Mongolia is a vast country, with a population density of 2 people per every square kilometre, so the delivery of public services is often a tricky game.
Delivering better outcomes in health and education, particularly for the most vulnerable citizens, is a perennial concern, both in the capital Ulaanbaatar, which accounts for nearly 40% of Mongolia’s population, and the aimags (provinces) beyond.
The problem is particularly severe in the ger areas (where people live in yurts), once considered to be temporary settlements but now home to an increasing population.
We hope to improve public services by giving citizens a great say in the decision-making processes. This is why the Government of Mongolia, civil society partners, the World Bank and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation have launched a plan to target support for poor and vulnerable sub-segments of Mongolian society.
We have two main objectives with the Mainstreaming Social Accountability in Mongolia project. First is to build the capacity of civil society and citizens to help them engage. Second is to support the installation of permanent mechanisms that sustain this initiative – from the publication of data to mechanisms that include citizen feedback in policymaking.
We have selected ten villages across Mongolia to try things out. One village conducted an audit of key processes in education and healthcare. They found that the healthcare procurement system was inefficient, and advised on a new bidding process. For example, pharmaceutical procurement now requires a group of independent experts to sign off large purchases, ensuring less room for corruption and saving 10% of the estimated budget already.
We have also improved feedback management across the country. For example, the Ministry of Health discovered low moral and mistreatment of medical staff, and so villages were encouraged to adopt action plans to improve this.
Helping the vulnerable
New village feedback mechanisms have helped to spot gaps in the system. For example, we discovered that 7,000 temporary residents in Khuvsgul were not receiving basic healthcare, and once included in the system, enabled us to fight tuberculosis. Satisfaction in healthcare increased by 28% in just three months!
These are just a few small examples of how together governments, civil society, and citizens can produce better and more equitable development outcomes when they work together.
Hopefully as the results and the lessons from these micro-projects are consolidated, policy changes at local and national levels will ensure that joint-problem becomes the norm – rather than the exception.
More information on the project can be found here: http://www.irgen-tur.mn/en/what-is-masam
This article was published in partnership with the Open Government Partnership.
The authors: Munkh-Erdene Dambajav is in the Cabinet Secretariat of the Government of Mongolia; Amarbayasgalan Dorj and Kristina Aquino are in the Governance Practice of the World Bank Group.