True accountability lies in fostering meaningful relationships between people and institutions so that those with power are answerable to those whom such power impacts. The community-based approach to project management and infrastructure creation that The Mvula Trust uses has many advantages including ensuring greater accountability to beneficiaries. Its’ document management processes, as well as stakeholder engagement activities are integral elements to The Mvula Trust community-based approach.
During the 2012 financial year, the National Department of Human Settlements funded sanitation services to the villages of lower Sitholeni, Mncayi and Sentube in the Engcobo local municipality of the Chris Hani District Municipality in the Eastern Cape.
The minimum income received by households here is R270 per household, which they get from the social grant for their children and the maximum is R1200 which is the elderly people grant. Therefore, on average, the income for each household is R735.
There is no electricity in the villages and there is therefore no access to televisions, with the exception of a few households that use generators for electricity generation.
The Mvula Trust community-based approach was implemented towards managing the project and the implementation therefore had to be as participatory as possible.
The Mvula Trust took special care in ensuring that project steering committee (PSC) meetings and site meetings were held timeously in order to monitor project progress. In these meetings, the stakeholders, including the funder, councillors, ward committees, contractors, as well as the newly trained village health workers (VHWs) were also invited in order to address any challenges. Delays, anticipated conflict or misunderstandings were therefore attended to while contingency plans were put into place.
In order to ensure accountability of all resources used in the implementation of the project, among others, records of all invoices paid regarding project costs were kept; minutes of meetings and attendance registers were also kept; household acceptance certificates (also known as Happy Letters) signed by the householder as proof that the toilet was constructed and received in good quality were also kept; the asset register is also compiled and this provides evidence of the households where services were rendered. The asset register reflects the list of households that are due to be serviced and their accompanying coordinates. Stakeholders will also check the quality of work completed and participate in the identification of gaps and snags for correction. All the stakeholders are then invited to the handing over of completed structures so that they bear witness to the fact that the project was completed.
Community liaison officers (CLO’s) report on behalf of the village labourers and community members provide direct feedback on the processes as it unfolds at community sanitation meetings. Community-based organisations (CBOs) also participate in these meetings as CBO’s are a link between the community and the stakeholders.
Often, CBOs are better able to articulate the concerns of communities who cannot express those concerns well. The health and hygiene monitoring tool also carries the voice of the participants as beneficiaries and participants have to respond to a questionnaire enquiring about their basic needs, the level of service received and many other items. The health and hygiene monitoring tool is then reviewed against the results of the baseline surveys.
In conclusion, The Mvula Trust is catalysing change by building collaborative governance and improving the outcomes of its development programs by strengthening its accountability systems. This is done by firstly convening stakeholder dialogues to agree on priorities. Second, is the design of agreements among stakeholders to build collaborative solutions. Lastly, The Mvula Trust participates in the development of counting and documenting methods to assess accountability deficits.