- Monitoring spending can reduce leakages and corruption in infrastructure spending. However, monitoring is difficult in conflict-ridden countries where government is weak.
- We evaluated a Community Based Monitoring programme, which enlisted local volunteers to monitor the quality of rural road construction adjoining their villages. Road quality was measured independently by separately trained Afghan technical teams.
- Local monitors substantially improved road quality, providing roads which were better able to withstand severe Afghan winters. Monitoring is primarily effective due to the technical training monitors received, which complemented self-mobilisation of their communities, rather than due to formal accountability through recourse to government officials.
- Community Based Monitoring programmes could provide a means of compensating for weak legal and regulatory institutions and for overcoming the challenges to oversight posed by violence and instability.
In 2011-2013, we implemented a randomised evaluation of a Community Based Monitoring (CBM) intervention to reduce leakage of funds in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. The programme enlisted volunteers from local villages to monitor the quality of rural road construction adjoining their villages. CBM was implemented by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, (IWA) an Afghan non-governmental organisation that works to increase transparency, integrity and accountability.
An assessment of road quality conducted by engineers in 2013 revealed that for roads constructed in 2011-12, roads where all villages were treated experienced 75% greater improvement than roads which where no villages received the intervention. This indicates that there has been substantial leakage of funds in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. It also suggests that CBM might be effective in compensating for weak government. Interviews with villagers found that community mobilisation and the technical skills monitors gained were more important than the formal structures of the IWA in improving road quality.
Another assessment of road quality in 2015 found that roads with community monitors remained good even three years later. Roads that initially did not have monitors eventually caught up. This is likely to be because of spillover effects of the treatment, including the spread of technical knowledge.
Following our study, the Government of Afghanistan has shown interest in funding the IWA.