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Does Rwanda Cook Numbers To Appease Itself?

Special Report

Does Rwanda Cook Numbers To Appease Itself?

Since 2007, Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) has been using two complementary tools to measure the levels of community satisfaction with regard to services rendered in different sectors such as agriculture, health, education and services. These tools are Citizen Report Card (CRC), which is broader because it gives the picture of the whole country, and published annually while the community scorecard is more localized and concretely looks at the issues raised by the people themselves.

According to RGB CEO, Prof Anastase Shyaka, the purpose of these tools is to provide public agencies and policy makers with feedback from the citizens on the quality and adequacy of public services delivered at the grassroots level.

They also give the people the freedom to express what they think should be improved or corrected.

Ten years down the line, should we conclude the tools have served any interest or not? Should we conclude they help government to improve or they are conducted and results buried in shelves?

Below, Taarifa Chief Editor Magnus Mazimpaka speaks to RGB CEO, Prof Anasthase Shyaka, in details.

Mazimpaka: You recently held a dialogue that is critical to national transformation. It encompasses one of the biggest tools of measuring how government delivers to the people. You said that it complements the citizen report card. Could you give details on how it complements the other tool?

Shyaka: Let me recall that both citizen report card and community scorecard are innovations by the government of Rwanda back in 2007 and 2008. Both innovations were created to fulfill the vision and aspiration of the country as a people-centered government; the centrality of people in our governance is paramount that time it has come to the mind of the government that actually there might be things that do not attract our attention; things happening locally but do not reach our attention immediately. So, they came as evidence-based tools to help the government fulfill that aspiration of being a pro-people government. A government that addresses issues, a government that has evidence of what is happening, a government that captures the aspirations of what the people themselves say is not working. Then, the next step is how do we make sure that what is wrong is corrected. That was the foundation of having those two tools. Now, how do they complement each other? The citizen report card is a satisfaction survey; it is a nationwide survey one of the biggest after the census. The purpose is to have a measurement, a barometer in different sectors of how the people express their satisfaction in different sectors that are very pertinent to their lives: agriculture, extension services and many other things like education, health, water and sanitation, economy and many of those different things. Today, we look at about between 10 and 15 sectors every year and we do it every year. So, that allows us to get the picture; it scans the country and gives you the picture as seen by the citizens in each and every district. Then we go back to those people and have an in-depth discussion about what the real issues are. When they say that they are not happy with agriculture, we say but what are the issues? If they mention issues about extension services like access to fertilizers or seeds we want to know what is happening and why it is happening and what can be done. Then, with the people through the community scorecard, citizens are engaged with local leaders to find a way forward. Sometimes, the community scorecard brings together the communities and they put the issues together in those different sectors and decide on which issues can be forwarded to the local authorities. They try to answer some of them with immediate effect. If there are others that they cannot address, they forward them to the higher authorities. In that sense, the two tools complement each other.

Mazimpaka: When it comes to service delivery and governance, which of the two stresses the need for improving government service delivery?

Shyaka: They both do but there are fundamental differences. Citizen report card is nationwide; we reach over 10000 houses, yet through citizen report card we reach between 200 and 400 households in each district. Community scorecard is being conducted in only eight districts and in two sectors within each and every district.

Mazimpaka: Do you feel the need to expand it as well?

Shyaka: If it is expanded, then it will be matching very well with the citizen report card which is also countrywide.

Mazimpaka: Which of the two is more complex?

Shyaka: Of course the citizen report card because it is research-based while the community scorecard is intervention-based; it is action-oriented. One is research-based another one is action-oriented. You have to keep in mind that actually they both come from the government and are created in the same package to address the same things. Ideally, if we should conduct citizen report card and get the scan, and use the community scorecard to have these issues addressed that will be the ideal, the vision of the government for creating those both tools was that one comes first, the other one comes to address issues that were raised in the citizen report card. But because the conduct of community scorecard is heavy -it is action-oriented, requires a lot of means, people and time- therefore that is why they are still doing it on a pilot basis. For the first year, when Rwanda Governance Board which at that time was Rwanda Governance Advisory Council, started conducting citizen report card, at some times we did it concomitantly but it was extremely heavy. It could take many months before we could finish the citizen report. So, the following year we were very happy that the partner institutions were willing to come in and do the scan of the country and we came with intervention using other non-governmental organizations. We thought it was part of synergy building so we saw that partnership as very healthy and we are looking forward to continuing to strengthen it to the betterment of the people.

Mazimpaka: Do you think these tools are required and that the government needs them?

Shyaka: Does every government have these kinds of tools? Absolutely not. Do governments across the globe operate the way? Absolutely no. Do governments fundamentally need to have a scan, barometer if how their people feel? Absolutely yes. But do they feel the necessity of doing it? Some yes, probably some no. But what we chose was that generating evidence in public policy is of paramount importance.

Mazimpaka: Whether the government is effective or not?

Shyaka: That is for Rwanda. I am sure that the question will be asked for a country that aspires to be effective at least. So, it is very important to have evidence of what is working and what is not working because if you do not have evidence, what are you going to address then? If you do not know, you will be hinting. Evidence is central.

Mazimpaka: For these tools to deliver substantial content that will help you make informed decisions what should be done and how much do you put in? How much effort in terms of resources and knowledge?

Shyaka: I think for citizen report card as I said, it is just a survey but the price of doing it is far less than the price of not doing it that you cannot even compare them. Because, when you do it, you have the scan of your districts. Maybe, it is not micro and you do not have cells. If you want to go into cells and sectors, maybe you can attempt. But actually, it gives us a scan at national level, provincial level and district level. For the community scorecard, they operate at cell level. You see, it is a micro-tool. CRC is a little bit macro; it is broader. The scope is a little bit different but I want to insist that the community scorecard is about intervention. You are now into action to resolve problems. Citizen report card puts issues on the map; it is a macro perspective.

Mazimpaka: I saw in the community scorecard report; one of the sectors that people are happy with is governance with almost 50 percent on issues raised surrounding governance issues. When they went back to see how these issues raised were fixed it was at 23 percent. Some were pending, others not resolved. Could you answer on this problem of 23 percent? And when discussions came during the dialogue, participants from the central government were feeling uncomfortable with this because they are policymakers; they are administrators of the central government. And then, those from the local government wanted some sort of agreement, actually that is where the problem lies. What is your observation?

Shyaka: My observation is very simple. Tools are important, but they might not necessarily be magic, in the way they bring solutions to issues. But what is very important is that we present findings in 5 categories: governance, infrastructure, water, health and education. In each of those categories, so and so percentage of issues that were raised in governance or infrastructure were addressed or are still pending but they are in progress. So and so percentage is still lagging behind or not yet answered. So, we depend on the nature of issues raised. Let me give you an example, if the issue raised in infrastructure is that there is no road connecting so and so village to so and so market or whatever village. It is very clear that the answer to that question will not come after they have seen the cell’s executive secretary; it is a decision that needs money. Or if they say that they do not have clean water it is not an issue that you can just address by going and seeing the cell or sector’s executive secretary; it depends. A deeper analysis shows that the issues raised may be much more complicated and require the intervention of other institutions and organs. But if the issue raised is that it is not clean around some umudugudu (village), we will then probably do umuganda (communal activity) and have the issue addressed. Those are the things. We need to look into those categories and anticipate for example, why some of the issues raised about governance were related to services or the way ‘Mutuelle de Santé’ is being administered. Those ones can be addressed easily but if you say you need a bridge, it might be very complicated.

Mazimpaka: Critics say the results of your findings are doctored, cooked, politically assigned to serve an interest…what is your take?

Shyaka: We people are extremely difficult. I don’t think I will satisfy all the divergent views. All I can tell you is that if there is a study that is evidence based, that is right, is the citizen report card.

Mazimpaka: Should we just believe what you are saying?

Shyaka: We don’t have any interest whosoever, to manipulate numbers. Those who say that, have  not read the citizen report card. It is a scan with a lot of reds (colour) in it, areas that things are not working, it exposes what people are not happy with.

Mazimpaka: But some institutions also say that your findings do not represent what is in their sector

Shayaka: Of course some institutions will come out to say ‘we are doing better than what is in the report.” There are sectors that perform 50%, others very well (+90%), but on a particular issue, it will go down. People say the citizen report card puts government in good light haven’t read it. Some people come to my office and they ask what we do, I say we measure governance and they say, “you are governmental? …”oh, that means everything is going to be green’. When I hand them a copy of the report, they see yellow, red and they ask, “and you are not yet imprisoned?”. I tell them we measure and wheat we get, what we see is what we put forward.

Below, we have numbers from the 2016 report.

 

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