Welcome to the 4th and last part of the e-Discussions, now focusing on “Transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery”, and on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected progress towards establishing more ‘just societies’, as envisioned by SDG 16, and what is needed for an equitable recovery from this crisis. The findings and experiences shared here will be consolidated into an overall synthesis report feeding into the Global Roundtable at the 2021 High-level Political Forum, and your contributions will be acknowledged in the report.


The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially scaled up demand for public goods and services while eroding traditional channels and resources for public service delivery. However, ensuring transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery is critical to mitigating the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic,

Transparency means that information on budgetary processes and government decisions, implementation modalities and beneficiaries are publicly accessible, or at least that there is an element of checks and balances. Transparency is crucial to engendering trust, reaffirming the social contract and strengthening social cohesion. All of this is needed to respond effectively to the challenges of COVID-19. Transparency on the part of government is also vital to mobilize and sustain financing and support from other actors (donors, private sector, philanthropists) for an effective policy response. 

Public service delivery must also be inclusive, ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’. The number of poor and vulnerable people has increased due to the pandemic.  Overcoming the emerging global poverty trends depends on the inclusivity of the policy response. At a minimum, inclusiveness requires that service coverage expands to include vulnerable groups and that equity of service quality and access is prioritised. The range of available basic services also needs to be broadened, considering the different dimensions and multi-sectoral nature of COVID-19 impacts.

Lastly, responsive and timely public service delivery is fundamental to overall policy response. COVID-19 containment policies have meant that traditional delivery models, mostly face-to-face, have often been ineffective. Innovation around other models - especially digitization of service delivery - will be crucial. In addition, early response and preparation to ensure that institutions are resilient and can effectively respond are critical.

Overall, the three qualities - transparency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness - need to work together. They should complement each other and result in effective service delivery to the whole population.

This e-discussion will examine how COVID-19 is affecting transparency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness of public service delivery, and the implications of this for sustainable development in the context of Agenda 2030. Related to this, participants will be encouraged to map emerging trends at the global, regional, national and local levels. Innovative public service delivery mechanisms to respond to and recover from COVID-19, as well as to deliver just and equitable development, will be part of the conversation.  

Some additional questions to frame the discussion are:

  • What are the emerging constraints to ensuring transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery? Do these constraints predate the COVID-19 pandemic and are these temporal or structural challenges? 

  • What are the implications of poor or exclusionary public service provision for recovery efforts and on progress made on Agenda 2030? In your view, what are the implications of poor service delivery on the achievement of SDG 16 targets on building peaceful, inclusive, and effective institutions,  and good governance? 

  • What are the current policy responses to these constraints and what more needs to be done?

  • How has the mode of provision of public goods affected the existing social contract, trust, and governance structure before and during COVID-19 (i.e. both under the lockdown and movement restrictions) and reflection on post-COVID-19? 

  • What lessons are important to draw from the pandemic for improving public service delivery? What innovations and best practices are adaptable and scalable post-COVID-19? 

The moderators for the e-discussion are:

  • Adedeji Adeniran, Director of Governance and Education Research, The Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa

  • Zoe Pelter, Policy Specialist, Local Governance, UNDP Crisis Bureau

  • Aseem Andrews, Policy Specialist, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre

Welcome message from Adedeji Adeniran:

To kick us off, Southern Voice member Avani Kapur (CPR-India) wrote an article on the “Four Lessons the Pandemic has taught us on Accountability”.

India

 

We look forward to hearing your ideas and to an engaging conversation!


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Comments (25)

Adedeji Moderator

I am glad to welcome our esteemed experts to the fourth e-discussion on ensuring transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery. My name is Adedeji Adeniran and I am the Director of Education and Governance Research at the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, a leading development think tank based in Abuja Nigeria that conducts independent, high quality and evidence-based research which aims to enhance economic and development issues in Africa. Over the next two weeks (15th June-30th June, 2021), I will be co-moderating the discussion with Zoe Pelter and Aseem Andrews.

Covid-19 pandemic disruptions have increased the demand for public services as well as interrupted the traditional delivery mechanism for public goods. Sustaining a transparent, inclusive and responding public service delivery is crucial, but how to achieve this is less clear. Innovative responses are emerging across countries and regions, but the pace of development amidst pandemic does not allow critical assessment of progress and exchange of ideas in a way that enhances regional and global actions. It is against this background that Southern Voice and UNDP Oslo Governance Center launched four series of e-discussions focusing on separate but interconnected issues around building peaceful and inclusive institutions.

In this last discussion, we are keen to hear from you on the current global and regional trends and emerging innovations towards delivering a transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery for all.  

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Dear Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure for me to be co-moderating this 4th and last eDiscussion on the important topic of ensuing transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery along with my co-panelists Adedeji Adeniran and Zoe Pelter. Over the course of the next 2 weeks we will be looking closely at how and why in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic it is critical to ensure timely, responsive and inclusive public service delivery. This e-discussion also hopes to examine how COVID-19 is affecting public service delivery mechanisms around the world and the implications of this for sustainable development in the context of Agenda 2030

Public service delivery or the provision of goods and services is a basic human need. Therefore any potential implications on its delivery should be a topic of great relevance to everyone, everywhere! We don't need to look far to see how in these pandemic times there have been causal effects but also we see innovative ways of dealing with potential negative disruptions.

However this issue has been further complicated by the fact that COVID-19 has increased demand for public service delivery on the one hand, and on the other, pandemic related negative influences have created constraints. This is a very challenging situation which most countries are having to deal with. This has also prompted several questions of concern of: how do we deal with the challenges? What are the learnings that we can gather from what is happening around us? Are there policy implications? Can we evolve better and more sustainable solutions?

I hope, all with my fellow panelists that many of you will contribute in large numbers sharing your experiences and providing answers to the questions we have listed above. Thank you!

Joseph Ishaku

On the constraints to public service delivery

First, many of the constraints to public service delivery are old —they existed before COVID-19. These include weak state capacity to deliver public service in an inclusive and responsive manner, corruption, and bureaucracy.

Nigeria's government does not have the capacity to meet the public service delivery needs of its many citizens, especially the least well-off. Most of the public services including security, education, health, energy subsidies and even public employment are not inclusive, well-targeted, and disproportionally serve the well-off. However, one recent development of note is the development of a national social register to aid the targeting of social interventions. It is reported to have enrolled about 35 million people. The meager sums allocated for social programs can barely reach two percent of this number, and there are many more not captured that need support. Nigeria has almost a 100 million people living in poverty.

The ugly head of corruption was raised even in responding to the pandemic, when we expected empathy and compassion from public servants. The provisions/palliatives appropriated by the government and donated by individuals and corporations that were meant for delivery to the vulnerable in society found their way to the wrong channels. It was embarrassing to see warehouses containing undistributed items looted by people all over the country. Public servants struggled to explain why those items were not distributed to intended beneficiaries months after they should have been distributed. This singular event defined new lows for an already infamous public sector, further eroding public trust —with severely negative consequences for mending the social contract. People felt the elite reached new heights of wickedness by keeping food and other items locked away in private warehouses as people were crushed economically under the weight of the lockdown, restrictions to economic activities, and economic slowdown occasioned by the pandemic.

Via voanews.com: A man reacts while carrying a bag of noodles during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 26, 2020.

Red tape also prevented people from accessing the response packages from the government like the credit facilities announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Processing and disbursing funds were marked by delays and lack of transparency.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Joseph for the wonderful contribution. Your points highlight to important trends. First, most of the challenges faced in effective public service delivery during covid-19 are caused by factors predating the pandemic. The lesson here is the need for countries to identify and address their systemic issues, otherwise whenever "it rains, it pours". Second, corruption and effective public service delivery are linked. However, points underscore our reasons for coming up with this dialogue to discuss how to change the narrative and ensure transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery. Your point on Nigeria improving its social registry suggest access to quality and timely data is a crucial element in that process. 

Joseph Ishaku

On responsiveness

The way the Nigerian government is able to do stuff is by setting up specific vehicles, outside of the regular public service framework. Depending on the priority placed on the public service to be delivered, these vehicles are often well-equipped with the necessary legislation, resources, and backing to deliver on clearly defined objectives.

We have seen this approach to public service delivery in numerous areas where the government is able to create pockets of efficiency amidst a characteristically unresponsive public sector. For instance, in education, the government —motivated by the MDGs— bypassed the extant public basic education delivery system and created a vehicle, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), to reduce the physical barriers to education access.

The government did something similar when COVID-19 cases started being reported in Nigeria. A presidential task force on COVID-19 was constituted to respond to the pandemic. Members were tasked to design and implement measures to limit the spread and impact of the virus. Although, the government was criticised for delays in placing international travel restrictions and lockdown measures after cases were already recorded in the country, the constitution of the presidential task enabled a multisectoral response that has been commendable in limiting the spread of the virus.

The Central Bank of Nigeria also launched a multi-trillion naira package across several sectors and targeting diverse beneficiaries. In addition, the moratorium on existing credit was extended and interest rates were reduced. However, this set of interventions, especially the credit schemes have not escaped public criticism for being ridden with delays and corruption.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Joseph for laying some some key areas of innovations emerging from states with weak capacity. Creating some island of effectiveness across sectors can indeed mitigate the challenges in public service delivery. This, however, also raises the issues of scaling. Specifically, how do we scale up or add up these gains to show tangible effect at the macro level? 

Sone Osakwe

The covid-19 era exposed several existing gaps in public service delivery especially in low-income countries around the world. It also reinforced the importance of having resilient public institutions that serve the needs of vulnerable citizens in an efficient and responsive manner.

While the prevalent issues of corrupt practices and processes, lack of accountability, deficiency in transparency, limited citizen participation and limited  resources and capacity remain pervasive pre and post covid-19, a major constraint to public service delivery that has evolved from the pandemic is increased distrust.  

The important role of data and information in combatting the virus and mitigating its socioeconomic impact cannot be over emphasized. However, with government agencies being able to access a greater amount of citizens' information during and after covid-19, there are widespread concerns on how this information is being used, and if indeed it is in the best interest of the masses.

Although access to credible data is necessary for a public service ecosystem to function effectively, an inclusive and responsive system must address concerns related to potential data privacy abuse and lack of transparency on how information gathered is being used.

Other lessons to consider:

  • leveraging digital technologies to enhance communication flow and collaboration between public institutions and citizens, in order to improve ease with which feedback can be given on efficiency of processes in accessing public services
  • eliminate obsolete practices in public institutions that slow down the ability of these agencies to respond and make reforms based on feedback from civil society – this is possible as we witnessed an unprecedented speed in decision making during the pandemic.
Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Sone for your thoughts on this. Certainly, data is a crucial component of public service delivery. Your insight on how distrust and weak institution affect public service delivery is also well noted. It will be good if you can share some best practices emerging out of the crisis. 

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Sone you have made several very pertinent comments related to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating several of the existing societal fault-lines. The issue of rising mistrust has been recurring across several of our previous eDiscussions and is spurred through by rising inequality in society (apart from other factors). We are seeing that as a consequence of the pandemic there have been excessive governmental reactions and shrinking of civic spaces and decreased public participation in issues that directly concern them. With a general lack of oversight, linked to all this are also reports of perceived corruption related to public spending and resources and governments' (mis-) management of the pandemic. All ultimately linked to how citizens are perceiving their governments and further eroding an already undermined trust in democratic institutions as people demand (and deserve) accountability from the State!

Zoe Pelter Moderator

Dear colleagues,

Greetings!

Allow me to follow my co-moderators Adedeji and Aseem Andrews and welcome you to this Southern Voice-UNDP e-Discussion on transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery for all. My name is Zoe Pelter, and I am a Local Governance Policy Specialist at UNDP joining you from New York.

This discussion could not be timelier. In so many cities and territories, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been driven by inequalities in access to basic services, and it has exposed structural barriers to accessing services that impede the wellbeing of many communities. It is for this reason that we have seen disproportionately high caseloads in informal settlements in cities such as Mumbai or reduced access to health services for slum communities in Nairobi, Ibadan and Lagos during the pandemic. What have been the implications of exclusionary public service provision for development and recovery efforts in your country?

The crisis is also a reminder that it is not just what services are delivered but how they are delivered that matters, particularly for social cohesion and minority rights. How has the mode of provision of public goods affected the existing social contract, trust, and governance structures in your country? How can accountability, transparency and inclusion help to overcome these effects?

Finally, the pandemic means that local and national government revenue has dropped considerably, threatening public service delivery everywhere. In this restricted fiscal environment, what innovations and best practices might be adaptable and scalable post-COVID-19?

Over the next two weeks, we look forward to hearing your reflections and ideas for some of these challenging questions.

Aseem, Adedeji and I encourage you to review the framing questions at the top of the page and post your comments to respond. Be sure to give specific examples, add links to useful resources and, of course, to engage with other comments from our colleagues from around the world.

Thank you!

 

Gichung Lee

Greetings colleagues. My name is Gichung Lee and I am a Policy Analyst at UNDP Seoul Policy Centre. Based on the discussion with my colleague at Global Anti-Corruption Team, a secondee from Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission of Republic of Korea to UNDP, I would also like to contribute to this important dialogue. As a Korean Civil Servant, Mr. Jungoh Son shared some valuable insights and examples on the lessons worth drawing from the pandemic for improving public service delivery.

The inter-connectivity and complexity of various factors within the public service delivery mechanism now became more revealing thanks to the COVID-19. It is also evident that the resilience of the very soft spot within the mechanism could determine whether the whole system would crumble down.

Vaccine provision would be a case in point. In order for the vaccines to be provided to the citizens in an efficient and transparent way, below factors should be ensured. Otherwise, it could have a snowball effect and threaten the relevant public service delivery as a whole.

  1. Transparency and fairness of the health authorities and relevant Taskforce in vaccine provision-related decision-making including delivery, storing and distribution;
  2. Integrity of public officials and citizens involved in the process;
  3. Social infrastructure that allows citizen’s access/convenient and equitable distribution to vaccines utilizing ICT;
  4. Real-time database and disclosure of vaccine distribution-related information;
  5. Accountability and proper response to address the vaccine-related appeals with operation of complaint handling mechanism;
  6. Vibrant media and monitoring of CSOs for verifying fake news (with daily press briefing by the government authorities); and
  7. Zero-tolerance on the corrupt cases and violations related to vaccine provision

As such, the important lesson learned is that we should never underestimate the fact that public service delivery is an integral part interwoven within the governance system. With this in mind, the following criteria should be examined before implementing a certain public service delivery plan: a) what relationship will this plan have with the other factors within the same system; b) what impact will it bring about on the other factors within the system; c) how can it be integrated with other factors; and d) will this integration and impact be cost-effective and worth the investment in the long run. Moreover, anti-corruption is the key enabler and foundation without which the fully functioning service delivery mechanism cannot be maintained. In case of South Korea, it took a few decades of work and long-term budget allocation to build the basic framework for this and also had to constantly upgrade it through various crisis like SARS epidemic. Yet, it is never too late to start and in fact, well-designed public policy based on the learning from the good/bad practices around the world can save a great deal of budget and time which can be otherwise wasted during the trial-and-error process.
 

I look forward to learning more from all of you and thank you Adedeji Adeniran, Aseem Andrews, and Zoe Pelter for excellent moderation.

Zoe Pelter Moderator

Thank you so much Gichung Lee for sharing these valuable lessons from Mr Jungoh Son (of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission Republic of Korea) on Korea’s experience with public service delivery. In particular, he makes an important point that transparent, inclusive and responsive service delivery (in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond) depends on a system of inter-connected factors that must be given equal priority for the whole system to function – transparency and fairness of health authorities, integrity of public officials, proper systems for equitable access to services, effective monitoring on service distribution, anti-corruption measures and effective space for CSO/media monitoring and dialogue. In turn, I also take his point that much of this requires long term commitment and budgeting/investment to make inclusive, responsive service delivery systems a reality when services are needed most. Thanks again for your time and inputs!

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Dear Gichung Lee thank you very much for this very relevant and interesting example of how the pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for effective, accountable, inclusive and responsive governance. Such an effective, responsive and inclusive governance system is at heart of facilitating more equitable access to health, education, social protection and other public services has been highlighted by the pandemic. This has become particularly challenging now as the pandemic and the responses to it have posed significant challenges to governance systems worldwide. But your example of vaccine provision has also highlighted the importance of the different inter-connected and complex parts that make up the public service delivery mechanism, which is important to focus on. 

Ulrich Graute

The Corona pandemic as a perfect storm and stress test for public service delivery

The WHO, Bill Gates, scientists like Vaclav Smil, infectious disease experts like Michael Osterholm and others had been warning on the risk of global health threats including pandemics for many years and they had urged to improve preparedness.[1] Obviously, not enough had been done and it took the world largely by surprise when SARS-CoV-1 broke out in early 2020. Because the world was not prepared it immediately became a stress test for governments and public service delivery around the world.

The Corona pandemic is a perfect storm for existing systems of public service delivery:

  • Apart from a few early warnings there was no prenotification but authorities had to react instantly to the outbreak.
  • Since there was no prenotification and no preparation they had to respond with existing sources and fast: knowledge, data, medical personal and supply. Richer countries were in advantage because of their often better equipped health systems and their funds available to purchase what was missing. Their disadvantage was that the big outbreaks of the early days were mainly in developed countries. Unfortunately, less developed countries didn’t have the institutions environment and resources to use the time advantage to improve preparedness and prevent major outbreaks. Even countries who established strong measures against the pandemic like Peru couldn’t prevent that the country was hit by a dramatic outbreak.
  • Not notified in advance and prepared the reaction of governments in the early days of the pandemic was often a trial and error by individual national and local governments. Even in a union like the European Union fragmented national responses were the rule and it took the EU months to launch common initiatives. Worse, the announced exit from WHO by the Trump administration, the information policy by China on its outbreak in Wuhan weakened international solidarity and further increased national responses instead of rallying coordinated efforts of the international community.
  • And the pandemic could become a perfect storm because already before the pandemic the world was hit by multiple crises. In January 2020, when the outbreak of the pandemic was mainly limited to China, the Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations in drastic terms about four looming threats that endanger the 21st-century progress and imperil 21st-century possibilities[2]:
    • Highest global geostrategic tensions with devastating conflicts continuing to cause widespread misery
    • Existential climate crisis
    • Deep and growing global mistrust
    • Dark side of the digital world

Only days later the pandemic and related health, social and economic challenges added another looming threat in addition to the above mentioned. When António Guterres took the Oath of Office for Second Term on 18 June 2021 he said: “We are writing our own history with the choices we make right now.  It can go either way — breakdown and perpetual crisis, or breakthrough and the prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all. There are reasons to be hopeful.“ [3]

 

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/people-who-seemingly-predicted-the-coro…

[2] https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2020-01-22/remarks-general…

[3] https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20784.doc.htm

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Ulrich for this deep historical dissection of covid-19 pandemic and other global challenges. As you highlighted, covid-19 pandemic is not the only problem the world is facing, but the lessons from it can help in other aspects. The lack of preparedness for covid-19 and the costs on the global economy and health are indications of potential threats from other areas like climate change etc. Equipping nations for effective public service delivery is no doubt a key component of this preparation. The purpose of this dialogue is also to harvest those insights and incorporate them into global preparation strategy. 

Ulrich Graute

The challenge of the Corona pandemic as a sign post on road to sustainability

Fragmented national responses didn’t generate the results governments were hoping for. Instead, they are learning that SARS-CoV-1 impacts in disregard of national boarders, political systems, sector policies and that the world is so interconnected and interdependent that fragmented national responses cannot overcome the pandemic. In the meantime, the Biden administration returned to the WHO. The UN, G7 and EU launched joint global action (though it is still insufficient) and the world starts understanding that the pandemic is also related to other crises and that there may also be the way forward:  Learning from 2030 Agenda means understanding that there is no firewall between SDG and other global politics and trends. Instead, geopolitical tensions, global mistrust, the climate crisis, the downside of technology and now the pandemic can indeed jeopardize the 2030 Agenda and achievement of SDG. In return this means: Reducing geopolitical tensions, increasing trust, mitigating the climate crisis and controlling the risks linked to new technologies and pandemics are important enablers for sustainable development.

The negative impact of the pandemic is worst there where politics are most fragmented and not targeted at problem solving. This makes the defense of national politics downplaying the pandemic in countries like Brazil, India or Uganda increasingly difficult. The more successful governments understand that fighting Corona requires a coordinated whole-of-government approach they also may understand that a whole-of-government approach is also what is needed and helps to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Therefore, there is indeed the hope that the Corona pandemic can and will help to promote better Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PSCD) as it was proposed by the OECD [1]

The OECD RECOMMENDS that Adherents develop a strategic vision for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in an integrated and coherent manner, in particular by:

  1. Building a strong, inclusive political commitment and leadership at the highest political level to foster whole-of-government action for PCSD.
  2. Defining, implementing and communicating a strategic long-term vision that supports policy coherence and orients the government and stakeholders towards common sustainable development goals.
  3. Improving Policy Integration to better incorporate sustainable development into policy and finance, and in that respect capitalise on synergies and benefits across economic, social and environmental policy areas as well as between domestic and internationally‐recognised Sustainable Development Goals.

RECOMMENDS that Adherents develop effective and inclusive institutional mechanisms to address policy interactions across sectors and align actions among levels of government, in particular by:

  1. Ensuring whole-of-government coordination to identify and mitigate divergences between sectoral priorities and policies, including external and domestic policies, and promote mutually supporting actions across sectors and institutions.
  2. Engaging appropriately sub-national levels of government in areas where they have a role in policy coordination to promote coordinated actions and enhance coherence across levels of governments for sustainable development.
  3. Engaging stakeholders effectively to sustain broader support for PCSD and its implementation.

RECOMMENDS that Adherents develop a set of responsive and adaptive tools to anticipate, assess and address domestic, transboundary and long-­‐term impacts of policies to advance SDGs, in particular by:

  1. Analysing and assessing policy and financing impacts to inform decision- making, increase positive impacts and avoid potential negative impacts on the sustainable development prospects of other countries, in particular on developing countries.
  2. Strengthening monitoring, reporting and evaluation systems to collect qualitative and quantitative evidence on the impact of policies and financing, and report progress on PCSD.

[1] http://www.oecd.org/gov/pcsd/oecd-­‐recommendation-­‐on-­‐policy-­‐coherence-­‐for-­‐sustainable-­‐development.htm

Joan Mudindi Vwamu

In Kenya UNDP in collaboration with Africa’s Voices deployed its innovative approach to civic engagement through the ‘Common Social Accountability Platform’ (CSAP) which used interactive radio shows to achieve meaningful spaces of mediated public discussion between citizens and authorities. The project targeted the urban poor settlements of Nairobi and this was done through a series of weekly interactive radio shows in three popular radio stations over a period of 2 months (8 shows per station for a total of 24 broadcasts over 8 weeks).The project convened large-scale, plural and inclusive accountability dialogues between authorities and citizens in urban poor settlements of Nairobi with a view to promote and uphold public accountability and enhance the role citizens play in countering corruption.  This aimed to strengthen citizen engagement in the monitoring of healthcare service delivery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provided trusted spaces for an exchange on matters related to the provision and quality of healthcare services.

 

It also envisioned to draw rich insights from citizen voices and share recommendations  for future programming. Through Africa’s Voices Common Social Accountability Platform (“CSAP”) approach, the project leveraged on increasing the scope and quality of citizen engagement, provide a canvass for citizen feedback and influence decision-making to  enhance public dialogue between citizens and duty bearers.  It also advanced accountability of authorities for informed decision-making. During implementation large-scale, plural, and inclusive accountability dialogues were convened between authorities and citizens in urban poor settlements of Nairobi with a view to promote and uphold public accountability and the role that citizens can play in countering corruption. Consequently, this can then serve to enhance citizen perceptions of voice and efficacy, government recognition of and interaction with civic engagement, and ultimately the forging of trust between citizens and authorities.

 

Citizen engagement was strengthened in the monitoring of healthcare service delivery in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic  providing trusted spaces for exchange on matters related to the provision and quality of healthcare services.  Rich insights from citizen voices was drawn and recommendations made to be adapted in future programming in regard to the needs and opinions of citizens regarding tackling corruption. The Common Social Accountability Platform - Africa’s Voices interactive radio approach  was  an effective citizen engagement/public participation tool that increased the scope and quality of citizen engagement, fostered public dialogue between citizens and authorities; enabled citizen feedback and influence on decision-making and advanced accountability of authorities for decision-making and action.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Juan for sharing the insight from Kenya. Better citizen engagement is crucial to building trust and can ensure better public service delivery. I am, however, wondering if digital platforms can also support better citizen engagement, especially in country like Kenya with many digital innovations.? 

Joan Mudindi Vwamu

Adedeji , Yes with the current situation where the pandemic is limiting meetings and physical engagement one is left with no option rather that to be innovative and ensure that citizen engagement is enhanced. Kenya is one of the most technology-advanced countries in Africa, which has had many christen it the Silicon Savannah. In recent years, most of Kenya’s technological innovation has been centered on the mobile phone, with several mobile innovations either originating from Kenya or using the country as a launchpad to the rest of the continent. Kenya’s media landscape is seen as diverse, sophisticated and well-financed. The radio sector is thriving – with over 100 radio stations, many broadcasting in a variety of local languages. In 2015, the switchover to digital terrestrial television transmission has also considerably increased the number of TV stations . The rapid growth of mobile phones is also seen to have been responsible for Kenya having one of highest internet penetration rates in Africa . With this we are left with no option put to ensure we facilitate digital engagement. 

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Word cloud of the eDiscussion

 

e-Discussion: Summary of Week 1 – What the participants are discussing

The need for investment in effective, accountable and responsive governance to facilitate more equitable access to health, education, social protection and other public services has been highlighted by the pandemic. A particular focus has been places on the role of local government investing in inclusive and accountable systems that benefit all.

Public service delivery and responsiveness:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing public service delivery challenges caused by weak state capacity, corruption, and bureaucracy. Therefore, there is need to address systemic issues.
  • Apart from a few early warnings, there was no prenotification, leaving authorities to respond using just existing resources; this exacerbated the gap between well- and poorly-equipped countries.
  • In Nigeria, the amount allocated to social interventions covers only a small fraction of the national social register, and there are delays, lack of transparency and corruption in provisions distribution, contributing to an erosion of public trust. This calls for quality and timely data to assess vulnerable populations and effectively deliver public services. Also, there are pockets of efficiency in a largely unresponsive public sector, e.g., access to education and pandemic containment. However, with delays and corruption, the full potential of the public service delivery was not realized.
  • Due to COVID-19 pandemic the inter-connectivity and complexity of various factors within the public service delivery mechanism have become more apparent.  
  • The pandemic has increased distrust with government agencies able to access a greater amount of citizens' information, and there are widespread concerns on how this information is being used.
  • In Kenya, interactive radio shows were used as spaces to mediate public discussion between citizens and authorities and aimed at strengthening citizen engagement in the monitoring of healthcare service delivery during the pandemic.

Recommendations:

  • Vaccine provision must involve: transparency and fairness; integrity of public officials and citizens; social infrastructure for equitable access and distribution; open data of vaccine distribution; accountability; access to information and combat to fake news; zero tolerance to corruption.
  • This requires long term commitment and budgeting/investment to make inclusive, responsive service delivery systems a reality when services are needed most.
  • Digital technologies can be used to enhance communication flow and collaboration between public institutions and citizens
  • Inclusive and responsive system must address concerns related to data privacy abuse and lack of transparency on how information gathered is being used.
  • Need to eliminate obsolete practices in public institutions that slow down the ability of these agencies to respond and make reforms based on feedback from civil society.

Further questions:

  • What are the learnings that we can gather from what is happening around us? Are there policy implications? Can we evolve better and more sustainable solutions?
  • What have been the implications of exclusionary public service provision for development and recovery efforts in your country?
  • How has the mode of provision of public goods affected the existing social contract, trust, and governance structures in your country? How can accountability, transparency and inclusion help to overcome these effects?
  • In this restricted fiscal environment, what innovations and best practices might be adaptable and scalable post-COVID-19?
Charlene Lui

Dear Colleagues, Greetings from Singapore. My name is Charlene Lui, Research and Knowledge Analyst, UNDP’s Global Anti-Corruption Programme. Thank you for this important discussion and for your interesting insights. I would like to share some of my reflections, particularly by highlighting corruption as a significant obstacle to effective service delivery during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

While corruption is not a new phenomenon, the opportunities for corruption have significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in countries with weak governance institutions. We have seen that corruption has prevented people from accessing critical public services, distorted markets through procurement malpractices, and hindered the equitable allocation of funds to rebuild economies and protect those most at risk of being left behind.[1] Six months into the pandemic, Transparency International (TI) found documented cases of corruption across 17 countries amounting to $1.1 billion, depleting valuable and scarce resources from financing response and recovery plans.

More recently, with COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs underway globally, a lack of transparency in vaccine trials and contracts is risking the effectiveness of the global pandemic response. A recent study by TI found that just 6% of vaccine contracts between developers and public buyers were published through formal channels. A lack of transparency of many clinical trials and lack of publicly accessible data are also creating space for misinformation and disinformation, and fertile ground for public distrust in the vaccines and in government institutions.

To promote effective public service delivery, in and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to look at the corruption risks across all sectors.[2] It will be critical to integrate anti-corruption measures in service delivery and other sectors (e.g. health sector), including assessing and mitigating corruption risks to prevent the leakages of resources and other inefficiencies. Leveraging digital tools will be crucial, to promote transparency and open data (incl. government budgets, sectoral funds, public contracting/procurement processes, etc.), to proactively provide timely, transparent and consistent information, and to strengthen social accountability and civic participation (such as to monitor service delivery).

Preventing and addressing corruption to build effective, accountable and inclusive governance institutions for sustainable development will require collective action – a whole-of-government approach (with a clear role for oversight and anti-corruption institutions) and a whole-of-society approach (with constructive engagement and participation of civil society, citizens and communities). Empowering anti-corruption champions and agents of change (incl. youth in particular) will also be important to promote a culture of integrity and shape a more sustainable future for all.

[1] For more information see UNDP (2020) ‘Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption Service Offer for COVID-19 Response and Recovery’.

[2] For more information see UNDP (2020) ‘Integrating Transparency, Accountability and Anti-Corruption in Socio-Economic Impact Analysis, Needs Assessment and Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic’.

Adedeji Moderator

Dear Charlene Lui thank you very much for this great insight. You have highlighted corruption and absent of transparency as two crucial elements constraining an effective service delivery. I quite agree with your submission on this as this resonates with emerging trends observed across countries with opportunity for corruption increasing during covid-19. This again underscores the importance of building quality and effective institution in the post-covid-19 era to deliver on Agenda 2030 and to fast track the recovery process. 

Oluwole Ojewale

In Nigeria, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the adaptive capacity of our private sector compared to the public sector that is far from being modernized. The organized private sector rose to the challenge by seamlessly delivering their services and goods through the deployment of cutting edge technologies which facilitated remote work. Whereas, the public sector was completely shut down in most cases. Most ministries, agencies and departments of government could not digitize and migrate their workflow online. This presents a critical challenge even as we navigate the digital and information age. This shows a parity in terms of learning and development between the public and private sectors' workers. The national and sub-national governments in Nigeria have the onerous responsibility to learn from the organized private sector by creating partnership that will facilitate knowledge transfer to revolutionize service delivery in health, education, agriculture and infrastructure development and management. These are critical areas to build the resilience of the state against future disruptions and accelerate the realization of the SDGs in Nigeria.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks, Oluwole for bring the important dimension of private sector role in effective public service delivery. 

Adedeji Moderator

Dear All,

It has been great to be part of this important discussion on how to ensure a transparent, responsive, and inclusive public service delivery in the time of covid-19. The discussions have highlighted a number of constraints to effective public service provision such as corruption, infrastructure and limited social protection framework. We have seen how these constraints have impacted inclusiveness of the government responses and how pre-pandemic fragilities have been amplified during the pandemic.

The discussions have also been solution driven with several reflections on way forward for countries. The role of digital technologies to enhance communication flow and collaboration between public institutions and citizens emerged as core policy recommendation to take forward. As Joan identifies in her work in Kenya, the traditional mass media can also effectively play this role. The expansion in medium for communication and engagement if well annexed can ensure open government and support the trust building process. There are important considerations to take out of this for stakeholders in government and civil society (or think tank space). There is still the need to develop an effective strategy for public participation in policymaking process. Public service delivery can only be effective with better design and delivery on the part of the bureaucrat and through building of soft and hard infrastructure to connect with the citizens.

We hope to take these insights forward in our approach in policy support activities and helping governments to design a more effective public service delivery strategy. Once again, thank for your great contributions to this dialogue.


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