The Value of PETS
Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys: Detecting Leakages in Public Service Delivery Chains
Posted by Francois Michel
The major argument of the World Development Report 2004 : Making services work for poor people was that developing public services is fundamental for achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals and, beyond, creating conditions for sustainable growth. In addition, the report convincingly showed that the issue was not only one of funding. In most sectors and developing countries, there is a weak association between spending and outputs—more money does not translate directly into better “front-line” services. Associating inputs with outcomes appears to be an even thornier issue.
Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys (PETS) are one of the tools developed by the World Bank to grapple with the issue, as Doris Voorbraak and Kai Kaiser (respectively Senior Public Sector Specialist and Senior Economist, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank) presented at an FAD seminar on December 20, 2007 (Download public_expenditure_tracking_surveys.ppt ).
PETS were introduced in 1996, and more than forty surveys have been conducted to date in 27 countries. Most of them were concentrated on the “transaction-intensive” health and education sectors (see for instance “Public Expenditure Tracking Surveys in Education”, Ritva Reinikka and Nathanael Smith, UNESCO). However, the framework was also successfully applied to other areas, such as fiscal sustainability (Honduras), transport, agriculture, rural development (Sierra Leone), and justice (Burundi). In addition to the World Bank Governance web site link above, the World Bank has other web sites on various aspects of PETS, including their value in Participation and Civic Engagement, and on Human Development and Service Delivery.
The PETS method consists in tracking the flow of public funds and other material resources from the central government level throughout the entire administrative structure down to the frontline service providers. PETS typically rely on sample surveys of various scopes to assess frontline services; for that reason, it can be conducted in conjunction with a Quantitative Service Delivery Survey (QSDS)—multi-pronged surveys of users of public services/households, firms, public officials and other stakleholders (NGOs, etc.), which permits triangulation of the results.
This tracking allows identifying gaps (and root “leakages”) between actual outputs in public services and executed levels of expenditures—cash leakages, in-kind leakages (e.g. textbooks, drugs), or absenteeism and ghost workers.
PETS can be designed to investigate specific issues: equity, transparency, adequacy, timeliness of resources, or regional disparities. Although the presence of leakages does not imply embezzlement, PETS represent a valuable tool to identify corruption (see the anti-corruption resource center website).