Citizen’s Participation in Public Service Delivery

Challenge

Corruption  impeded efforts to increase the transparency of public services. Free education is a constitutional right, but in reality the education system is largely directly financed by parents through school fees and levies. Part of the fees are ostensibly dedicated to the construction and maintenance of buildings, yet most schools still do not meet minimum Congolese education standards. Schools are overcrowded and often lack equipment, water and sanitation facilities, and adequate teaching and learning materials.

As a result many young people are left behind and fail to gain the skills they need to secure their future.

It is this lack of citizen voice and influence over education and health services that prompted efforts to improve service delivery in these sectors by working on the relationships between service providers and service users. Also, the existence of clearly identified local level service providers in these sectors, operating within formal service delivery systems for which Congolese norms and standards exist, offers opportunities to bring the demand (citizens/users) and supply (State, faith-based organizations, doctors, nurses, school principals and teachers) sides together through a governance intervention that addresses the problems described above.

The theory of change underlying by this  programme has been influenced by three major contextual factors:

■ First, due to their limited access to information, service users, and often service providers, lack basic understanding as to what constitutes a ‘public’ service and what users and providers’ rights and responsibilities are around service delivery. For example, there is a lack of awareness of the national Congolese standards for a functioning education/ health service, the actors/bodies responsible for various elements of service delivery, what financial resources are available and how they are managed, and how service providers are performing. This widespread absence of information affects how service users relate to basic services and how service providers respond to users’ preferences and priorities within the constraints of an existing public system.

■ Second, the culture of accountability is weak between service providers and service users. This can be explained by the absence of public services
in many areas where communities have to find their own solutions to access basic services or where there is substitution of the State by local civil society organizations, faith-based organizations and INGOs delivering basic services). In the absence of functioning accountability mechanisms, decentralization of services also means that local service providers may have more incentives to
extract payments from service users than to provide equitable access to quality services.

■ Third, citizen voice in service delivery is rarely heard because there are few spaces and little precedent for non-partisan and constructive dialogue across the demand-supply lines where service users can voice their preferences and priorities. In addition, functioning grievance and redress mechanisms are
rare, and where these mechanisms exist and are known, they often remain underutilized or do not lead to any sanctions.

Our response

Expected changes resulting from the monitoring process were detailed as follows:

Changes in awareness: these include service users and service providers becoming more informed and aware of norms and standards around service delivery in their sector.

Changes in behavior: service users and service providers begin to adapt their behavior (e.g. increased presence of health personnel at local health facilities) as a result of engaging in the scorecard process and implementing their action plans.

Changes in relationships: changes in the way service users and their elected representatives on the user committees interact, and in the way user committee members and frontline service providers interact in co-managing and overseeing education and health services.

Changes in institutions: the key institutions targeted by these changes are user committees which are often dormant in eastern Congo communities. It was expected that user committees would become more active and start to fulfill their representation, outreach and co-management functions.

Changes in community processes: community members were expected to begin to use similar participatory and transparent community decisionmaking processes (such as holding general assembly and interface meetings, and designing/implementing improvement plans) to address priority issues, with the support of local leaders (such as VDC members).

Changes in access: improvements were expected in physical access to services through the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure. Improvements were also expected in the management of existing resources at the community level (textbooks, medical supplies and equipment) to ensure greater access to these for students and patients. In addition, community members would begin to understand issues of exclusion from services and progressively start to tackle them.