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Can Community Monitoring
Improve the Accountability
of Public Officials?
Farzana Afridi

This article discusses the
nature and characteristics of
monitoring the National Rural
Employment Guarantee Scheme’s
implementation with a focus
on the community control
mechanisms existing in the two
pioneering states of Rajasthan
and Andhra Pradesh. These two
states represent two relatively
diverse models. Elements of both
models need to be incorporated
in order to make the process
of community control of
public programmes effective
and sustainable.

The author is grateful to Karuna Akella, Jean
Dreze, Nikhil Dey, Sudhir Nath, K Raju, Aruna
Roy and Sujata Visaria for fruitful discussions.
The views expressed here are those of the
author alone and should not be ascribed to the
AP government, the MKSS or any of the
individuals acknowledged.
Farzana Afridi ( is
with the Economics Department, Syracuse
University, New York.
Economic & Political Weekly  EPW   october 18, 2008


ublic programmes in most developing countries are notorious for b­ ing ineffective due to rampant
corruption. One of the oft-emphasised
mechanisms whereby they can be made
effectual is of giving control to local communities in the implementation and monitoring of such schemes. However, evidence on the effectiveness of community control
in improving the delivery of public goods
and services in developing countries is
conflicting. Some recent studies suggest
that community monitoring of public programmes can have only a small or insignificant impact on reducing corruption or i­ proving the accountability of public
o­ ficials [Banerjee, Deaton and Duflo
2004; Olken 2007]. This is likely to be the
case when the threat of legal punishment
of e­ rant public officials by the community
is not credible or there are free-riders due
to the public nature of the goods or
s­ rvices being monitored. In addition
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