restricted access Conclusion: Bringing Everyone to the Same Page
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136 This final chapter looks at what all the key players—donors, governments , independent monitoring organizations—can do to strengthen independent monitoring organizations and increase their impact. But first a little background and some additional insight into the story presented in the preface. The story of the book The preface tells a story about this book. It shows what the numbers in chapter 2 look like on the ground and describes a dream of how civil society and independent monitoring organizations might improve the situation. This section reflects on what we have learned about that story in the intervening pages of this book.1 For the World Bank, the legislator, and the civil society organizations in the preface story, information was everything. The World Bank had access to the budget numbers, invested in getting them organized, and thus understood the problems in a technical way. The legislator knew that information by itself was not enough. Also needed were accessible numbers, a clear storyline, ability to interrogate the data providers and budget preparers, and enough time to consider and act intelligently on the budget—none of it immediately available. The civil society organizations had an abundance of information about what was happening at the end of the chain—in the schools. What they needed was to better understand the context, so that they could take action. A core theme of this book is that a necessary condition for accountability is that all actors have access to understandable budgets and the Chapter 7 Conclusion—bringing everyone to the same page Conclusion—bringing everyone to the same page 137 resulting resource flows. That is not sufficient, but without accurate, understandable data on spending and its impacts, accountability is virtually impossible. It is the government’s responsibility to provide this—at a bare minimum to publish a citizens budget—and not to make the budget so obscure that only professionals at the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank can figure it out. The budget process has three major elements: prioritization (or allocating resources), execution (or implementation), and evaluation of the result (see figure 4.1 in chapter 4). All three elements are important, and they interact with each other. For the minister of finance in the story, improving execution in the ministry of education opened up the possibility of making resource allocation decisions to improve primary education that had not been feasible before. The ministry of finance began to disburse funds directly to schools to implement the changes— with accountability now residing in the schools rather than in the ministry of education. As civil society organizations discovered that they could have an impact on resource allocation, they realized that how budgets were implemented was key to getting the desired result. Moving money directly to schools opened up new possibilities for further improvement because civil society organizations and parents could directly pressure headmasters to do a better job. All of these changes together helped to deal with the resource use problem that blocked everything else. Once that was addressed, it became feasible to think about education quality and opportunities for children to get to secondary school, issues that would benefit from having many minds engaged—preferably some of them with a direct interest in the results for their children—rather than just a few professionals in a ministry of education. In this story, when the policy discussion was only between the World Bank and the government, the analysis could be perfect but the outcome negligible. Closed-door discussions conducted in English once every 5 or 10 years based on technical documents, coupled with inherently limited and low-power instruments like persuasion and loans, are far less compelling than are debates in the local language, pressed by organizations capable of keeping the focus and pressure on decisionmakers. The open question is whether there are synergies that could be exploited to improve the impact of all three sets of capabilities and interests—those of governments , independent monitoring organizations, and international agencies. Certainly , in this story, the minister of finance was sympathetic to the World Bank’s analysis but could not find a practical way to implement it. And while finding the adversarial nature of the interaction with civil society organizations unwelcome, 138 Chapter 7 the minister could not complain about the result. What would need to happen so that all three players would derive benefits from partnering, even while realizing that their interests will not always align perfectly? The World Bank has analyzed the long and...


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Subject Headings

  • Developing countries -- Appropriations and expenditures -- Evaluation.
  • Government spending policy -- Developing countries.
  • Government accountability -- Developing countries.
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