Does Accountability Enhance Service Delivery? Assessment of a Local Scorecard Initiative in Uganda

Wil Hout*, Natascha Wagner, Binyam Afewerk Demena

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This article assesses whether the Local Government Council’s Scorecard Initiative, implemented in Uganda since 2009, achieved its intended impact of enhancing service delivery by providing information on the performance of local government. We analyse a district-level panel dataset (2005-2016) with administrative data, as well as Afrobarometer data on citizen perceptions (2005-2017). Empirically, we exploit the phasing in of the scorecard for a meticulous difference-in-difference framework with district-specific trends. The results show some small measurable impacts of the scorecard along the so-called ‘long route of accountability’ on public service delivery. Scorecard districts appear to spend less of their budgets in comparison with non-scorecard districts. This points to greater budgetary restraint of local government councils in scorecard districts. Although no direct impacts on service delivery can be detected, districts with more electoral competition in their constituencies perform better on one service-delivery indicator, the primary school leaving exam pass rate. Concomitantly, the scorecard impacts on perceptions of corruption, as citizens of scorecard districts perceive the local councillors as less corrupt compared to citizens of non-scorecard districts. This result can be interpreted as an indication of the trust-enhancing effect of government scorecards and civic engagement. Overall, our results provide a quantitative contribution to the literature on accountability by demonstrating that civil society reporting mechanisms about the performance of political representatives only trickle down slowly to improved services. The findings suggest that the sustained implementation of instruments to provide citizens with more information about their political representatives may have a positive impact on civil society perceptions as well as relevant political and policy outcomes. Like earlier research, we find that impacts also depend on political competitiveness, thus highlighting the positive role of democracy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106011
JournalWorld Development
Volume158
Early online date24 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jun 2022

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