University students take monitoring into public high schools


Over the past 2 weeks, 98 public accounting students at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) visited 15 public high schools across the city of Belém to launch an unprecedented pilot program to monitor the quality of school lunches. Over the next 2 months, this team will train and support students in these schools to document the state of lunches on a daily basis using the Promise Tracker app.

The project is a collaboration between UFPA, the Ministry of Transparency, Supervision and the Comptroller General (CGU), and the Social Observatory of Belém to test new citizen feedback mechanisms to assess the provision of public services. School lunch has been a chronic challenge in Pará and across the country as diversion or misuse of funds for school nutrition has resulted in poor quality and in some cases absence of snacks and lunches for students.

Inspired by the success of public high school students in Santarém, who started using Promise Tracker to document the quality and consistency of school lunches in early 2016, the 3 groups started working with university students in August to explore how to bring the concept to Belém. Public accounting professor Lidiane Dias and CGU auditor Marcelo Morais de Paula conceived of the program as a way to connect the coursework of students studying fiscal accountability to the real world implications of whether goods and services make their way into the hands of citizens.

The data collected by high school students over the course of the 2-month pilot will be analyzed and integrated into a report to CGU and the project will be presented as a model for citizen feedback mechanisms that can support oversight of government spending and programs in other areas. We’re excited to hear from students at both the high school and university level about their experience and see what comes out of this initiative!