Local women in the villages of the Dhading District of Nepal are entitled to 10% of the Village Development Committee budget set aside for women’s projects. Yet, they only became aware of this fact when community monitors, trained by the Campaign for Human Rights and Social Transformation (CAHURAST), investigated local budget documents.
The monitors worked with the local women and helped them access budget documentations, trace government funds and analyse the information. They discovered that NPR 300,000 (nearly US $2,000) was never disbursed for these projects. When confronted with this fact, the local authorities told the women that there was a budget freeze and no funds were available for these activities. They persisted until the Local Development Officer met with them to discuss the situation and agreed to resolve the problem. The Local Development Office finally allocated two thirds of the budget (NPR 200,000) from the District Development Committee (DDC) budget to fund sewing classes for the local women. This meant sewing training for 18 women for three months and many went on to share their newfound skills with family and friends and it even allowed some to earn money.
CAHURAST trained 90 people as community monitors to evaluate local projects and compare project reality to the cost estimates in the documents. Once a project is identified, the monitors collect data on the projects through site visits, conducting surveys and interviews and by accessing various documents and photos. Local budgets are analysed to ensure that allocated funds are spent accordingly and most importantly, that the communities are receiving the services they are entitled to. When the data is gathered, it is then submitted onto a website application called Development Check via mobile electronic devices. This way of collecting and storing data has made it much easier for members of the public to access and use the information. Progress reports are produced based on the data generated from the development projects which are used to inform key project stakeholders, but also to provide a channel for feedback from beneficiaries.
In countries with lack of comprehensive and reliable data money is frequently lost due to mismanagement, corruption and fraud and it is ultimately the citizens who lose out. Having these tools and systems in place and coupling it with training for local citizens empowers them to fight for their entitlement and uncover ones they may have been unaware of. This is what enabled the women of Dhading District to claim what they were entitled to and the benefits went beyond the 18 women and reached the whole community.
- Civil society organisations with the expertise on budget tracking can help train local communities to analyse and understand budget data.
- Communities that can find, access and analyse budget information can hold their local government to account and led to better allocation of funds in local development projects.
Source: Development Initiatives