Can financial incentives increase good governance in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

by 31st Jul 2013
CARE DRC Food Security Manager, Joseph Kakuru, talks with displaced people in Rubaya Camp, DRC. © CARE / Jake Lyell 2013 CARE DRC Food Security Manager, Joseph Kakuru, talks with displaced people in Rubaya Camp, DRC. © CARE / Jake Lyell 2013

The Department for International Development’s (DFID’s) largest community reconstruction programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is rewarding the four best performing councils in the region of Maniema more than $100,000 of investment to part fund their own development plans. Can this work and how can the potential pitfalls be avoided?

Transparency International puts the DRC in 168th position out of 183 in its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. The predatory nature of the state, its inability to provide basic services to the people, and a weak or absent relationship between citizens and duty bearers are just some of the factors recognised as holding the country back and helping to fuel conflict.

Recognising these challenges, CARE International (CARE) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) are implementing phase 2 of a $60m community reconstruction programme with DFID, called Tuungane, that is seeking to take a different approach to traditional governance work. As with all NGO governance programmes, the project rightly focuses on increasing the demand for services by mobilising communities and leaders to develop local development plans (something phase 1 focussed exclusively on – see this DFID blog for more on it’s impacts).

Phase 2 is building on this by also addressing the supply of governance from the state to the citizens, by training potential councillors at the district level to engage with communities. If all goes well with the passing of the decentralisation law in 2013 (currently stalled) this will be the lowest level of state authority directly elected by the population. However, what is really different about this programme is that the district councils are being offered the carrot of financial incentives to encourage them to perform. The programme will invest most of its time and resources on rewarding the four best performing councils in the region of Maniema – who will stand to gain more than $100,000 of investment to part fund the development plans created through this process.

Ensuring Conflict Sensitivity

There are obvious challenges with this approach. Clear communication, transparency and engagement are essential at all levels to manage the tensions than can arise where groups are perceived as winners and losers, and training continues with the councils that have not been selected. However, in order to change deep rooted systems of patronage and incentives unrelated to serving the people, new incentives have to be offered that equal or better the benefits that would be derived from a rent seeking structure. With a community score card system in place for local people to express their views, and a central focus on evaluation and learning, time will tell whether this model has made a difference in building stronger and more effective relationships between the state and the people in the DRC.

Paul-André Wilton

Paul-André was formerly Senior Policy Advisor (Conflict and Humanitarian) for CARE International UK. He led CARE International UK’s policy analysis and advocacy around resilient markets, livelihoods and jobs within the overall humanitarian advocacy area. He also shared responsibility for delivering gender, peace and security humanitarian advocacy on emergencies.

Before CARE he worked for peacebuilding and democratisation organisations, and lived in West and East Africa. Previously he worked in the education sector teaching English for five years to students of all ages in Spain and the UK. He holds an Msc in Global Politics from Birkbeck, University of London.

One good thing I’ve read

I really enjoyed Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson for the fascinating discussion and examples of how fragility and institutions interact over time. I would also recommend The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith as an excellent and necessary sweep through the history since decolonisation and independence on the continent. In one of my first jobs we used to give it to each intern on their departure, as invariably it filled huge gaps in their knowledge, as it had done for me

Twitter: @PA_Wilton