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Audit Culture and Grassroots Participation in Rural Haitian Development



When implementing development projects and programs in the global south, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) seek to maximize project success and sustainability through the practical management of risk. In southern rural Haiti, efforts by NGOs and the Haitian state to minimize the corruption and political opportunism that pervade and jeopardize development activities have resulted in the implementation of an “audit culture,” in which community-based organizations (CBOs) must engage before partnering with NGOs in bringing development to their communities. Conjoined with neoliberal governmentality and known locally as the process of legalizasyon (legalization), the processes of audit culture represent techniques by which the objects of development and governance–local communities and the organizations that represent them–are made knowable and accountable to local government and transnational development authorities. Assumed to reduce the risks posed to development projects by local social environments, legalization shapes the meaning of “participation” and “bottom-up development” for actors engaged in development practice. Efforts to limit political opportunism and corruption in development result in the implicit depoliticizing of grassroots organizations, because NGOs avoid local groups whose “audits” reveal any “political” activity. This article concludes that the implementation of an audit culture in development represents a transition in government authoritative power from direct control and supervision to indirect power relations premised on new forms of bureaucracy.