How can resources affect sustainability?

The lack of funds is often referred to as the main constraint to the continuity of engagements. Sustainment of ambitious policies is then relegated to the periods in which they were originally set up, often as pilot projects. That results in wasted efforts and frustration from both SAIs and CSOs.

Identifying institutional commitment as the key to the development of participatory initiatives is essential. Without the trust and willingness of SAIs to advance citizen engagement, taking the first step would be impossible. Certainly, available resources will determine the scope of initiatives, but the scope is also affected by the enabling environment, among other factors.

Resources may affect sustainability of engagement initiatives in different ways, depending on the costs implied in the following:

  • Staff: salaries, training, enough personnel to undertake all tasks
  • Infrastructure: equipment needed to undertake the activities, systems that need to be updated

Systematic empirical information about the costs of adopting and implementing transparency and participatory mechanisms in SAIs is scarce. Some costs are frequently absorbed by the agencies’ budget, while other costs are sustained independently by other actors or civil society, sometimes with support from donors. Some mechanisms may involve substantive investments, such as the systematisation and digitalisation of information or developing of complex electronic platforms, and sometimes they involve the creation of new positions or offices. The investment should be assessed in terms of the reach and impact of the mechanism’s goals.

The most direct and immediate cost involved in the implementation of engagement mechanisms is the staff involved. Even the most basic mechanisms of transparency will require staff and staff time devoted to collecting, processing, digitalising and uploading information and documents. Adding the relevant tasks to an already burdened workload may become a stress on the SAI’s staff. More complex mechanisms will demand larger investments in personnel and time. This may involve the hiring or reassignment of staff, or even the creation of new positions and offices (such as specialised communication offices, or the Project Management Unit and Citizen Desk created in relation with Civic Participation Audits in the Philippines).

The acquisition of equipment (e.g., hardware to support online mechanisms and software to run them) may involve significant starting costs in some cases, as may the equipment, space and logistical tasks related to collaborative practices.

Source: OECD 2013

How to ensure sustainability

Thinking ahead is important when developing engagement initiatives. Plans must assess long-term actions, especially regarding generating links between institutional and social actors. An important step, therefore, is to draw on how citizen participation will be mainstreamed and state the forthcoming scope of activities once funding ceases.

Institutionalizing participatory policies entails commitment. Legal frameworks backing these initiatives can be helpful to ensure sustainability, but practices will not run smoothly unless commitment is supplemented by enough resources. Partners must at least be willing to keep in regular contact and create innovative solutions to address any lack of financial support.

Citizen participation can be cost effective in many ways:

  • Some mechanisms do not require further investment once they are set in motion. For example, developing a platform to receive citizens’ denouncements regarding possible fraud may entail considerable investment at the initial stage—to develop the system, learn how to use the tool, process data, and so forth—but it can then run smoothly provided similar resources—perhaps even fewer—are assigned.
  • When appointed representatives from SAIs and CSOs keep regular contact throughout policy implementation, they can unveil their expectations and set feasible objectives and strategies for the follow-up stage so that the lack of resources does not hinder sustainability.

Any comments? Please notify us here.


Reed, Q. (2013): “Maximising the efficiency and impact of Supreme Audit Institutions through engagement with other stakeholders”, U4 Issue Nº9, Bergen, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre - Chr. Michelsen Institute.

UNDP (2001): “Governance and Accountability: Progress Report on the Implementation of the Forum’s Eight Principles of Accountability and the Development of Best Practices for Legislatures”, Briefing Paper for FEMM meeting.

GIZ-INTOSAI (2013): Supreme Audit Institutions. Accountability for Development.

O'Meally, S. (2013): “Mapping Context for Social Accountability: A Resource Paper”, Social Development Department, Washington DC: The World Bank.

Velásquez Leal, L. F. (2012): “Manual: Good practices for approaching citizenship”, OLACEFS´ Commission on Citizen Participation.

Heifetz, R., Grashow, A. et al (2009): The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World, Boston, Harvard Business Press.

Contreras, M. (2013): “The World Bank Institute’s Leadership for Development Program”, Presentation Leadership 4D – Catalyzing Change, WBI.

Heifetz, R. A. (1994). Leadership Without Easy Answers. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Heifetz, R., Grashow, A. and Marty Linsky (2009): The Theory Behind the Practice. A Brief Introduction to the Adaptive Leadership Framework, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

Robert A. Neiman, “Execution Plain and Simple: Twelve Steps to Achieving Any Goal On Time and On Budget” 2004 pg. 105. Robert Neiman was a partner at Schaffer Consulting.

Osiche, Mark. “Applying Rapid Results Approach to Local Service Delivery: Emerging Issues, Lessons and Challenges from Nairobi City Council” in Local Governance & Development Journal Volume 2 Number 2, December 2008: pages 24-39.