The Government of Liberia, with support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is developing a Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism for improved public services, particularly to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups of the population.
As an initial pilot step, a joint fact finding field mission composed/comprised of representatives from the government, UNDP and InfoNet, a consulting firm, has conducted a response mechanism survey of services being provided by 3 of 5 County Service Centers (CSCs) identified for the pilot phase-Bomi, Nimba and Grand Bassa.
The purpose of this ICT Platform, is to better understand service delivery needs and opportunities aimed at improving effectiveness, access and quality, in an effort to help achieve the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
These County Service Centers were established across the 15 political subdivisions of the country under the Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP) with funding and support from donors like Sweden, the European Union, USAID, UNMIL and UNDP with a core mandate of bringing services closer to the people under the government’s de-concentration programme.
Based on the findings from the mission, and following additional consultations and field visits, the online Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism will allow citizens from the 5 pilot County Service Centers to report on their experiences of services being rendered in real time.
It will also generate extensive data and statistics which will provide evidence based information that will inform the government about services, needs and scope for improvements.
On 25 January the Cabinet Secretariat of the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, hosted a de-briefing of the joint fact finding field mission.
The Session was attended by cabinet level Ministers, their deputies, assistant ministers, heads of government agencies and commissions, as well as Ambassadorial level representation from the international donor community-Sweden, USAID, UNDP etc.
At the meeting held in the Cecil Dennis Hall at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNDP’s Resident Representative Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai provided the broader context of the initiative, linking it to a request from the Government, and underlined that this service delivery initiative could be a key step towards the country’s strive to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“The Citizen’s Feedback Mechanism is part of a US$700,000 dollar support package from UNDP that is geared towards improving the overall performance management systems of the Government, combined with compilation and analysis of citizens’ feedback data to improve public services,” Beyai intimated.
He described the move as “innovative” and stressed that improving access to basic service delivery is key to helping the government through Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACS), achieve milestones under its national development agenda and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his opening remarks, the Director General of the Cabinet, Jordan Sulonteh recognized UNDP for the technical support to this important endeavor towards Liberia’s recovery and development drive, adding that the voices of the people are very important to the President.
“The Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism has a strong potential to help make the voices of the people heard,” Sulonteh noted.
Mr. Sulonteh mentioned that the initiative will go a long way in helping the government connect to ordinary Liberians on how services are being accessed and utilized and what needs to be improved.
Assistant Finance and Development Planning Minister Benedict Kolubah, emphasized that the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism has the potential to play a significant role in realizing the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD’s) policy goal under Pillar IV, as it directly speaks to building “An inclusive and accountable public sector for shared prosperity and sustainable development, building state institutions and making evidence based decisions,”.
In its preliminary findings, the InfoNet Consultancy Team reported that the County Service Centers visited lacked proper Standard Operating Proocedures, capacity development and deployment, ability to organize data and an effective performance management chain.
At the heart of the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism is an ICT platform that allows service users to report on their experiences, through simple, fast, and low cost digital technologies, e.g., Whatsapp, text messaging, e-mails etc.
The Team noted that over time, the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism will generate large quantities of data on service delivery which, if well harvested, analysed and managed, can play a very important role in helping the government understand what kind of services need to be improved in what parts of the country for what kind of individuals (young, old, men, women).
A critical success factor is the very positive impact the initiative can generate for citizens in terms of improving service delivery in various sectors- education, healthcare and infrastructure services.
Moreover, through comprehensive analysis of the large quantities of data compiled by the Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism, it is anticipated to play a supporting role with a significant impact in planning, implementation and monitoring of SDG performance nationally as well as sub-nationally.