Epstein: What Social Accountability in Ethiopia?

    Social accountability in Ethiopia is not as vibrant as Shanta Devarajan, World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, puts it, a public health specialist says.

    Social accountability programs train community groups or non-governmental organizations to implement surveys of local government budgets, monitor the quality of social services, and disseminate information on problems such as corruption or absenteeism.

    In a blog, Devarajan describes the social accountability component of a World Bank-backed program aimed at supporting health, education and other social services in Ethiopia.

    He says: “Ethiopia has done well in reducing poverty and child mortality, and increasing primary completion rates because their system of delivering basic services has various elements of this accountability built in. Local districts receive resources based on clear, data-driven formulae that can be independently verified (by third-party civil society groups). The allocation of these resources within the district is decided in community meetings, with the final budget posted on a central bulletin board for the community to see.”

    Helen Esptein disagrees.

    In her four visits to Ethiopia in late 2008, Epstein was told by World Bank officials that the social accountability program had been only a small-scale pilot program that ended in 2008. An expanded program was planned but would not start until after May 2010’s polls.

    “So I am not sure what program Dr. Devarajan visited. Even in the pilot projects, the monitoring was not, by and large, done by ‘third party civil society’ groups. Nearly all the NGOs were ruling party affiliates,” Epstein writes in “Aid Watch.”

    About the author

    • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

      As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.