Improving Public Service Delivery through Performance Contracting and Social Accountability

July 31, 2019
Challenge The Government of Liberia is committed to delivering a pro poor development agenda that outlines ambitious improvements in the living conditions for ordinary Liberians. A centerpiece of the agenda is to improve the provision of quality public services to the citizens of Liberia, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized groups of the population. Improved access to quality health care, education and infrastructure services, as well as the establishment of transparent, accountable and effective public institutions are part of the government’s promise. This necessitates a civil service characterized by effective planning, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track progress, all within the context of an institutional environment driven by transparency, accountability and purpose. Presently, that is not the case in Liberia. Towards a Solution To improve the performance culture of the civil service, the government has requested UNDP to support the design of a performance management system that includes formulation of Performance Contracts for the President to sign with key public officials that have clear indicators and monitoring tools to improve and measure effective delivery of services; a tool to hold public officials accountable for the performance and delivery of services of their ministries. However, to really understand public services experiences among Liberian citizens, the introduction of performance contracts will be combined with the establishment of an online Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism. The citizens’ feedback mechanism which in essence is a database will, in a first phase, allow citizens from five pilot County Service Centres to report on public services experiences, which will generate extensive data and information about services quality or lack thereof. The Citizen Feedback Mechanism will also allow service users to report on their services experiences through simple, fast, and low-cost digital technologies, e.g., WhatsApp, text messaging, e-mails etc. Over time, the Citizen Feedback Mechanism will generate large quantities of data on service delivery which 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 (women, men, girls, boys). Such data will also provide evidence based information that will inform the performance of various ministries and agencies, and thus have an impact on the rating of the performance contracts. 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. The strength of this two-pronged approach is that it combines a top down ministerial performance contracting with a bottom up citizen feedback system. The President will improve accountability among key public officials by having them sign performance contracts that identify and commit to clearly defined annual targets along with indicators of success and monitoring tools to measure service delivery performance. The Citizen Feedback Mechanism, in turn, will generate large quantities of information and data on the quality of public services for the end user, which will inform the performance of various ministries and subsequently have a significant impact on the rating of the performance contracts. Some notable achievements of the initiative include:
  • A revised Cabinet Members’ Handbook and updated Cabinet Guidelines for Ministries Agencies and Commissions (MACs);
  • A Performance Manual for Cabinet Secretariats to enable effective follow up on the outcomes of Cabinet retreats, as well as decisions taken at regular meetings of the Cabinet;
  • Institutional systems improvements combined with capacity development initiatives that will enable Cabinet Secretariat staff to support MACs in an effective and evidence-based manner;
  • The outline of Performance Contracts signed between the President and high ranking public officials that strengthen accountable and effective ministerial delivery of essential services; and,
  • A Citizens’ Feedback Mechanism that will improve provision of public services to all Liberians, especially vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
A critical success factor is the very huge benefit the project can generate for citizens of Liberia in terms of improving service delivery in primarily sectors that everybody depends on such as education, healthcare and infrastructure services. Sustainability and expansion
  • This initiative is in direct response to a Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs request for UNDP support, signaling government buy-in and commitment at the highest level. It’s a fully demand driven initiative.
  • Following the initial introduction and training in performance contracting and operational management of the CFS database, the continuous operational costs are low.
  • Strong potential to scale up this initiative in a second phase when the performance contracting cascades down to include the majority of civil service employment categories.
  • As citizens with time note that their participation and reporting to the CFM is positively correlated to service delivery improvements their engagement will grow to encompass more citizens in geographically more widespread areas of Liberia and more and more sectors.
  • Moreover, civil service reform in combination with service delivery improvements are critical priority support areas among the most influential development partners in Liberia. As the initiative scales up, there will be ample scope for new and strengthened partnerships to be formed with key international partners
  Countries/territories involved: Liberia Supported by: UNDP Country Investment Facility Implementing entities: Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs Project Status: Ongoing Project Period: 2018-2019 URL to the practice: Contact information: Name                  James Monibah Title                     Team Leader, Governance Email address