Reply: Organizations are forced to spend money on consultants

With the report "Who is Responsible", we want to focus on donors' excessive control and scrutiny systems in civil society support, which risk counteracting the ambitions to strengthen civil society, promote the development of democracy and fight poverty. Arne Zetterström's reply seems to be about support for governments, which our report is not about. It writes Maj Lis Follér, associate professor at the University of Gothenburg

Thanks for your Post, Arne Zetterström. I agree with you that the National Audit Office's work to strengthen the recipient country's own institutions is important. This is a long-term work that promotes the country's own capacity, and that double control systems are not created that are based solely on the donors' requirements. During one of my visits to Mozambique in 2010, I interviewed a Brazilian lawyer who worked at the Tribunal Administrativo (Administrative Court) in a SIDA-supported project. He told how they worked to build a consistent and functioning audit system for government institutions as well.

In our report, we only describe aid to civil society. My impression is that you are talking about aid in the form of support for the government. With regard to support for civil society, it is of course important that the assistance ends up right and when those for whom it is intended, ie in this case in the work to fight HIV / AIDS. And this is where we want a debate on governance mechanisms in terms of application systems and reporting, which take up too much of the organizations' time and that this gives less time to work with what they want - different forms of supporting AIDS patients and their families.

During my stay in Mozambique, as the report shows, I conducted some thirty interviews with various civil society organizations. In addition to Maputo, I had the opportunity to visit Lichinga, Beira, Xai-Xai and Chókwè to interview local organizations that worked with HIV / AIDS. In Lichinga, the representatives of the children's rights organization ACABE told about how they fought to get funds and to write a strategic plan that fell on the lips of the donors. They wanted money to be able to hire a consultant to write their strategic plan. I heard this many times in my interviews that representatives of different organizations want to learn how to write applications. They often came back to the fact that they needed help with writing applications, strategic plans and managing the finances.

Our guest from South Africa, who attended our Policy Dialogue seminar at the SIDA office in Stockholm, is the head of an 'intermediary' organization in Durban. She told how they need to hire expensive consultants and well-trained economists to manage accounting for donors. And that different donors have different forms and systems for reporting, which makes the process time-consuming. She said that this consumes a large part of their finances and too little money is left to pay the employees in the countryside who work with the projects for which the grant is intended, ie support for AIDS sufferers in various forms.

I also interviewed several international organizations outside Maputo, among others in Xai-Xai I visited World Vision, ICAP, Pathfinders, and others. I was confirmed that international and national organizations in rural areas often collaborated on various projects at the grassroots level. The difference was that the international organizations did not have to deal with administration in the same way as the national ones, they received support and backing from the head office in many cases in the USA or Europe. This is what worries us and which we want to highlight in our research. Donors often emphasize that they want to strengthen national and local civil society, promote the development of democracy and work to combat poverty. But if it does not work due to too strict control and a lot of bureaucracy and administration - then we do not have to think about. My impression was that the international organizations do a good job in the villages, but that does not strengthen civil society and their organizations. How can we strengthen civil society so that it becomes less aid-dependent and not, as we have seen in our research, that representatives of national civil society get stuck in their offices and are flooded with forms that must be filled in and reported. It is this discussion we want to focus on - an excessive system of control and scrutiny that does not benefit civil society.

As you point out in your post, it is important to strengthen institutions in order to develop a democratic and well-functioning society. An important component of this work is a strong civil society that acts as a means of pressure on the state and with a 'watch dog' function at various levels in society.

Maj-Lis Follér (who worked on the report "Who is Responsible? Donor-civil society partnerships and the case of HIV / AIDS work”Together with Håkan Thörn, Christoph Haug and Beniamin Knutsson) all from the University of Gothenburg.

This is a reply to Arne Zetterström's reply "Donors must set high standards”(2 / 12-13)

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

Do you also want to write a debate article for Uttvecklingsmagasinet? Contact us at

Share this: