Pilot Study: Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery Toolkit in Malawi- Solid Waste management
Office of the Ombudsman

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
In Malawi, within the decentralization framework, councils are required to deliver such services as education, medical and health, environmental, roads and street, public amenities, business, water and other services. In principle, local government services in Malawi are supposed to be accountable, responsive, inclusive and effective in service delivery processes . However, there has been deteriorating state of sanitation as evidenced by heaps of waste around the cities, in residential areas, along the roads and near the market places. In fact, a visit to any of our towns reveals huge aspects of waste management problems such as heaps of uncontrolled and uncollected garbage, roads virtually littered with refuse, and river streams blocked with junk and waste-dumping sites that are a sore sight. All these constitute a serious and fatal health hazard to the general public in contact with these areas. There is seemingly failure in the public service delivery when it comes to waste management and a weak or nonexistent accountability mechanism in as far as solid waste management service delivery is concerned. The Office of the Ombudsman is a governance institution that promotes good governance and the rule of law established under section 120 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and enacted in the Ombudsman Act No. 10 of 1996. The Office of the Ombudsman is there to support in ensuring that the local government services as well as all public services are done in just and fair manner; and in non-oppressive, non-abuse of power or unfair treatment of any person by an official in the employ of any organ of Government in an open and democratic society. As a watchdog created by the Constitution, the Office of the Ombudsman has a duty to ensure that public officials are practicing good administrative practices in the discharge of their functions as well as to protect and promote people’s rights. The pilot study conducted on behalf of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance to pilot a toolkit on Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery gave the Office an opportunity to accomplish its mandate through a more proactive approach. The Office, through this project aimed at ensuring the promotion of democratic accountability. It was hoped that through the results of the study local councils will ensure that mechanisms for transparency answerability, participation, responsiveness, enforceability are put in place and are functional.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The initiative was to pilot an assessment toolkit on democratic accountability in service delivery developed by International IDEA. According to the toolkit Document, the objectives of the Study were to: • Achieve both stronger democracy and socio-economic development outcomes by strengthening the links between the citizens and the state; • To ascertain the levels of participation and representation of citizens, and the responsiveness of assembly officials in waste management; • To help the users of the toolkit to ascertain the extent to which key accountability channels, viz, electoral competition, political oversight, citizens’ engagement, and the media address the workings of specific sectors of government and service they provide. Or if the provision of waste management service is accountable by democratic means; • To provide a set of analytical devices for political and social stakeholders in service delivery (waste management) to gain a better understanding of the ways accountability arrangements: (i) work in place and (ii) can be improved at the Local Government level; • In addition, the users (the citizens) are expected to:  Catalyse political and social efforts to strengthen accountability in service delivery in Waste Management by Local Government through debate and dialogue;  Contribute to building-up political space for dialogue on an agenda of reform to strengthen accountability in service delivery;  Raise awareness of political and social stakeholders and build their capacity to define areas of concern and possibly outline reform agenda defined by domestic stakeholders;  Provide basis for discussion with external actors, such as donors, on their role in weakening or strengthening accountability in services, and possibly future support in this area. The main concern of the assessment, which constitutes the main research question of this study, is the extent to which effective accountability mechanisms encourage improved solid waste management service provision and better quality or well implemented responses to citizens’ demands. The research wanted to find out what is wrong with the Malawi Local authorities that these phenomena are prevalent in almost all areas; whether there is a robust policy to deal with scenario; what strategies should city and town authorities put in place to improve the sanitation of our cities, what should be the role of the communities, individuals to ensure that their vicinities are clean; what incentives could be put in place for Local authority staff to motivate them in this area; what penalties could be put in place to punish assemblies that do not deliver in this area of waste management The following were the specific objectives of the study: a) To understand the policy framework governing Solid Waste Management b) To find out the actual structures on the ground dealing with Solid Waste Management c) To find out the accountability relationships within the service d) To find out the levels (if any) of citizen participation/ involvement in Solid Waste Management policies e) To find out the constraints and challenges (policy and operational) in Solid Waste Management. The research mainly adopted a qualitative approach that employed in-depth interviews of key informants across the spectrum, focus group discussions and desk review.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
There is no known credible work in the area of Waste Management and Democratic Accountability in Malawi. The Office of the Ombudsman has also not undertaken works of a similar nature. The Office has for a long time taken a traditional approach to ensuring accountability in service delivery through the receiving of complaints and resolving the complaints received. This project therefore stands out as pioneer work where not only the Office of the Ombudsman but also various stakeholders in public service delivery have begun to learn from it to understand the “politics of waste management and democratic accountability”. The results of this project are so important in this sector as they will ensure that accountability mechanisms are put in place or strengthened. At the same time, it will provide insight into the accountability mechanisms available in local council service delivery as a whole which will ensure a positive change in policy formulation as well as implementation.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The project was divided into 3 phases which included The main activities in phase 1 included assembling assessment team, assembling reference team, training for the assessment and reference team on various aspects of the assessment including the toolkit. The reference group was set up to provide guidance and advice to the assessment teams work. The reference group composed of members from the council, development partners, members from the office of the ombudsman and traditional leaders. The assessment team was composed of five members from the Office of the Ombudsman. The main activity in phase 2 was the actual assessment which included focus group discussions, key informant interviews, desk research, data analysis and report writing. The research was conducted in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu City Councils, Lilongwe and Blantyre District Councils and Kasungu Town Council. Participants in the focus group discussion composed of Community Development Block Leaders. A total of five focus group discussions were conducted, 2 in Blantyre, 2 in Lilongwe and 1 in Mzuzu. 22 key informant interviews were conducted. Key informant interviewees were drawn from the following institutions: Ministry of Local Government, Town/District/City Assembly Staff, Member of Parliament from the Environmental Affairs Committee, key members of the Civil Society Organization (CSOs), and lecturers from the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic. The main activities in phase 3 included validation and consultative meetings, report dissemination, action-oriented dialogue and the final report writing. The third phase is still underway with the final report writing remaining. The validation meeting was involved members of the reference group assembled in the first phase. The consultative meeting involved various stakeholders in Solid Waste Management who included Member of Parliament, Traditional Leaders, Market chairperson, members of the media, Council Staff, Members from various Ministries and members from other constitutional bodies.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The assessment study was conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman. The study area was identified by the Office of the Ombudsman. The assessment toolkit was developed by International IDEA. An agreement was entered into between the two organisations in April 2013 to co-operate in conducting a Pilot Study: Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery Toolkit in Malawi- Solid Waste management by Local Councils. Before the actual assessment, the Office engaged a reference group( composed of members from the council, development partners, members from the office of the ombudsman and traditional leaders) that provided valuable direction on how the study could be conducted. The office of the ombudsman provided the human resource and other material resources for the operations of the project which included office space, internet and vehicles.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The pilot project was solely funded by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance to pilot a toolkit on Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery. The total cost of the project is MWK 8,338,349. MWK1909859 was budgeted for the first phase, 1747,240 was budgeted for the second phase and MWK4,681,250 were committed to the third phase of the project. Funds were disbursed separately for each phase upon the submission of an intermediate financial report at the end of each phase.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The study results gave an insight into the accountability mechanisms at play in as far as solid waste management service delivery was concerned and how mechanisms at the district council work. Some of the results of the study showed that citizen participation was not to a large extent facilitated by the council, access to information was limited, no funds were committed to solid waste management as an item in the budgets and in addition the finances that are provided are inadequate. The recommendations that were made from the results ensured that democratic accountability in local councils is improved. Engagement with various stakeholders and the reference group was one of the important outputs in the project. The meetings and workshops provided a platform for dialogue. The meetings ensured that various views are expressed and that each party was able to hear the concerns of the other. These meetings also clarified some of the issues that the results of the study brought up. These meetings composed of city council staff, members of the media, member of parliament, traditional leaders, duty bearers(council staff)

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Owing to the nature of the project, very little was required in terms of M&E. However to monitor and evaluate progress, activity reports were produced and the end of each activity. At the same time, at the end of each phase, financial reports were produced. The reference group was used as a platform to inform of the developments and progress on the implementation of the project.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The officers implementing the project had to this in addition to their normal duties and at the same time implement another different project. The combined workload meant that most of the deadlines could not be met as planned. As such the work plan as well as the contract between the two organizations had to be amended. For the second phase, there was a delay in the release of finances which led to a delay in the implementation of the actual assessment. This also contributed to the decision to amend the work plan.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The assessment has played a role in enlightening the council staff on their role in public service delivery particularly in line with solid waste management. This can be evidenced by the recent articles in newspapers showing an improvement in the approach to solid waste management. For example, there was a letter by a member of the public in the Sunday Times of 8thDecember 2013 appreciating the efforts Blantyre City Council has started putting in place in as far as Solid Waste Management. The City Councils approach to waste management has been enhanced. He councils felt the project was a wakeup call and waste collection frequencies have increased. There is also more advocacy and agitation for increased funding by Central Government to Local councils and citizens heightened awareness to own the process of solid waste management by seeing themselves as part of the councils. The impact of the assessment has been assessed through observation of the developments in solid waste management, through feedback from the various stakeholders. The Office of the Ombudsman is mandated to protect the public from abuse of power, unfair treatment or conduct deemed oppressive occasioned by public bodies and ensure effective and efficient service delivery. Through this project, the Office envisages an enlightened public capable of demanding from government and holding public officials accountable in fulfilling constitutional obligations, in providing responsive and effective public service delivery and application of core principles of rule of law; the change of status of public officials from bosses to servants and citizens from passive to active citizens either by design or public demand will ensure the sustainability of the project.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
In no more than 500 words, describe how the initiative is being sustained (for example in terms of financial, social and economic, cultural, environmental, institutional and regulatory sustainability). Describe whether the initiative is being replicated or disseminated throughout the public service at the national and/or international levels and/or how it could be replicated. Currently, the study findings as well as the use of the toolkit are being disseminated to various stakeholders through multistakeholder consultations. A report will be printed and disseminated to various stakeholders. There will also be press releases on the findings of the study. Internationally the research findings will be disseminated through International IDEA. The toolkit will be used by the Office of the Ombudsman in its operations in monitoring the delivery of services by different public offices. This it is expected will enhance democratic accountability in public service delivery since it will provide the office direction for intervention. The toolkit can also be used across the public sector to assess democratic accountability in various aspects of service delivery The project involved all key stakeholders in waste management which included council staff, health personnel, central government, members of parliament, traditional leaders, etc. to ensure that the project is sustainable. Their involvement will ensure that the recipients of services from the public institutions, the providers of the services, civil society organizations directly working with citizens as well as the initiator of the project in promoting accountability in waste management.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
This initiative has brought to the surface issues that are negatively affecting democratic accountability in service delivery by local councils. Normally service delivery is expected to be influenced by service providers. The public is expected to be a part of the process to get service done on the ground but there have been issues of accountability that have rocked the whole process in as far as Solid Waste Management is concerned. It is noted that in general, there are no working accountability mechanisms in place to influence citizen voices when it comes to solid waste management. Agenda setting is strictly left for the service providers with little or literary no consultation made with the citizens in most cases. However in few cases the councils have involved the citizens in agenda setting and the process of soliciting ideas when drafting a budget. There is generally no transparency and the citizen’s involvement is at minimal levels. For instance, the council does not account to the public in its actions and decisions. At the same time, the public is not able to demand from the councils because of limited capacity and lack of incentives and knowledge. The lack of disclosure of information on the activities of the council does not promote accountability. The fact that councils do not facilitate participation has a negative bearing on accountability. In spite of this however, community development blocks do have some influence in demanding for services. This influence quite turns the tables and tends to engage in certain processes that basically hold the council accountable to a certain extent. The recommendations for the future are that city councils should promote public participation and consultations in their planning as well as implementation of activities, information should be made public and in a timely manner and citizens should also be empowered to demand information, citizens should be informed and civic educated on their role in ensuring accountability, community structures should be strengthened to be able to hold the duty bearers accountable and Central Government should ensure that there is no gap in the elections of councillors as this negatively impacts operations at the councils.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Office of the Ombudsman
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Ellos Lodzeni
Title:   Executive Secretary  
Telephone/ Fax:   +(265) 01 774 886
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   ombudsman@ombudsman.mw.org  
Address:   Office of the Ombudsman, St Martins House, P/Bag 348
Postal Code:   +265
City:   Lilongwe
State/Province:   - Other

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