Municipal Development and Lending Fund and The Ministry of Local Government held a workshop entitled: “Social Accountability”

Municipal Development and Lending Fund and The Ministry of Local Government held a workshop entitled: “Social Accountability”

Al-Bireh – The Municipal Development and Lending Fund in cooperation with The Ministry of Local Government held a workshop entitled “Social Accountability” at the Red Crescent hall in Al-Bireh on Tuesday 14-11-2017.

The workshop was attended by the General Director of MDLF, Mr. Tawfiq Al-Budairi, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Local Government Mr. Mohammad Jabarin and representatives of the German Cooperation Foundation (GIZ) and a number of interested parties.

The first session of the workshop was held by Mr. Hazim Al-Qawasmeh, Director of Operations of the MDLF and the General Director of MDLF Mr. Tawfiq Al-Budairi., they spoke about the importance of social accountability in achieving social participation, thus in the process of improving the performance of local bodies.

Budairi explained that all the interventions undertaken by the fund come to achieve the principle of social accountability, through the strategic plan for the work of the fund, the cooperation with the local bodies and the Ministry of Local Government, and building confidence with the Palestinian citizens through the conducted polls. Budairi added that MDLF has a four-year new program on social accountability to be institutionalized in municipalities to achieve long term sustainability. “Accountability exists but must be applied properly in order to be part of the work of local bodies.

For his part, The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Local Government Mr. Mohammad Jabarin said that the Ministry gives the subject of social accountability great importance through its policies, agenda, and institutionalization of the subject considering it part of the principles of good governance, transparency and integrity.

Jabarin pointed out that social accountability is the participation of the public in the work of local bodies, starting with the preparation of the annual budget, identification of projects, infrastructure and other works of municipalities, which leads to making everyone responsible including the citizens and the local bodies and makes them partners in decision making. This partnership will contribute to improvements in the work of municipalities and local councils.

Jabarin added that the Ministry had gone a long way towards achieving social accountability. Most local bodies now have accountability units formed with budgets and staff, some of which deal seriously with accountability and transparency.

He added that the State of Palestine is a pioneer in the Arab region on the subject of accountability at the level of Ministry, while we have the best local bodies at the municipal level in the region.

Raed Sharabati, from the Ministry of Local Government presented the ministry’s vision regarding social accountability in local bodies and the actions taken by the ministry in this regard which reflects its keen interest in this subject.

The Ministry of Local Government prepared the “Citizen Budget” for 2017 which shows the ministry’s plan, objectives and the ministry’s budget as part of the general budget which is 179 million ILS annually. This demonstrates the high interest in this important subject. Sharabti referred to a number of models in this subject including the citizen’s document that was done by municipality of Jabalia and Beit Hanoun.

Nizar Samhan from MFLP presented the first part of his paper” Social Accountability, Interventions, Empowerment and Feedback from Citizens” Samhan said that social accountability is one of the fund’s strategies to reach effective local governmental bodies capable of providing better services to the Palestinian citizen; Also by empowering local governmental bodies and contributing to the activation of national policies for the local governmental sector.

He also addressed four pillars of social accountability: transparency, participation, monitoring and response giving him the ability to prioritize and influence the municipality’s response which will be reflected in the provided services.

In the second part, Nancy Masri referred to the fund’s interventions within the pillars of social accountability including participation and preparation of development plans through the tools of examining the elements of social accountability, the committee monitoring the implementation of the plan and media tools supporting the work of the municipality.

In a discussion session between the partners of the Ministry of Local Government which was run by Bashir Barghouti from the Local Government Policy Unit. USAID pointed its focus on transparency and accountability in the work of local bodies to be able to serve the citizen efficiently.

The representative of the German Foundation for International Cooperation (GIZ) said that the institution focuses on social accountability, participation and strengthen the services provided by municipalities according to the needs of the public. Currently, sustainability is emphasized through cooperation with the Ministry of Local Government, municipalities and civil society.

The representative of the Swiss Agency for International Development said that the foundation works in partnership with Palestinian and foreign institutions and recently began to work on projects in Gaza. The Swiss Agency aims to promote the participation of all parties in the process that has led to the success of local government bodies in performing their tasks.

The representative of “Prosperous Communities” addressed the in trust between citizens and institutions especially on the subject of community participation, which was only a formality. Therefore, the focus is on making the participation effective and influential. This can be achieved through enhancing the feedback from Palestinian citizen regarding the local bodies’ projects. Collecting feedback will not only enhance the community participation it must be built on to enhance the confidence between citizens and local bodies.

The representative of the World Bank addressed the possibility of progress in work and move from thinking of social accountability to be implemented on the ground. The first aspect of institutionalization of this work is to consolidate it in local bodies.  For example, there should be a contact center to answer citizens’ questions; in addition to the cooperation between local bodies and international partners. The representative focused on feedback on whether the institution was in the right direction or not and a main issue problem that could be rising in providing the fund for such departments that deal with public complaints. She assured that the cooperation between the partners and solving the existing problems will contribute in giving local bodies more credibility among citizens, the high level of satisfaction reflects what is happening on the ground. Now it is the time for municipalities to take this step further.

At the end of the discussion session, questions were opened to the audience, who focused on the subject of accountability, participation and public awareness of having the right of accountability, how it is handled and the right to access information that may lead to accountability. On another aspect questions rose about the weak participation of the community in the subjects related to accountability of local bodies and the actions that could increase the participation of the community in order to guarantee the rights of the society as well as its duties towards the local bodies.

At the end of the workshop, the Ministry of Local Government confirmed the existence of a decision to establish a coordinating body between institutions related to local work and to strengthen the role of the Local Governmental Union in participation and social accountability. Regarding the sections receiving complaints and public remarks, the ministry assured the weakness of the municipalities and the ministry itself in this regard. This requires reconsidering the system so that these departments operate effectively and transparently and achieve the concepts of participation and social accountability.

 


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