Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Implementing Social Accountability With Public Hearing Tool In Wash Project

Emmanuel Ato Quansah 
Source: Emmanuel Ato Quansah
Extension Services Specialist
CWSA – Upper West

Social Accountability (SA)

Social Accountability (SA) has over the years taken a center stage in the implementation of important projects in which sustainability is considered as key (e.g. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects). SA is an approach that ensures accountability that relies on civic engagement in which ordinary citizens and citizen groups participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability (Malena et. al, 2004). The relevance of Social Accountability in the implementation of vital projects such as WASH projects cannot be over estimated.

Relevance of SA

The approach when applied in the WASH sector seeks to protect the right of the service beneficiaries (e.g. communities) and allow them to acquire project information that will enable them to demand for accountability from service providers (Consultants, Contractors and Government Agencies who provide WASH services). 

SA implementation in WASH projects helps to increase the voice and participation of service beneficiaries in government projects whilst it improves upon the relationship that exists between the beneficiary and provider of the service. Ultimately, SA ensure effective and transparency in service delivery, since the concept makes service providers alert on the participation and monitoring roles that service beneficiary plays in WASH projects.


The approach has a lot of tools that allows service providers to engage service beneficiaries in a manner (non confrontational) that ensures quality service delivery. The tools include Citizens Report Card (SRC), Citizens Score Card (CSC), Social Audits (SA), Citizens Charter (CC), and Grievance Redress Mechanism (GRM) (Sheikh, 2011). Yet, another important SA tool that ensures effective implementation of WASH projects when used is the Public Hearing (PH).

Public Hearing 

Public hearings are formal meetings at the community level where local officials and citizens have the opportunity to exchange information and opinions on community affairs (Hampton and Ameshia Tubbs; Sheikh, 2011). Issues that affect the community such as water, sanitation and hygiene are discussed using the tool. 

PH is a forum that is open to the general public to raise and discuss pertinent issues (e.g. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene-related issues) in front of official (e.g. Municipal/District Assemble (MDA) Officials) who have responsibilities to address them. In this way, PH enables MDA officials to understand the viewpoint, expectations and demands of the community in relation to service provision (WASH project).
According to Hampton and Tubbs (2013), setting the agenda and goals, location, date, time and choosing a facilitator are key in the implementation of PH tool. Again, the event must be publicized very well to ensure participation of the entire community. 

Conducting the PH

The hearing must commence with an introduction that captures the purpose for the event. It is important also to take minute of the program to enable the community to have records of all issues that will be discussed during the event. The agenda, date, time, persons present, issues discusses, issues agreed upon are very relevant and must be captured in the minutes of the PH.

At the PH, both service providers and beneficiaries must be allowed to share their views on issues that will be raised and discussed to enable both parties to have clear understanding of issues. The presence of the media is also considered key, because they play a role in publicizing the event to larger stakeholder groups who may not be present at the event. Hence, the involvement of the media during the event must be encouraged.

Facilitators Role in PH

The onus lies on the facilitator to ensure that issues that will be raised and discussed will fall within the agenda for the PH. The facilitator must have full control over the event to avoid issues that will create confrontations. Questions from stakeholder must be entertained as much as possible by the facilitator whilst he / she ensures that befitting answers are providers if possible. 

The facilitator must be as fair as possible to all stakeholders whilst hidden issue comes to the open. Facilitator must assure stakeholders that their genuine issues that will be raised will not be used against them. Again, facilitators must not discriminate upon any group of persons but must allow the views and opinions of all persons including the physically challenged, women groups, youth groups, religious groups and many more.

Significance of PH

According to Hampton and Tubbs (2013), PH re-open public dialogue on issues that have fallen out of the public mind. Hence, through PH government’s (MDAs) attention can be drawn to WASH-related issues affecting communities.  PH thus, can help find solutions to WASH- related problems confronting a community. PH also enables communities to gather information that lies in the domain of individuals within and outside the community. 

In sum, it is worth noting that, PH communicates a sense of community concern and awareness about issues and also kick starts advocacy campaigns that lead to effective implementation of important projects such as WASH services delivery in communities.

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