How CSOs are influencing pro-poor WASH budgets in Bangladesh

By Mohammad Zobair Hasan
Budget tracking in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) helps to understand how public budget is allocated and utilized to improve access to services for all. WASH Budget tracking is a process to improve water and sanitation governance (responsiveness, equity, accountability and transparency) through citizens’ action, helping to make service providers accountable, responsive and ensuring that they provide services in a sustainable and equitable manner. Engaging people in budget tracking does not only provide voice and space to the most marginalized but also helps to sensitize the authorities in solving issues like less budget allocation, timely allocation and proper utilization of funds. Budget Tracking process has been undertaken by DORP through four approaches: i) Campaign and Social Mobilisation ii) Lobbying and Advocacy iii) WASH service monitoring and iv) WASH Budget Monitoring through a customized tool. This tool was used for systematic data collection from service providers such as the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) and Union Parishad.
Budget tracking is also considered as a vehicle to reach duty bearers under the Right to Information Act 2009. It gives an opportunity to be part of the planning process of Union Parishad with grassroots, and become transparent and accountable.
DORP has motivated chairpersons of Union Parishads (the lowest tier of local government structure after sub-district) to display their Fiscal budget on their office wall so that it is visible to the community as to how much budget is allocated, how much is received and how much has been spent. This is subsequently published as a budget booklet. Furthermore, DORP along with other CSOs have organized pre-budget and open budget discussions through which budget is becoming an essential discussion item at the lowest tier of local government institutions, i.e. Union Parishad.
Increasingly citizens are getting the opportunity to get involved in the decision-making process of WASH service delivery at the Upazila ( sub-districts) level. About 15% budget for WASH from Annual Development Programme (ADP) is a commitment from the Local Government Division (LGD) of the Government of Bangladesh which is an opportunity for CSO to explore and influence local authority to ensure these allocations for poor and marginalized. This guidance has been given through the Pro-poor strategy of Bangladesh.
The community demand on WASH-related issues was shared with Upazila Parishad via petitions organized by CSOs. Thus, bottom-up and systematic lobbying was done through budget tracking initiatives on the ground. The issues related to equity, gender and social inclusion cannot be addressed without inviting and engaging local communities as well as CSOs. This bottom-up approach has given confidence to marginalised to express their needs which were not accounted for before. Mainly women and common people were not welcomed in any decision making process related to WASH of local government institutions i.e Upazila Parishad, Municipalities, Union Parishad as well as service providers, while Budget Tracking methods has created a pathway to involve local communities in these institutions.
Through budget tracking, the following positive outcomes were achieved:
• Increased budget allocation in unions due to lobby and advocacy of CSOs. The use of the WASH budget monitoring tool led to 13-19% increase in the annual budget at the Union Parishad level. The findings demonstrate that gender and social inclusion in budget monitoring lead to an increase in WASH allocations for socially excluded groups if it includes processes that increase participation and access to information for socially excluded people.
• Budget is now open to all, thereby, increased accountability and transparency among duty bearers • Helped in mobilizing the community and ensuring the participation of all relevant stakeholders such as service providers, public representatives and right holders.
• Addressing SDG-6.B (support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management) by which localizing SDG is ensured • Helpful to link local with national issues. Leaving No One Behind is a global as well as national commitment, using the Budget Tracking tool, we can check on the ground the follow up to the governmental LNOB agenda.
In Bangladesh, DORP along with other CSOs are engaged in budget tracking through mobilizing communities to express their needs, and we expect that Government is opening up these spaces further for the greater interest of poor communities who are always deprived.
(Director (Research, Planning and Monitoring), Development Organisation of the Rural Poor (DORP).