CSOs supporting accountability in cash transfer programmes

Question

What experience is there globally of civil society organisations providing / supporting accountability mechanisms in cash transfer programmes, at national scale?

Summary

Cash transfer programmes, like most social protection programmes, are vulnerable to fraud, errors, corruption and misuse of funds, which undermine their achievements.  Civil society organisations (CSOs) have supported, or provided, accountability mechanisms in countries around the world: working to improve transparency to help citizens hold authorities accountable; checking beneficiary lists; encouraging compliance by highlighting benefits; gathering feedback to improve services; assessing programme vulnerability to integrity risks and advocating improvements; and gathering grassroots level information on the programmes. This report looks at case studies from Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, the Occupied Palestine Territories, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines and Turkey.

Bhargava and Raha’s (2015) review of civil society engagement with cash transfer programme accountability found few studies, suggesting a significant knowledge gap. Nevertheless, emerging lessons in relation to CSOs supporting or providing accountability mechanisms in cash transfer programmes include the following:

  • CSOs’ support for, or provision of, accountability mechanisms for cash transfer programmes should complement, not replace, government accountability mechanisms. A combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches is most effective in mitigating risks.
  • CSOs can assess availability of information and advocate for greater transparency. Accessible Management Information Systems help CSOs hold programmes accountable.
  • CSOs can be important facilitators in the implementation of cash transfer programmes by better linking authorities and beneficiaries. They can encourage targeted populations to participate at all stages of the programme design and implementation to prevent fraud and corruption.
  • Participation of CSOs in grievance reporting can improve its responsiveness through raising awareness and facilitating grievance filing and follow-up.
  • Efforts should be made to strengthen and support local CSOs’ oversight and control of accountability mechanisms.
  • CSOs can provide technical advice to political parties on how to avoid and prevent political abuse of the programmes.
  • CSOs are not necessarily representative of beneficiaries, who may lack time and other resources to get involved. Their effectiveness can be hindered by coordination challenges, funding constraints, limited scale, the political economy, and donor priorities.
  • Lack of willingness by public officials to provide information, set up citizen oversight mechanisms, and correct and sanction corruption and mismanagement can pose problems for setting up civil society accountability mechanisms. CSOs cooperating with audit institutions to perform social audits could help overcome this.

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Suggested citation

Rohwerder, B. (2016). CSOs supporting accountability in cash transfer programmes (K4D Helpdesk Research Report 17). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.