SAfAIDS Zambia: holding governments to account through Social Accountability Initiatives

SAfAIDS Zambia is making steady progress in building the capacity of adolescents and young people so that they can hold policy makers and budget holders to account in allocating adequate resources to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services for adolescent girls and young people. SAfAIDS Tariro Makanga-Chikumbirike (TMC) had a one-on-one with SAfAIDS Zambia Country Representative, Chrispin Chomba (CC), to shed more light on their work on social accountability.


TMC: Can you give us an overview of the work SAfAIDS Zambia is doing on social accountability.

CC: SAfAIDS Zambia is implementing two social accountability projects. One is a Swedish Development Agency programme on strengthening social accountability in agriculture to ensure food security. We are part of a consortium of partners in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia and SAfAIDS focus is on improving the wellbeing of adolescent girls and young people through sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The second project is with Save the Children Fund. It focuses on adolescent sexual reproductive health (SRH) and creating a conducive environment for increased uptake of SRH services by young people through advocacy and social accountability. On this project we train youth social accountability monitors to conduct social accountability activities at health facilities in Lusaka.

TMC: Explain to us why social accountability matters in SRH?

CC: Social accountability is an ongoing process aimed at holding duty bearers to account. As citizens we delegate power to those holding office. Social accountability means making sure that they properly manage public resources on our behalf. Citizens need to question ask why certain things are not done and why specific decisions are made. The key is to hold duty bearers to account, as they are obligated to explain any decisions they have made. In the event that wrong choices have been made, they need to ensure that action is taken to correct the consequences of these wrong decisions.

As I said earlier, on the Sweden programme, SAfAIDS is leading on the health component, which looks at adolescent SRH. Our focus is on building the capacity of five target groups. We build the capacity of parliamentarians to provide oversight on how resources are managed; we build the capacity of the media, so that they know how public management should be  done and provide them with information so that through their reporting, they assist in holding government accountable. We also build the capacity of issue-based civil society organisations, for example networks of people living with HIV, and those doing advocacy. Another focus is on small-scale farmers associations who need to hold governments accountable to ensure food security through improved input delivery. The fifth and final group is government departments, as they are the ones who plan resource allocations.

We train all these groups on the public social accountability monitoring model (PSAMM), covering five key processes.

  • Planning and resource allocation: There is need to plan and adequately allocate resources from the outset, for example, on SRHR, it does not make sense to demand resources that were not allocated for in the planning period. Our capacity building therefore focuses on the need to influence increased allocation at the planning stage.
  • Expenditure management: This focuses on asking whether government is spending according to the priority areas. If not, they need to be held to account so that they explain and justify their actions. If it is found that the expenditure was wrong, corrective action must be taken.
  • Performance management: This includes monitoring whether we are achieving the intended results with the resources allocated. It also looks at whether there are adequate human resources to perform the required tasks.
  • Public integrity: Are there controls within the system that will prevent misuse of resources: If misuses are present, to ensure that corrective actions are taken and that controls are put in place to prevent a repeat.
  • Oversight: The focus is on ensuring that oversight bodies such as auditors, are used to hold the system accountable against what was planned.

These five processes ensure management of the integrity of the system. It is a cycle, in which each element depends on the other.

On the Save the Children Fund, the monitors are carrying out budget tracking and expenditure monitoring; they then identify advocacy issues that are shared at community level and findings are repackaged into national level advocacy actions . They also make presentations to parliamentarians and ministers and develop action plans for corrective action.

TMC: What would you say have been your successes?

CC: We have begun to see that service providers are more responsive to the needs of adolescents and young people on SRHR. There is now joint planning through the involvement of adolescents and young people in district planning and there is consciousness raising among planners to prioritise the provision of adolescent SRH services. in future, this will result in increased resource allocation for SRH services and prudent utilisation of available resources to SRH services. We want to see progressive realisation of the rights of adolescents and young people.