Gaps in Pursuing Participatory Good Governance

Published date01 January 2014
Date01 January 2014
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17AF1g3KwzSAds/input 451891AAS46110.1177/0095399712451891Admini
stration & Society XX(X)Waheduzzaman and Mphande
© 2012 SAGE Publications
Administration & Society
2014, Vol. 46(1) 37 –69
Gaps in Pursuing
© The Author(s) 2012
DOI: 10.1177/0095399712451891
Participatory Good
Governance: Bangladesh

Waheduzzaman1 and
Charles H. B. Mphande1
The Government of Bangladesh with the help of international develop-
ment agencies has been trying to develop good governance through effec-
tive people’s participation with the aim of realizing effective outcomes from
aid-assisted development projects. This research was conducted to explore
how theories of people’s participation could be understood and adapted to
support effective implementation of development programs through good
governance in Bangladesh. Findings from case studies, including the inter-
views of different stakeholders responsible for ensuring participatory gov-
ernance, reveal that existing structural, conceptual, and cultural gaps hinder
the proper implementation and interpretation of the theory of participatory
governance in rural Bangladesh.
good governance, people’s participation, local government, public sector
1Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Waheduzzaman, School of Management and Information Systems, Victoria University, Footscray
Park Campus, Melbourne, Victoria 3011, Australia.

Administration & Society 46(1)
International development agencies and donor countries are demanding par-
ticipatory good governance in local government bodies in developing coun-
tries to maximize outcomes from development programs implementations
(Andrews, 2003; Doornbos, 2001; Santiso, 2003). The reasoning behind
such demand is that where there is good governance, “citizens and State
officials can interact to express their interest, exercise their rights and obliga-
tions, work out their differences and cooperate to produce public goods and
services” (Brinkerhoff & Goldsmith, 2005, p. 200). Thus, good governance
can ensure effective use of aid funds.1 Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary
General of the United Nations, once declared that “good governance is vital
for the protection of the rights of citizens and the advancement of economic
and social development” (Kim, Halligan, Cho, Oh, & Eikenberry, 2005, p. 647).
Moreover, countries with good governance are attractive locations for local
and foreign investments, which consequently promote economic growth and
reduce poverty (Aguilera & Cuervo-Cazurra, 2004).
Research has shown that people’s participation in local government
affairs increases the accountability of the authority and the transparency of
the works, which are, in turn, conducive to local good governance and sus-
tainable development (Hickey & Mohan, 2004; Sirker & Cosic, 2007). With
this assumption, governments of aid-recipient countries, such as Bangladesh,
have taken several initiatives through decentralization and reforms in the
governing system, particularly in the local government systems to ensure
good governance through people’s participation (Sarker, 2006; Siddiqui,
2005). The Government of Bangladesh has reformed local government insti-
tutions in rural areas and formed locally elected management and monitor-
ing committees to ensure direct people’s participation in local development
programs (Directorate of Primary Education, 1998; Local Government
Engineering Department [LGED], 2007). Ideally, through these commit-
tees,2 local people in Bangladesh ought to have opportunity to participate in
local development programs.
However, participation is not a one-sided event; it is a process that involves
service providers and service receivers (Gaventa, 2004). For instance, for
local people to participate in decision making, local government officials
need to have the attitude to involve local people in their decisions. Particularly
in developing countries, participation greatly depends on the activities and
attitudes of the elected representatives and government officials who are
working in local government institutions (Aminuzzaman, 2006; Bardhan,
2002). It is in consideration of such situations that the research reported here

Waheduzzaman and Mphande
set out to explore how the theoretical concepts of participatory governance
could be interpreted and adapted to the context for utilization and grounded
through various concerned stakeholders in rural Bangladesh, such as govern-
ment officials, public representatives, private sectors, and local citizens, to
ensure people’s engagement in local development programs. However, the
study did not intend to look at these networks at a macrolevel; rather the
interest is in exploring strategies at the microlevel. Six local government
development programs have been examined as a case study to see how well
all local stakeholders network to make participation effective, an outcome
that can establish elements of good governance, namely, accountability,
transparency, and predictability of development works.
People’s Participation in Local
Development Programs
In developing countries, the slogan of “people or community participation”
or “bottom–up approach” has been ushered into development programs
since the end of the 1990s by development partners who provide aid assis-
tance (Azmat, Alam, & Coghill, 2009; Khwaja, 2004; Parker & Gould,
1999). In fact, people’s participation, together with good governance, have
been introduced as the vital elements in achieving effective outcomes of
aid assistance in developing countries (Cornwall, 2004; Johnson, 2001;
Lange, 2008). In regard to the efficacy attributed to these two elements,
there is consensus between social researchers and donors; they stipulate
that good governance can be achieved by incorporating the community’s
knowledge into their social and political life (Gaventa, 2002; Lowndes &
Wilson, 2001). This local knowledge helps to find the best use of project
funds. To this end, Gaventa (2004) argues that “a first key challenge for the
21st century is the construction of new relationships between ordinary
people and the institutions—especially those of government—which affect
their lives” (p. 25).
In explaining the above concept of “development through participation,”
researchers have stated that now local governance is not a single actor’s
function. It is a pluralistic function and more definitely it is a local people-
led function, which can be termed as community governance (Carley, 2006;
Rhodes, 1997; Sullivan, 2001). Evans (2010) points out that in a strong
democracy, “the public administrator’s role undergoes a transition from
expert to enabler. The citizen’s role undergoes a transition as well, from pas-
sive observer to active participant” (p. 877). Empirical evidence suggests
that community participation is an “unqualified good” in terms of project

Administration & Society 46(1)
outcomes and sustainability (Isham, Narayan, & Pritchett, 1995; Khwaja,
2004, p. 428). For example, a model project of participatory budgeting at a
village level in Sirajganj District of Bangladesh, assisted and run by the
United Nations Development Program (UNDP), demonstrates that partici-
pation processes could ensure accountability of service providers, increase
transparency of works, reduce project costs, and reduce corruption during
implementation of local development projects (Sarker & Hassan, 2010).
Similarly, analysis of a community-driven project in Jamaica, assisted by the
World Bank, found out that project outcomes bring more customer satisfac-
tion as well as develop trust between service providers and service receivers
(Rao & Ibáñez, 2005). Based on analyses of community-driven projects,
Khwaja (2004) asserts that development works without people’s participa-
tion fail to alleviate poverty and “suffer from a lack of sustainability” (p. 427).
In recognition of the ramifications of nonparticipation of local communities’
results, international aid agencies such as the World Bank have introduced
poverty reduction strategies in developing countries that are driven by a
participatory philosophy (Eversole, McNeish, & Cimadamore, 2006). It is
on record that aid assistance by the World Bank for community-driven
development projects has risen from $325 million in 1996 to $2 billion in
2003 (Mansuri & Rao, 2004). These data thus indicates a growing trend of
aid support in recognition of serious attempts to institutionalize people’s
participation. However, the question remains as to how effective the partici-
pation is. As such, research to establish effectiveness or indeed institutional-
ization of participation is desirable.
There is a general consensus in the literature that “citizen engagement is
critical” for effective development and public service delivery (Jones,
Hackney, & Irani, 2007, p. 148), particularly for the developing countries
(Fung & Wright, 2001). In this regard, effective development means develop-
ment that will come under productive use by the maximum populace or the
highest number of users (World Bank, 1996). It is observed that initiatives for
direct participation of people in many developing countries have gained
momentum recently when elected representatives in those countries were
seen to have failed to fully represent the grassroots in local development
programs (Manowong & Ogunlana, 2006; Parent, Vandebeek, & Gemino,
2004; Tosun, 2000). It is...

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