Follow The Money is strategically decentralizing its operational structures to allow zonal champions to own the vision and encourage massive volunteer recruitment at the community level. To achieve this, the management of CODE organized a one day “zonal convening” for its FTM state leads in the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria.
The sessions were designed to review challenges of lack of access to information and other issues that are peculiar to each region, compile success stories and develop strategic plans. These are efforts to strengthen the capacity of regional/state leads and FTM champions to be able to drive the vision of the initiative and achieve needed results with focus on FTM’s Theory of Change.
The Capacity-building session with CODE’s Community Engagement Director, Busayo Morakinyo, set the tone for understanding CODE’s value and service delivery to her constituencies. “One of the goals of the organization is to strengthen the capacity of her state and local champions and help them grow to be able to demand transparency and accountability from the government.” Mr Morakinyo also emphasised the importance of participatory community mobilization and facilitating information sharing through community champions.
Topics on government data-mining, budget reviews and policy formulations were also discussed. The need for strong collaboration and partnership with community-based associations, youth groups, and community leaders using advocacy, to strengthen community engagement.
Participants also learnt about funding, idea generation, using social media as an advocacy tool to drive change and mobilising citizens.
In October 2017, CODE commenced tracking government and international aid spending in Northern Nigeria, with particular focus on first-mile healthcare delivery and infrastructural provision for universal basic education.
We were on a mission to advance economic governance and promote transparency and accountability at State and Local levels in Nigeria. Our team empowered 84 communities in Yobe, Kano, Plateau, Borno, Kaduna and Adamawa states with information, data and knowledge to engage their elected government representatives on funds earmarked for capital projects in their communities. At the end of the project duration, we had tracked NGN 523,743,810 (USD 1,454,843.92) and impacted 1,276,780 people.
To ensure community ownership of the Follow The Money model, we organised community gatherings in Yobe, Adamawa, Borno, Plateau and Kano States, hosting community leaders, CBOs, religious leaders, SBMCs and PTA members, women leaders, youth leaders, other local groups, and local media organizations from an estimated 40 communities across the 5 states respectively. Over the course of the project cycle, we discovered a large vacuum in information sharing by the government, low compliance to the Freedom of Information Act, non-inclusion of community governance structures in project implementation, discrepancies across project sites and low citizens participation in governance processes.
The picture of basic public service for the average person in Nigeria is bleak.
Every year, the Nigerian government budgets millions of naira on constituency projects, yet there is little to show for the improvement of public service delivery. A large portion of the budget (which funds sectors like healthcare, education, youth employment, etc) is believed to be syphoned by corrupt government officials, creating a huge trust gap and leading to citizens apathy. How taxpayer’s naira is actually being spent is a large mystery. The average citizen has very little visibility into where taxpayer money is going.
This situation has prompted a new look at the role of trust, as well as its relationship with governance and ways of restoring and rebuilding trust in different contexts.
Trust is the mechanism that makes society thrive. Nigeria’s institutions are suffering from a sharp decline in public trust. In times of disconnect and distrust between citizens and governments, the importance of trust is only increasing. But can we truly reach it? How can governments interact better with their constituents?
The event sparked deeper conversations about the culture of mistrust in the Nigerian system built over decades and began a conversation on charting a way forward to rebuilding trust in government institutions.
Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe
Senior Program Officer, MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Amina Salihu
Board Member, Ministry of Finance, Dr. Joe Abba
Investigative Journalist, Mr Fisayo Soyombo
CODE’s Chief Executive, Mallam Hamzat Lawal.
The Webinar was moderated by Kevwe Oghide, CODE’s Communications Lead (CODE).
Quotes from Speakers:
Dr Hadiza Balarabe: (the role of Government)
The issue of trust in public institutions is not peculiar to Nigeria alone as many countries around the world are also under pressure to meet rising citizens expectations. She however stated that the Kaduna Government has rebuilt trust by providing functioning primary healthcare centres, laying-off incompetent teachers and revamping the education system in the State. She noted that signing up with the Open Government Partnership has also fostered the state’s culture of transparency and accountability.
Dr Balarabe noted that trust has been rebuilt because young people are at the fore-front of industrialisation in Kaduna State and they have been delivering enormously for the State. Adding that because of the level of trust built, Kaduna has attracted over $500,000 in investment. Kaduna also publishes her annual audit report yearly, organises town hall meetings to get feedback from the people.
The impression that citizens have of government officials keeping public funds for themselves is quite unfortunate. In Kaduna, we are trying to dispel this misconception by reforming the public sector, and entrencingh merit in our recruitment process of public officials.
“We will continue to restore confidence and rebuild this trust in our people by committing to being reliable, responsive, transparent and having better regulations.
Dr Amina Salihu (on the role of Civil Society)
Trust is earned as a result of being accountable, responsive and capable and civil society organisations are strategic pathfinders who need to enable citizens to recognise their right to access basic needs and improved public services and how they can use their voice and actions to drive change.
On the role of citizens; Citizens have a role to play by not being cynical when actual progress is being made, paying attention to politics, participating, rejigging our federalism and changing the electoral system. “We need to give a lot more chances to women and expand the space to change how Government is structured.
Dr Joe Abah (on the role of citizens and other issues):
The decline in trust is traceable to a number of things and reasons, and issues like the current corruption allegations in NDDC awarding billions to themselves in so called COVID- palliatives will continue to dispel public trust.
He opined that leaders must take initiative, rise to the occasion of responsibility and show examples for people to start believing in the system, stressing that there is the need for public officials to openly declare their assets.
Government constantly going against its laws and policies is a breach of trust. For example; the recovered funds from Abacha loots were shared without a clear identification database where citizens can see how it was being shared.. What’s worse is that it was shared in cash which goes against the government’s rules on cashless banking.
On the role of the citizens in building trust,; “You can only rebuild trust by trusting, it is important for citizens to hold the government accountable and monitor them. Even if you don’t trust the government, we need to continue to engage and also put in mechanisms to make it difficult for people to breach trust”.
Mr Fisayo Soyombo: On the role of the media
Although the media has a huge responsibility to play, the Government has the bulk of the job. He added that people who want trust have to earn it.
Most of the things that we consume as news are actually PR. This shows that journalists are being manipulated especially because they are not well paid. Government must be responsible for providing better governance, the media must ensure that public institutions are not deceiving citizens by engaging more investigative reporting. While stressing the need for more investigative reporting, he called on the public to support good journalism especially with funding. “If we want a media that is more alive, people have to support good journalism.” He also encouraged journalists to be objective in their reports.
He noted that we need a value-reorientation in this country.
In 2019, what we learnt engaging government MDAs post elections informed our overall objective at Connected Development (CODE), which was to begin a campaign that was intended to increase trust among citizens and government. CODE’s strategy was to create platforms for informed debate between public institutions and citizens and also advocate for more government agencies to leverage digital communications to foster trust, increase transparency and ensure better accountability. This has led us to organise this conference that seeks to increase conversations and raise citizens and government’s consciousness towards rebuilding trust.
Kevwe Oghide, Moderator’s Conclusion based on Deliberation:
Building Stronger institutions ultimately increases trust and When trust is higher, behaviours become more constructive; people are more willing to cooperate and support government’s initiatives.
We therefore need to consider how development goals can be achieved when systems work and faith in institutions increases. There is a role for everyone in rebuilding trust and we hope that this conversation can snowball into bigger discussions in smaller or larger groups so people can consciously think about trust – in their interactions with the society and their role in building it, trust is key.
It may not be a total cure; transparent and accountable governance offers a glimmer of hope against the flood of public mistrust. Constant communication has the possibility of opening public institutions to greater public understanding and appreciation.
It’s been an interesting year already for the Follow The Money (FTM) Movement. In January, we officially launched in The New Gambia. In the following month, we were in Kenya to do the same. All with the goal of spreading the adaptation of the FTM model across the continent so that citizens can hold their governments to account and facilitate development in their communities.
After weeks of planning and strategizing, the team were in Nairobi, Kenya on 10 February 2018 for Follow The Money Kenya Workshop and Launch, through a partnership with the Slums Information Development and Resource Centres (SIDAREC) – a youth/children development project operating in the slums of Nairobi. SIDAREC playing a host to Follow The Money Kenya won the ONE Africa Award in 2008, for her rigorous development driven activities in Kenyan slums, just like we won the same award 8 years later.
The workshop which started by 11 am on the aforementioned date was attended by over 100 participants. In participation included the Chief Executive of Connected Development, Hamzat B Lawal; Executive Director of SIDAREC, Lucy Mukami; Member of Imara Daima County Assembly, Hon. Ken Obuya; and a cross section of other stakeholders in community development and open government work. It was held at SIDAREC office at Imara Daima and was geared toward building the capacity of the participants on the FTM processes, for domestication in Kenya. The sessions in the workshop ranged from taking them through Follow The Money workflow; data mining to activate campaigns; how to leverage on information sharing partnerships to access and amplify information; the procedure for organizing community outreach and town hall meetings; as well as a discussion on the political economy of open government in Kenya and operationalization of Article 35 (Access to Information provision in the Kenyan 2010 Constitution).
While making a presentation at the workshop
Other side attractions during our visit to Kenya included a community outreach to Mukuru kwa Njenga Slum and a radio programme on citizen engagement, active citizenry and social accountability on 99.9 Ghetto FM – a community mobilization signature of SIDAREC.
The most important aspect of the launch/workshop was that it was held in a community/slum away from being held in an extravagant hotel in Nairobi, a traditional fashion exhibited by some organizations, in a way to unintentionally mainstream the development buzz malcontents. Doing this in a community we believe will strengthen local ownership of the initiative. In addition, a Member of County Assembly was in participation committing to facilitating government spending data availability as concerns the Ward Development Fund, County Development Fund etc.
At the end of the workshop, Follow The Money Kenya was officially commissioned. Its hoped that all things being equal, the Kenya Chapter will leverage on several social accountability tools already existing in the country such as access to information provision in the constitution to hit the ground running, identifying potential funds intended for communities and deploying the FTM strategies to make sure open government and service delivery work in Kenyan communities.
Kenya’s multi-party democracy realization journey was a back-breaking one and it’s believed Follow The Money Kenya will ensure the achievement of democracy dividends; hold elected public officials to account; and be a tool for checks and balances, for effective democratic accountability in the East African country.
Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Governance Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike
National Orientation Agency is a Nigerian government agency created in 2005 and tasked with communicating government policy, staying abreast of public opinion and promoting patriotism, national unity, and development of Nigerian society.
Do Nigerians have faith in NOA to build a communication bridge for citizens to interact with the government? Is citizens’ inclusion and engagement in demanding transparency and accountability encouraged? Or should we go ahead and advocate for ourselves liaising with civil societies in ensuring that our voices are heard and sideline this agency and all it stands for because of constant interferences of political bureaucracies in decision making and activities of NOA.
Am a little bit indecisive on what to think about NOA, but not entirely conclusive because of recent development by this agency to partner with civil society organisations in Nigeria. NOA gave an open call for collaboration with CSOs on the 31st of October 2017 at Ibeto Hotel, Abuja where a good number of representatives from different NGOs were in attendance.
The Director-General @GarbaAbari represented by The Director, Planning, research and strategy Dr Bonat J. Tagwai gave a brief review of NOAs five years strategy plans and their ongoing projects was made available to all participants, and full involvement of CSOs in the implementation of this program welcomed.
Some highlight of their activities includes
A well-structured agency and adequately staffed across the country comprising of National Headquarters, 36 States Directorate, FCT 774 Local Government Offices and 3000 volunteer Corp.
NOA has visited about 120 LGA and communities to update them on their activities
They have interpreted the Freedom of Information Act into 20 languages to ease understanding of the Act and drive citizen mobilization and participation in demanding accountability and transparency from their government.
Has started a survey of 130 MDAs to engage public institutions
And have launched NOA FM Radio 97.7 though still test running and ideas will be welcomed on how to utilize this station efficiently.
Civil Societies present participated in group work to explore opportunities for partnerships with Short presentations of each group to highlight areas of collaborations with NOA.
A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work
A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work
The benefit for CSOs to collaborate with NOA was further stressed that based on their staff’s strengths and 3000 volunteers scattered around the country. Ease of carrying out campaigns using this volunteer will be efficient because instead of looking for new hands or travelling to places you don’t know, NOA could provide:
The contacts of their volunteers who are always on the ground in all the state.
Location and addresses of their state offices to assist in working in new terrains.
These, in particular, will assist connected development in further driving their campaigns and growing networks.
A Cross-Section Of CSOs During The Group work
To encourage full involvement and authentic evidence of collaborations, interested Civil Societies should send official letters to the Director-General making reference of this event.
Hon. Emmanuel Njoku and DG Political, Civic, Ethics and Values Dept. Mrs Ngozi Ekeoba
Connected development as started utilizing this partnership opportunity with NOA as our Program Manager for democracy and governance Hon. Emmanuel Njoku plans on working with NOA in his campaign Engaging Emerging Voters for young people below 18 years in senior secondary two and three respectively.
A little brief of the objective of the campaign by Emmanuel Njoku is to increase voter education among eligible secondary school student. The project hopes to create clubs in secondary school for sustainability across the country and provision of short training on democratic values for members
We anticipate NOA full support in achieving this campaign and ensuring that the younger generation will understand the requirement of leadership and the importance of voting to reach a better outcome in the 2019 elections.
Corruption is more predominant in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly because, weak institutions cannot implement the required checks and balances required for effective democratic and accountable governance. Connected Development [CODE] through its initiative, Follow The Money (FTM), since 2012, has been at the frontline of initiatives that seek to address these aforementioned open government challenges in Nigeria through the civil society perspective of a grassroot movement. This, the organization is now extending to the New Gambia.
CODE Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, during an opening remarks at the NACEET
Follow The Money Gambia is a project under a Gambian non-profit, Gambia Participates, led by the young activist and youth leader Marr Nyang. The project aims to leverage on Gambia’s current political climate to entrench functioning democratic governance, effective public oversight, open government and improve the lives of communities in the country. Having mobilized young volunteers across the country, committed to following the money in their various communities, FTM Gambia flagged off the National Anti-Corruption, Citizen Education and Engagement Training (NACEET) Series 1.0. The training which took place on 17 January 2018, was to build the capacity of these volunteers on the FTM processes which they will step down in their communities, while they start running a campaign.
While facilitating a session in the training
As part of this, we were in the Gambia for a week, 16 – 20 January 2018, over a set of activities, all geared toward creating a favourable environment for citizenry driven accountability work and building the capacity of FTM Gambia. The team, which I was part of, facilitated sessions on the NACEET where participants were taken through the Follow The Money process.
The team with the Executive Director of National Youth Council, the Gambia
Furthermore, there was a press release about our visit, the NACEET and FTM Gambia operations. This was followed by radio and tv programme. Through these, we further sensitized the Gambian citizens on their rights, roles in the society and the essence of fulfilling their society-demanding responsibility of holding the government to account. Furthermore, these media activities were geared toward calling on the Gambian government to implement an FOI law in the country, so that citizens’ will have the right to request public financial information. Recognizing this to be an obstacle in the accountability work, fiscal transparency and the ambition of FTM Gambia, we paid a courtesy on the Lamin Darboe, Executive Director of the Gambia National Youth Council for a collaboration toward having such a law implemented. Such visit was also paid to the Director of International Republican Institute country office in the Gambia.
The team getting ferried across the Atlantic to access Touba Angellah Community
Obviously, we would not have gone to The Gambia without a visiting a rural community. As such, the team was at Touba Angellah in Nuimi, North Bank Region of the country, 45 kilometers away from Banjul. For a community engagement programme. The dilapidated health and educational facilities in the community were assessed for coherent advocacy for them to be fixed. This also afforded us the opportunity of conducting citizen education at the community with a focus on anti-corruption, budget tracking, active citizenry and social accountability.
The trip was a beautiful one, regardless strengthening the capacity of FTM Gambia in running campaigns, including having a well structured internal system and processes for improvement in performance of its activities for phenomenal outcomes and results, it was a great opportunity to meet our colleagues there. Also, we enjoyed good Gambian meals, met several friends and enjoyed the beautiful coastal scenery of the country. In addition, the NACEET afforded me the opportunity to meet vibrant and passionate Gambians who were ready to make sure their country works through being active citizens.
By the end of the year, FTM Gambia would have carried campaigns in 20 constituencies of the country, while being at the frontline of strategic and multi-dimensional advocacy for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Bill in the New Gambia.
Kufana Primary School, one of the PS’ to be rehabilitated with NGN 38 m by Kad SUBEB
In 2015, the UNESCO estimated that over 65 million Nigerians were illiterates, with adult literacy rate at 57.9% (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010). One of the major factors responsible for this has remained the continual rise in the number of out-of-schoolchildren in the country. Since many adults could not access basic education at childhood, the possibility of acquiring such while grown is exceedingly contracted. In the light of this, the UNICEF’s 2014 estimate of Nigeria having 10.5 million of the cumulative global 20 million out-of-school children, should be of great concern to the country, requiring a high-level sense of national urgency.
As part of the strategies to rollback the rising number of out-of-schoolchildren in Nigeria, in 2004, the Universal Basic Education Act was signed into law establishing the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The Commission’s mandate is to improve the enrollment of school children and reduce the current dropout rates. As a step-down measure, states created their own Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB). In furtherance, the Commission provides basic education funding to SUBEB, mainly through annual interventions. Despite this, many of the basic education challenges in the country have not been addressed. In the midst of these difficulties has been contracted open government in the management of UBEC funds by SUBEBs, which has occasioned an enabling environment for corruption to thrive. Such corruption has jeopardized a conducive learning atmosphere for Nigerian children.
Following the foregoing, and as a countermeasure toward the open government deficit, with support from MacArthur Foundation, Connected Development [CODE] kicked-off a project in Kaduna State (as a pilot in the country) to mobilize the public for effective oversight on the implementation of UBEC funds in the state through enhanced citizen’s participation. Starting with four focal LGAs in the state, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of School Monitoring Teams (SMTs) which comprises of Community Based Associations/Organizations (CBA/O), Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) and the School Based Monitoring Committees (SBMC) to conduct high quality tracking of the UBEC spending in 70 schools within a span of 3 years. The project was launched on 14 September 2017 in Kaduna through a stakeholders meeting with over 80 participants in attendance.
A group photo after the stakeholders meeting
Furthermore, from 3 – 5 October 2017, Follow The Money team was in Kaduna over the next activity of the project, which were trainings for the SMTs on tracking UBEC spending strategies (for two days), and Kaduna SUBEB (Kad-SUBEB) on data collection and analysis (for one day). With all the participants wholly in attendance, the SMTs’ training went on smoothly and was hands-on following our level of preparedness which manifested through critical documents we made available to the participants. They included report templates to provide feedback after visiting project sites; list of projects, amounts and contractors to monitor; bills of quantities (BoQs) etc. It was the first time the SMTs saw such documents.
Group photo at the end of SMTs training
In a similar manner, first, during the Focused Group Discussion with the SMTs, it was clear that they have not been carried along on needs assessment across schools to feed the UBE action plan of the state, that is sent to UBEC annually, for intervention access. Secondly, the SMTs have not been useful in project monitoring across schools because they lack key project and financial data. While we noted these issues, the SMTs were taken through the set of projects they would track. The training for Kad-SUBEB officials took place on the last day, featuring knowledge transfer on data collection tools and methods, routine monitoring data and data process management, using MS. Excel for data analysis etc.
Lessons learnt from the trainings encompass, first, the SUBEB training should have been for two days. This will be corrected in the second round of training in the second year of the project. Secondly, the session which featured a group work for SMTs to examine the BoQs should have been facilitated by an engineer that understands the technical terms used on the documents. This was partly addressed by the re-iteration that the tracking should be a collaborative effort. So while SMTs are stepping down the training in their communities, trips to project sites for monitoring should include a community-based engineer for effective tracking using the BoQs.
Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Governance Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.
“Follow The Money, I have a health facility in Imesi Ile, in Osun State, which has been turned into a warehouse, can you please activate your campaign in this rural community because the facility should have catered for so many people.”
“I will like to inform you that the reconstruction of the primary school at Tongo in Gombe as commenced, we thank the Follow The Money people in our community and also you for mentioning it on the radio.”
Those were some comments from listeners of the 13 episode Follow The Money Radio program, aired on Wazobia FM 95.1 Abuja during the second quarter of 2017 (April to June 2017). In 2015, snap poll results released by NOIPolls Limited revealed that 62 percent of Nigerians surveyed get their daily information via Radio, as such we introduced Follow The Money Radio at a radio station that allows local language – Pidgin. The pidgin language is widely understood and spoken by Nigerians, as such we decided to partner with the popular Wazobia FM in Abuja, which has a reach covering millions of Nigerians. Just to note, that there are other citizen engagement radio program in Nigeria as well, such as the popular office of the citizen by Enough is Enough Nigeria Coalition and Budeshi by procurement monitor that airs every Friday morning on Nigeria Info FM Abuja
But how do you complement a movement like this on the radio? Last year, Connected Development experimented its advocacy strategies with the School of Data Radio, allowing it to garner 1,005 followers on Twitter, and three callers that turned into data evangelist. Even though, the SCODA Radio had bits of drawbacks because there were no directors and a permanent presenter. The drawbacks were useful lessons, for us to initiate the Follow The Money radio. We had to employ the knowledge of Uche Idu, a media for development expert to produce the program. We leveraged on our 2016 Community Media Champion – Big Mo to lead the presenters of the show. Every episode of the radio program was captured on Facebook Live as well, thus making it available to our community on Facebook
I remembered how much we discussed who the co-presenters will be. After three episodes, we concluded that it is important to use CODE’s staff working on Follow The Money, as they are in-tune with happenings within the community. With learnings from the School of Data radio, I had to start a documentation for the program which became a living document for Follow The Money Radio with presenters, the producers, the social media crew amplifying what happens during the radio program.
Many thanks to Cele Nwa Baby (Operations Manager at CODE) and Baba Bee (Programs Manager at CODE) who took out time to compliment Big Mo on making stories of communities engaging their sub-national government to air on radio, and making sure responses were gotten on such stories. In one of the episodes, the presenters instructed: “honourable Yaya Bauchi from Gombe, we are calling on you to commence the rehabilitation of the primary school at Tongo 2, we already know it’s a constituency project”. Two weeks later, the headmaster of the school joined the radio program to affirm that the rehabilitation of the school as actually commenced. Honourable Yaya Bauchi is the present house of representative member representing Tongo in the National Assembly, and it was confirmed that the renovation of the school was included in a constituency project proposed by him. Another intriguing story was that of the Primary school in Gengle, Adamawa state where hundreds of children learn under a dilapidated building. Three weeks after it aired on the radio program, the communities in Gengle joined the show to inform that the government visited their school, and they offered to start rehabilitation.
From Left – Baba Bee, Olusegun (Handling Facebook Live),Cele Nwa Baby, Oludotun, Uche Idu. From Back Left Olusegun, Bluetooth and Big Mo
So, what next for Follow The Money Radio? “You have all done well in bringing this to the radio; I think you should take this program to the state as well” advised one of our listeners during the last episode. As parts of messages gotten during the program, we have received emails from two other radio stations, who wanted to rebroadcast the show. Unfortunately, they are all in Abuja. Going forward, we are planning to initiate Follow The Money radio in the states, as such if you are a running a radio station in the state, or you are an OAP passionate about good governance, let’s get more voice amplified on your radio station, and feel free to contact us by joining our largest community on governance in Africa at http://ifollowthemoney.org or via firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, the Follow The Money Radio will be coming to you in the next quarter, join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org to get information on where it will be airing. Please stay tuned!
[During one of our townhall meetings at Uratta Umuoha Community, Abia State – a key social accountability strategy through which we have enabled communities organize stakeholder engagements to facilitate the implementation of projects intended for them]
On the 11th of April 2017, the boardroom of MacArthur Foundation Nigeria was filled with several civil society actors on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. In attendance were over 30 representatives from domestic non-profits who are MacArthur grantees. They were there for a conversation with two accountability scholars, John Gaventa, and Walter Flores. An event in which staffers of MacArthur Foundation Headquarters joined virtually from the United States, the aim was to share ideas and have grantees move from tactical accountability approaches to more strategic approaches. As one of the representatives of Connected Development [CODE], I went in with several expectations which were met.
The conversation started with a presentation, Dancing the TAP Dance: Linking Transparency, Accountability and Participation, by Prof John Ganveta who teaches at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom. He started with sharing key governance issues that led to the rise of accountability and transparency movement globally. Most of them encompass accountability deficit, democratic deficit and impecunious active citizen participation in governance. He then went on explaining how several tools such as ensuring service delivery, improving budgetary processes, ensuring open government, aid transparency and NGO accountability can be utilitarian in addressing these challenges. Addressing these challenges would consequently lead to better services through monitoring, improved democracy, reduced public service corruption, empowerment, human rights, greater access to information and challenging inequality.
Another presentation, Citizen-led Accountability: Power, Politics and Strategies, was by Dr Walter Flores of Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (CEGSS) who took time to share his organization’s works on accountability and challenging inequalities in Guatemala. He emphasised that the roles of transparency and accountability in curbing inequalities include turning citizens from passive to active users of services who can demand accountability from the government. According to him, when they started, they first of all started collecting data on how a particular faction of the society was being marginalized in getting services in drug stores and hospitals. The data was collected through sms, audio/visual evidence and they embarked on advocacy and engaged the government with such evidence for appropriate response. They also created channels of engagement for such citizens to discuss problems and implement solutions.
At a time, politics came into play and they were challenged by governmental authorities for not having the legitimacy to advocate for the communities. They then were forced to decentralize their operations to let citizens and communities lead it through their building capacities. Communities were then organized for monitoring. In a presentation in which he shared most of their successes, he finalized by stating that social accountability is crucial for accountability to work. And that in such work, it’s better to start with community organizing and rights literacy, while collective and participatory interventions, strategies and results are imperative.
After the phenomenal presentations were questions, comments and commitments from organizations present. In line with Dr Flores presentation, I made a remark on the effectiveness of his social accountability strategy which we use at CODE. At CODE, in tracking governmental expenditure in rural communities for service delivery, we start with rights literacy in the concerned communities and co-organize town hall meetings with their community leaders for conversation around the particular projects with implementing governmental agencies and contractors. The town hall meetings have helped to embed community ownership in our works and within the chain of our participatory strategies, communities are empowered to ensure these projects are implemented long after we have pulled out. Also in the same line, for sustainability, decentralization of our strategies and community ownership, we activated ifollowthemoney.org to mobilize young people in these communities to ensure governmental accountability themselves.
The conversation was quintessential and more of it are crucial with respect to capacity building of the civil society and sharing of ideas.
Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.
On 23 February 2017, the Director-General (DG) of the Budget Office of the Federation choreographed a media briefing on several issues surrounding the 2017 Budget Proposal. The DG also used the briefing to make certain clarifications on public outcries over several budget items on the proposal. Most of these outcries were on many frivolous items (especially on electricity and utility bills of MDAs; several humongous expenses on the state house budget on utensils and feeding, electricity bills, travel expenses etc.); repetitions of budget items; budget cycle crisis; the budget preparation expenses; lack of details on some of the items; budget padding etc.
In attendance at the briefing were the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSO). In responding to some of these concerns, the DG took his time to counter some of the claims:
1). He stated that there was no sort of budget padding on the 2017 budget proposal.
2). That there were no frivolous items. That most of the extensive increments such as state house proposed expenditure on utensils and utility bills; electricity bills, security and cleaning services payments in MDAs etc. were either as a result of arrears of such bills/expenses or because funds were not later provided for them on the 2016 budget (meaning they were not implemented.)
3). He stated that there were no repetitions on the proposal, unless the repetitions being referred to were budget items on the 2016 one that re-reflected on the 2017 proposal, which was as a result of the fact that funds were not provided for such items on the former.
4). He reassured the audience of his liaison with the National Assembly to ensure that budget cycle would be from January – December of every year, which was clearly stated on the constitution, as against the culture of having a previous budget being implemented in another fiscal year.
5). He also explained that the details-deficit on some of the budget items were as a result of the perspective to keep the budget simple, for public consumption. That however that his agency would ensure further details on budget items when preparing subsequent budgets.
Representing Connected Development (CODE) at the event, I further engaged the DG and raised concerns over the NGN305/$ calculation on the budget proposal (while $1 is valued at NGN 520 at the contemporaneous market); if there are extensive plans for enhanced transparency and accountability in the 2017 budget implementation; our expectancy to lay hands on the 3rd and 4th quarters’ reports of 2016 budget implementation; his plans to ensure that revenue realization deficit would not frustrate the 2017 budget implementation drawing on the country’s experience with the 2016 one; and getting access to an extensive version of the budget that had further details on some of the line items. For the latter, I mentioned the ‘Talking Sanitation’, as well as ‘Afforestation’ and ‘Tree Planting’ budget items on the proposal, under the Ministry of Environment, which all lacked details such as where and how. Lack of such specific details has frustrated the works of CSOs that are into governmental capital expenditure tracking.
In addressing my concerns, the DG made commitments that were all in line with Nigeria’s commitments on the Open Government Partnership. He stated that the 3rd quarter 2016 budget implementation report would soon be in public domain while the 4th quarter’s would soon be out too. He further stated that there would be increased transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in the 2017 budget implementation. On this, he cited plans to have a digital platform for 24/7 citizen engagement on the budget. He also mentioned that there would be a breakdown on project basis subsequently when funds are released to MDAs. In addition, he promised a quarterly media briefing on the 2017 budget implementation. These were all good news and great outcomes for nonprofits that are into Open Governance advocacy. He mentioned categorically that the revenue realization plan on the proposal is quite realizable and that the FOREX regime crisis would not affect the budget implementation.
This media engagement is a step in the right direction as bringing all stakeholders involved and addressing public concerns on the budget proposal have boosted citizen participation in governance and also provided a platform for clarifications on several portions of the budget, as well as for stakeholders to make suggestions. It is hoped that the Director keeps to all the new commitments he made at the briefing and ensuring extensive open financial governance in the budget implementation. From our part, we are sending an FOI request for an extensive version of the budget, which he promised CODE would be provided with. And before I forget, he commented that he likes our name, ‘Follow The Money.’
Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.