Multi- tier monitoring of infrastructure: top down and bottom up H A T . T . V U AND ROBERT D . EBEL
Introduction There is a robust literature on how a nation’s infrastructure can promote economic growth, further the goal of poverty reduction, facilitate movement of people and goods, provide energy where it is needed, and improve a nation’s health.1 The literature also attests that although due to their varying starting points of their systems of public financial management that different countries go about the infrastructure process differently, there is also a common feature among countries in that the delivery of infrastructure services is inherently intergovernmental or “multi-tier.” These twin messages fit the topic of this chapter: the monitoring of (decentralized) infrastructure assets that provide a range of services designed to meet basic, but at the same time, varied and social and economic needs in a manner that addresses a multiplicity of stakeholder interests (Bird, 1994; NRC, 1995). Richard M. Bird frames decentralizing infrastructure theme by posing several questions: Which type of organization will design, build, finance, and eventually own an infrastructure project? Will that organization be a general or special purpose government, a regional public entity, a state enterprise or other agency reporting to government(s), a privately regulated instrumentality, or a donor? And, once those questions are addressed, who will then be accountable for monitoring the capital asset and who will the monitoring agent be accountable to? Once the monitoring accountability links are established, how is that monitoring to be documented or measured? Is infrastructure monitoring about tracking facilities maintenance (inputs)? Measuring a flow of services (outputs)? Or an assessment of a project’s social and economic benefits and costs (outcomes) (Bird, 1994)? Or all of these? And, are decentralized agents capable of carrying out the monitoring task? If not all, then which monitoring task(s) are they capable of undertaking and what is the practice? The focus of this chapter is on the last set of these questions-that of the capacity and the practice of decentralized infrastructure monitoring. The experience and practice of low, middle, and high income countries alike is considered. The chapter is organized as follows: the next section defines how infrastructure is defined for purposes here, and then proceeds to discuss how
the monitoring of infrastructure fits into the broader activity of decentralized infrastructure management. The third section then lays out some of the “preconditions” for effective decentralized monitoring of infrastructure, leading to the conclusion that for many developing countries these pre-conditions are not satisfied and, thus, why in order to make useful statements about decentralized monitoring of infrastructure one turns to specific case studies for lessons learned from current practice. Accordingly, the fourth section focuses on a mix of illustrative country practices on governmental monitoring of infrastructure that serve to reinforce the conventional view that though there are core lessons common to all intergovernmental societies, there is no single “best” approach since each country faces different starting and end points to which they aspire (Thomas, 2006: 3). The fifth section reviews selected nongovernmental and civil society role in what the chapter labels as decentralized “bottom up” monitoring. Concluding comments are provided in the final section.