There is a general perception in Pakistan that the federal government is responsible for addressing all public-related issues from education to health,from livelihood to security. This perception needs to be changed. In developed countries, it is the communities – local leadership and officials – that pushed the door of change at the grassroots level, enteringthat which opens the arena of progress and prosperity. That’s why we find very stable and sustainable systems functioning in European democracies, where people hardly go for protests and anti-government rallies for the solution of their local problems. In fact, local governmentsaround the world are considered to be the best mechanisms forachieving most of the development goals.In Pakistan, people usually talk of funds shortages, lack of expertise, and the government’s apathy towards their issues, which mainly relate to health, education, infrastructure, security,and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). All such problems can be solved by proper planning and budgeting of the development projectsat the local level, as well as by devising a foolproof strategy to implement such plans. However, the projects’ sustainability depends on their ownership in the long run.The appropriate channels that can play a vital role in this regard are community-based organizations, the officials concerned, and elected representatives,because only they know how to prioritize and implement the development projects in their respective areas and – as a follow-up – how the funds’ movement and tracking can be closely monitored. Public participation and monitoring of public sector financial activities at the grassroots level can be a milestone in reaping the maximum benefits of megaprojectsby making departments concerned accountable to common people.Capacity-building trainings and citizens’ involvement in financial activities at the district level can also build more confidence among the ignored majority.Currently, local governmentsare the only system in place in the country which can play a vital role inpublic service delivery,as the elected members are easily accessible to the communities; whereas provincial and federal government representatives have some broader level responsibilities,and cannot be effective in screening and streamlining of local issues. Sodistrict government representatives are said to be the ‘best available options’ who can play an effective role in achieving our development targets. What we need to do is tostrengthen and empower this channel for better results.In Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, a majority of elected representativesat local level are well-educated and eager to work for community welfare, but due to certain constraints and dependencyuponthe provincial governmentas well as the bureaucracy,they can hardly access the financial do’s and don’ts of the projects.Most are not even familiar with the procedures regarding how they can request, avail, and successfully execute funds for their proposed projects. This lack of informationcauseslapse – or misuse – of funds. Even in some areas, the cases of funds’ duplication in a single projecthave been witnessed.Another main reason for the improper use – or under-utilization – of funds is the complicated procedures and behavior ofpublic officers concerned. Comparatively, the social sector is more active and is the main stakeholder in social development, butit has limited fundsand is hence unable to playany substantial role.With minimum guidance, however, we can use this force for awareness and monitoring purposes. The third – and paramount – pillar of this process isthe accounts department.If the authorities concerned proactively trainall the above mentioned stakeholders in documentation of finances, communities can utilize funds and can easily complete their proposed projects without any failures.Public participation and monitoring of public sector financial activities, at the grassroots level, can be a milestone for reaping maximum benefits from megaprojectsRealizing the lack of coordination in these three sectors,the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)conducteda series of local budget formulationtraining and awareness programmes in two districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.The most suitable, active and efficient participants from three sectors – i.e. government officials, local government representatives, and local NGOs – were selected for training in the programme. After the completion of the project,now participants are ableto engage themselves in new projects, with activities including monitoring of funds, service delivery, and transparency.Further, they can ensure maximum citizen participation in the most important financial activities at the district level. Newlyestablished and registered forums are the key achievements of this project. These forums are registered under “The Societies Registration Act of 1860”,and consist of experienced and active participants from all of the three above mentioned sectors, who successfully completed all phases of this training. Now, on voluntary basis, these forums are further planning to work independently for greater civic participation, capacity building of communities,and to ensure maximum citizen participation in the budget-making process at the district level. The author is associated with www.sdpi.org Published in Daily Times, September 9th 2017.