What is Social Accountability?

Social accountability is an emerging approach in the developmental State discourse, spearheaded by the World Bank, within its framework of Social Development Strategy, in a bid to address socio-economic inequalities in society, more specifically poverty reduction. Good governance is also a major component of this approach because empirical evidence has shown that there is correlation between an effective governance system and the level of socio-economic development in a State and vice versa.

Social accountability locates citizens at the centre of service delivery especially in relation to the decision-making process and oversight on government policies. In a nutshell, social accountability defines State-citizens relations in the provision of social services, such as health, housing, water, sanitation, education, inter alia. In this equation, the State has an obligation to provide basic human needs to its citizens whereas citizens have a right to demand answers from policy-makers and policy-implementers in the manner the afore-mentioned social services are provided.

The approach emphasizes direct engagement between the State and citizens in policy decision-making through a broad range of actions and mechanisms that promote dialogue.

Public Service Accountability Monitor

In Southern Africa, the concept has been adapted by the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), a research institute based at Rhodes University in South Africa. PSAM has developed a social accountability system (SAS) underpinned by five conceptual processes that obtain in public resource management as explained below. PSAM runs an intensive training course for civil society organizations, Members of Parliament, public officials on Fundamentals of Social Accountability Monitoring (FSAM).

Since 2011, SAPST has been collaborating with PSAM to train civil society and public officials on the use of social accountability tools in public finance management.  Tuition provided is on innovative tools to monitor and track budgets that are premised on rights based approach to public finance management. These tools covering the entire budget cycle are strategic in upgrading the capacity of committee clerks that service the Budget and Public Accounts Committees.

Zimbabwe Learning Partnership for Social Accountability in Zimbabwe

Formalised in August 2013, the partnership comprises of the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) www.cwgh.co.zw ; Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) www.psam.org.za ; Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) www.sapst.org and Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) www.zwrcn.org.zw .

The change we want to see (Theory of Change)

The partnership seeks to contribute towards the following:

  • An enabling environment within the Zimbabwean context for meaningful participation amongst civic actors, oversight and government.
  • Persistent and proactive learning from participation improves confidence within communities in their ability to play an impactful role improving government accountability and service delivery
  • An improved understanding of the legislative oversight role as an intermediary in the citizen state accountability relationship
  • Coherence within government

Rationale for the partnership

The collaboration exists to generate, assess and document impact from interrogating the citizen state relationship in Zimbabwe using a systems based, rights based approach to conceptualising the social accountability relationship. The purpose of the partnership is to adapt and apply the PSAM rights based systems approach to monitor and influence Zimbabwean public resource management processes at local and central level in a sustainable manner. The vision for the partnership is “to see a Zimbabwe in which demand side actors use evidence to engage with the supply side on public resource management processes to improve service delivery outcomes.”

Zimbabwe country strategy

In order to contribute to achieving the vision, the partnership recognizes the need to enhance understanding of the public resource management framework in Zimbabwe in order to generate a more constructive rights based systems based engagement between demand and supply side actors. Each partner will use the rights based systems approach in their organisational strategies in some form. In addition to this there will be a collaborative learning activity that will be conducted as a partnership. The main outputs of the partnership will be:

  • Context mapping: a report mapping the Public Resource Management framework in Zimbabwe
  • Capacity building: a locally relevant version of the PSAM Social Accountability Monitoring (SAM) course
  • Mentoring to a select group of organisations applying the approach from the partner organisation’s respective constituency
  • Collaborative learning initiative
  • Case study on the application of the SAM approach in Zimbabwe

Collaborative Learning Initiative

The partnership research intervention for learning purposes will focus on the management of HIV/AIDS resources and services through a gender lens. A broader and deeper understanding of the PRM framework underpinning service delivery will create a common platform for civil society and the legislature to identify systemic weaknesses and focus on realistic ways of rectifying them in a lasting manner. Synergies between civil society and the legislature will effectively reinforce adherence to the rule of law and regulations around PRM for effective service delivery. The documentation of lessons is key to the partnership and this will be captured in the form of a case study at the end of the partnership.


The assumptions underlying the strategy are that:

  • An improved understanding of the public resource management framework in a coherent and systemic manner rather than focusing on specific elements of the framework would empower citizens to have a greater influence over service delivery decisions and their subsequent consequences
  • The accountability of public officials responsible for public resource management in Zimbabwe is dependent on evidence based and sustained demand from civil society together with systemic and informed legislative oversight.
  • It is assumed that sustained engagement between demand and supply side will generate debate and greater transparency on incentives that lead to non-compliance to legislation and incentive structures for oversight.

What is the value add?

  • A common understanding of the Zimbabwe PRM framework will enhance internal coherence within demand and supply side institutions. This will enhance policy dialogue with regards to exacting accountability in the Zimbabwe context.
  • Shared understanding of what a rights based approach to PRM means and how this impacts service delivery
  • Learning by doing will foster a deeper understanding of the PRM framework and the subsequent impact on service delivery
  • Constructive dialogue amongst the three groups
  • Define and develop collectively a common understanding of how PRM for effective service delivery should happen in the Zimbabwean context.






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