Promoting Child Rights

Whither fund utilisation accountability?

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Staff Correspondent

Addressing children’s needs in a systematic manner necessitates more than just budgetary allocation. There is an urgent need to ensure that the money that is being already allocated is utilised properly. Experts suggest that due to poor governance, corruption and lack of monitoring, large amounts of funds in different public sectors are not reaching their targeted recipients.
Lack of capacity at the administrative, technical and political levels mean that most programmes cannot be implemented as envisioned. In many cases, the staffs are not properly trained to carry out their responsibilities and, in the absence of accountability to either the state or the people, they have little incentive to provide better services.
The highly centralised administrative system further weakens the government’s capacity to monitor the progress at the grassroots level. Oftentimes, the ones making the policies and action plans are too far away from the ground realities to make informed decisions, say experts.
The unfortunate reality in our country is that the service providers are not usually accountable to the citizens whom they are supposed to serve. The clients in this case, the citizens are categorically excluded from decision-making for and monitoring of healthcare, education and social services. In addition, there are weak regulatory frameworks for monitoring and managing service deliveries.
For instance, in the healthcare sector, as Fardous Ara, associate professor at Rajshahi University, argues, “There are 45 laws related to various aspects of health like Epidemic Disease Act 1897, Prevention of Malaria Ordinance 1978, laws related to quality of food, quality of drugs etc. According to the Terms of Reference (TOR) of their services the senior officials are given the responsibility of supervising and monitoring the health activities of their respective areas, but they seldom do this.”
According to Md. Sirajul Islam, Harun Or-Rashid and Md. Atique Rahman, researchers at Brac University, the education sector has, for the most part, “failed to create effective supervision mechanism, training and motivation for the teachers.” As teachers are paid out of the national budget, they are not usually accountable to local bodies, such as the School Management Committees (SMC) and Parents Teachers Associations (PTA). In addition, audits at the grassroots level reveal that most members of SMC are inactive anyway, they say.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, head of research at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) suggests that failure in implementation of policies is a major hindrance to ensuring children’s rights and access to services. Citing the example of the stipend programme for school children, she argues that as a result of mismanagement, lack of transparency, accountability and effective monitoring, the money does not reach the ones in real need and go instead to children from relatively well-off families.
A study conducted in 2010 by Dr Khatun et el found that the money of the Primary Education Stipend Project 2006 reached only 40 percent of the poorest families, while 27 percent of total households that had received the stipend were not entitled to it.
Noted economist Hossain Zillur Rahman stated that it would be reductive to say that all government programmes lack accountability. The interventions where the accountability mechanisms and project designs are better will for obvious reasons lead to better results, he concluded.
“Under the circumstances, as we policymakers, civil society members and general public demand better budgetary allocations for children, we need to remind ourselves that without establishing a system of accountability, good governance and transparency, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to bring about the desired changes in public service delivery.”

 

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