The Case of Jordan: Empowering Municipalities to Improve Public Service Delivery
Quick infusions of public services are usually a surefire way for local officials to increase their political capital. But pushing through reforms that spur longer-term economic development and strengthen community cohesion is often much harder to accomplish amid competing priorities.
In Jordan, USAID’s Cities Implementing Transparent Innovative and Effective Solutions (USAID CITIES) project is using a variety of tools to help municipalities throughout the Hashemite Kingdom implement cost effective, easily deployable solutions to build support for sustainable reform.
From sparsely populated towns to large urban centers, many of Jordan’s municipalities suffer from inadequate service delivery. Even in communities receiving basic services, supplying the greatest numbers of households may not be the priority. For instance, a road may be built primarily because of its proximity to an influential tribal member’s home. Conversely, some demands exceed what is feasible, such as a full-scale switch to solar energy production.
USAID is addressing these incongruities with tools adopted from successful USAID projects in other countries that rely on collaborative engagement of local community-based organizations in each municipality, as well as crucial citizen input. The project uses two tools to assess what resources and capacity currently exist in each of its target municipalities and what improvements could be made to services, initially without requiring additional resources. Among others, these include public works, social services, and records management. The first tool, a municipal institutional capacity assessment looks for gaps in material and human resources from all stakeholder perspectives, for example recognizing the legitimate constraints of staff in meeting their duties, which hinders efficiency. The second tool, an inclusive service delivery improvement plan, measures performance, standards, and indicators to streamline processes for service provision. The service delivery improvement plans are tailored to conditions in each municipality, such as poverty pockets, refugee influx, or historic marginalization. Service delivery improvement plans also reflect constraints in gender equality and provide strategies to enhance women’s empowerment, identify gaps in service indicators by sector, and achieve short- and long-term solutions to them.
In recent months at events in multiple municipalities across the country, registration booths for the joint decision-making sessions have seen a significant turnout of participants from a variety of professions, such as school teachers, social workers, housewives, farmers, engineers, and public-sector representatives. At the Al Khalidiyah Municipality planning session, Mayor Faraj Al Azazmeh told the audience, “This initiative is a reflection of His Majesty’s vision for local governance. The people are more familiar with their priorities and are more capable of determining their future.”
USAID is also getting the private sector involved. In the municipality of Ma’an, where the assessment and planning resulted in an immediate request from the mayor for 100 trash cans, the project facilitated negotiations with a private company, Shams Ma’an, to co-finance their purchase and delivery. Shams Ma’an also agreed to cooperate with USAID CITIES and the Greater Ma’an Municipality in other activities going forward.
USAID CITIES plans to continue moving forward with service delivery improvement plans to provide actionable recommendations and implementation plans for improved service delivery. The project is planning to complete service delivery improvement plans in its remaining 21 target municipalities in the coming months. In addition, USAID CITIES is working closely with municipalities to encourage more public-private partnerships to support shared goals that lead to tangible gains enjoyed by the community, the municipality, and the participating private sector partner. As more private companies find ways to engage in supporting their municipality and community, the possibilities for better services are limitless.
By Mark Grubb, Chief of Party, Jordan USAID CITIES Project and Todd Diamond, Chemonics International Project Director, Jordan USAID CITIES Project