to integrate SA in all sector projects and ensure its compliance in all project communities throughout the country. This can be done by building the capacity of District and Municipal Assemblies to ensure that SA is integrated and adhered to in all WASH project communities across the country. The key to our sanitation and water problems largely lies in SA, Let us not underestimate SA.

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