Through the USAID-funded Transparent Accountable Local Governance (TALG) program (March 2005-September 2007), ICMA supported Sri Lanka’s transition to a successful democratic society through inclusive and peaceful approaches to politics and governance.
The prime contractor, The Asia Foundation, selected ICMA to help carry out its commitment to seeking, identifying, and supporting organizations and institutions in Sri Lanka that promote tolerance, transparency, and accountability, which it views as essential for lasting peace and prosperity.
Through TALG, ICMA provided technical assistance to help 35 local authorities make key political institutions more responsive to citizen input, improve the delivery of services to citizens, provide post-tsunami emergency recovery assistance, and increase the rule of law to protect and empower vulnerable groups. Key activities of the TALG program included:
- Providing training to improve overall service delivery in solid waste management, road maintenance, street lighting, and storm water drainage
- Providing financial management and budget training
- Facilitating the establishment of partnerships between Sri Lankan local authorities and communities
- Sharing innovative practices through symposium presentations, case studies, and networking
- Awarding sub-grants and contracts to local organizations
- Undertaking capacity building programs.
At the start of the program, ICMA surveyed participating local authorities to determine which areas of service delivery needed to be addressed most critically. When solid waste management was identified as the most pressing, ICMA developed and provided training on the collection, transportation, disposal, and reduction of solid waste. Through the training, local authorities learned how to identify service delivery needs, set service delivery goals, define and meet benchmarks, and reduce trash through composting. As a result, several partner local authorities redesigned their collection schedules and routes for greater efficiency.
ICMA also developed and disseminated a documentary on successful composting and recycling programs in Thailand that provided a model of low-cost recycling programs that communities in Sri Lanka began replicating.
ICMA developed modules and implemented training for all 35 partner local governments in computerization of financial systems, overall computer program techniques, creation of budgets and development of budget processes, financial reporting and reconciliation, enhancement of revenue collection methods, improvement of internal control and cash management techniques, and development of grantsmanship/donor relations. Through improved management practices, ICMA helped local authorities increase overall revenue sources and provide better services to citizens.
During the course of the program, two Sri Lankan cities were paired with a U.S. city in an ICMA CityLinks partnership. The cities of Anuradhapura and Kataragama were struggling with the impact of festivals and events that were planned in their communities by others. These events and festivals affected their ability to regulate traffic flow and crowds, handle solid waste, and ensure adequate water and sanitary facilities.
The city of Vancouver, Washington, served as a partner and mentor to help the two cities develop a collaborative process that involved stakeholders in decisions governing planning and implementation of these events. Vancouver also helped the cities develop strategies for enhancing local revenues and economic growth through tourism.
To facilitate its programmatic objectives, ICMA conducted assessments in the local governments and established a municipal development scale (MDS) to measure improvements over the course of the project. The scale was applied annually and served as a “report card” for measuring improvements in service delivery, financial management, rule of law, and citizen participation. The last application of the scale, in September 2006, showed a remarkable improvement in service delivery and revenue collection for partner localities.