Ghana Strengthening Social Accountability Mechanism (GSAM) final

Publication Date: 18/02/2020

USAID/Ghana contracted Social Impact, Inc. to conduct an impact evaluation of USAID’s Ghana Strengthening Accountability Mechanisms (GSAM) program, which aims to increase accountability of local District Assemblies in Ghana. This randomized-controlled trial, impact evaluation tests the effect of two distinct efforts to increase accountability and improve service delivery outcomes at the district level. One-hundred and fifty of Ghana’s districts were matched and randomized into one of three groups: a top-down treatment group that received performance audits conducted by the central government Ghana Audit Service (GAS); a bottom-up treatment group that received civil-society organization (CSO) led scorecard campaigns; and a control group that did not receive either intervention.
Through surveys with citizens, local administrators, and local politicians and through a review of administrative data, we find that both CSO and GAS programming generally reduce citizen satisfaction with projects and services, but this is largely driven by districts that receive negative audit reports. That citizens are correctly attributing bad audit performance to poor-performing DAs is encouraging from the point of view of accountability. This progress with citizens has not, however, translated into many substantial changes in how administrators or politicians manage projects or project budgets. Neither GAS nor CSO programming improve transparency or corruption. GAS programming does reduce the incidence of partisan manipulation of public resources by politicians, and it also increases the perception of partisan manipulation among administrators. This is consistent with GAS sensitizing administrators to partisan manipulation and reducing its actual incidence among DA politicians.
CSO programming increases citizen-reported consultation on recent development, and administrators in CSO districts spend, on average, three hours more responding to constituents. Reasons that the intervention did not have a stronger impact on district officials includes (1) natural limits to the number of citizens reached by the intervention, (2) limited district government capacity and frequent turnover, and (3) local government dependence on federal budget transfers.

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