Building greater integrity in Palestine - from grassroots to government
On 23 February 2015, Dr Hanini, Chairperson for the Public Administration Department at BirZeit University, facilitated a workshop for senior public officials, academics, students and NGO leaders that focused on analysing whether Integrity Action’s Fix-Rate. is a useful metric for measuring NGO impact and public sector effectiveness. At this point, it is important to understand that the Fix-Rate measures the extent to which anti-corruption, transparency and accountability tools and laws are used to resolve a problem to the satisfaction of key stakeholders. The focus is on measuring deliverables to citizens and to assess whether remedial action helped to achieve a specific fix. The workshop gave participants the opportunity to openly debate this issue while at the same time learning more about current community integrity building efforts in Palestine. During the workshop, grassroots social accountability efforts were also presented by Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ), the British Council and the Teacher Creativity Centre (TCC).
Stress testing accountability and transparency with the Fix-Rate
One of the highlights of the workshop was a presentation given by Dr Zaro, currently a lecturer of Public Administration at BirZeit University. Dr Zaro decided to use the Fix-Rate as a performance measure in the Palestinian context. He used it to assess the performance of the following four organisations: the Palestine Anti-Corruption Commission, the Bureau of State Audit, the Teacher Creativity Centre (TCC), and AMAN (The Coalition for Integrity and Accountability). Dr Zaro pointed out that his research revealed a relatively low Fix-Rate had been achieved by the organisations which means that there was no evidence that many of the cases were resolved. He also explained the challenges in accessing relevant information in his study. For example, although the law stipulates that annual reports of the Bureau of State Audit are to be published, the bureau only provided him with a copy of the 2008 report. He resorted to informal channels to find later reports. The participants all agreed that Dr Zaro’s findings showed that there is progress to be made by these organisations. High level representatives from each organisation presented at the workshop, all expressed their strong desire to improve transparency and accountability standards. Dr Zaro offered to meet with the officials from each organisation to help increase Fix-Rates.
Following Dr Zaro’s presentation, ARIJ, the British Council and TCC presented on grassroot social accountability efforts that were led by young people and local communities, in the most marginalised Palestinian areas on sectors such as construction of roads, access to clean drinking water, agriculture, tourism, and education. TCC, Integrity Action’s in-country partner, believes in working together with communities, businesses, government and others to improve services for people in Palestine. At the workshop, a teacher and two students from TCC shared their experience of monitoring a road infrastructure project for the first time. This was the first time that this teacher and his students engaged in a community monitoring project and initially they found certain aspects of the monitoring, such as engaging with local government authorities, quite daunting. During the monitoring process, they were able to obtain the planning documents and bidding documents for the project. Looking into these documents they found that the new road would just come a few metres short of a house where a person with disabilities lives. This would have affected their access to the house. The original plans for the road did not include the area outside this house, therefore the students successfully advocated that the road be extended slightly in order to accommodate this resident’s needs. When the students and teachers were asked how they feel about the community monitoring process they explained that they feel empowered by the positive outcome of the project. Being able to improve another resident’s life through the project had a meaningful effect on those involved. One student said that his personality has become stronger as a result of the project monitoring experience.
Another attendee of the workshop, Mr Zaid, Director-General of Supervision and Qualification in the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, said that “at the Ministry of Education we are continually approached with concepts that would be useful to teach. But what we need to do is to prioritise concepts that are actually able to help students learn, which is what this social accountability project has done”.
Concluding the workshop, representatives of ARIJ, the British Council and TCC shared their commitment to improve their own monitoring and evaluation measures so that they operate with greater organisational integrity. As for Integrity Action, following this workshop, we will:
· Build upon and improve Integrity Education in curricula at BirZeit University – specifically in the ‘Administrative Audit and Control’ and ‘Transparency and Accountability in the Public Sector’ courses. This will mean that more students will gain knowledge and understanding of the Fix-Rate and Social Accountability.
· Support the integration of DevelopmentCheck into local projects run by ARIJ and other NGOs allowing them to demonstrate their effectiveness on the ground to donors, partners and their community.
The workshop was supported by the Swedish Consulate General of Jerusalem in partnership with BirZeit University’s Faculty of Law and Public Administration.
The Fix-rate is the percentage of identified problems that are resolved. For more information please read: http://www.integrityaction.org/sites/www.integrityaction.org/files/IAC_002_TheFixRate_Report_WEB_1.pdf
Dr Zaro’s paper will be published in April 2015.
TCC uploaded further details of this project to DevelopmentCheck. To find out more please go here: http://www.developmentcheck.org/