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Opinions of Thursday, 8 October 2015

Columnist: Samuel Koomson

Media as social accountability tool

Opinion Opinion

The media acts as a mechanism of social accountability by providing a forum for debate for a plurality of actors to establish who should be held accountable, what they should be held accountable for, and how they should be held accountable.

Broadly defined, accountability is the obligation of power-holders to take responsibility for their actions. It describes the dynamics of rights and responsibilities that exist between people and the institutions that have an impact on their lives, in particular, the relationship between the duties of the state and the entitlements of citizens.

The World Bank defines social accountability in a publication in 2004 as an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, i.e., in which it is ordinary citizens and/or civil society organisations who participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability.

It is a contract between a responsive and accountable state and responsible and active citizens in which the interests of the poorest and most marginal are taken into account.

Over the past decade, many international development actors have used social accountability initiatives as their preferred route for reinforcing this construct.
Since the society or citizens are the immediate beneficiaries of projects and programmes implemented by duty bearers, they are the only people who can judge whether projects undertaken meet or address their intended needs on a timely basis.

It is for this reason that the Social Accountability Units of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has tasked the Central Region Media Network (C-Media Network) to create a platform for Ghanaians (who are the tax payers)to demand accountability from duty bearers in their various metropolitan and municipal assemblies.

Radio talk shows at Nkwa FM, Radio Central, Coastal TV, Cape FM, Radio Peace, and Radio Windy Bay were used to educate Ghanaians on the need to demand accountability peacefully from their local leaders. In addition, Information Services Department (ISD) van was a useful tool to get this information to the local folks in the communities.

Tax payers were educated on the Assembly Budget Processes and also encouraged to participate in Assembly Budget Hearings, Assembly Sittings and Town Hall Meetings so that their views could be heard.

In addition, they were stimulated to get involved in key local governance activities such as local assembly elections and the National Sanitation Days. The sensitisation started in August and ended in September, 2015.

The writer is an officer at ISD and Secretary to the C-Media Network.
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