Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

[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.

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

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.

Ensuring and Implementing Conflict Prevention and Management Strategies in Nigeria

Ensuring and Implementing Conflict Prevention and Management Strategies in Nigeria

The North Eastern, Niger Delta and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria have been witnessing several conflicts and fatalities in recent times. These include terrorism, militancy and the crisis between herdsmen & their host, respectively. In the light of this, on Monday, 28 November, CODE participated in the Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) Meeting hosted by the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP). The PSWG is a platform for peace and security analysis, advocacy, coordination and capacity building. The platform is made up of several Civil Society Actors, international donors/agencies, and foreign embassies.

During the meeting, organizations such as Centre for Democracy & Development, NSRP,  Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta etc. gave updates on their current activities in ensuring peace and security in the country. CODE on its part intimated the participants of its peace and security works in two areas: 1). Comparative electoral processes research and activities, so as to promote the use of information technology in electioneering in order to reduce violence during elections. CODE observed the United States Presidential Election and was able to draw lessons from the exercise which could be employed in Nigeria to ensure improved electoral processes and violence reduction. CODE was also asked to make a presentation in the next PSWG meeting in January, 2017 on the observation and experiences regarding this. 2). CODE has a campaign on ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation of humanitarian funds in the North Eastern (NE) part of the country. In this light, CODE is tracking the governmental implementation of N53 billion provided by international donors for the rehabilitation of the NE zone.

During the meeting, a new name, Peace and Security Network (PSN) was also recommended for PSWG. This is for perfect representation of the mandate of the coordination group. PSN is indeed an important platform for stakeholderial coordination on peace and security activities and strategies to prevent & manage conflicts around the country. Its’ our hope that the platform implements its strategies to ensure political stability in the country so as for a favorable environment for economic activities and Foreign Direct Investment attraction.

Proposed Online Budget Portal for Nigerian Citizens

Nigeria still has deep challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in governmental activities and expenditure. Citizen engagement in governance has remained pretty poor. Participatory budgetary practices have remained poor and governmental data are still limitedly open to the public. Currently, the country has signed the Open Government Partnership with several commitments from Abuja to ensure and promote transparency and accountability in governance. Following this, on 15 November 2016, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) organized a roundtable discussion with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the Media on the proposed online budget portal for citizens. This was in partnership with the country’s Budget Office or Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP). In attendance were CSOs with core in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governance.

PERL is currently supporting the MBNP in developing an online portal for citizens to access budget information. The roundtable was then for relevant civil society groups to make inputs and suggestions on what information government should put on the online citizens’ portal. This was to ensure that that the online portal is reflective of citizens needs on the budget.

The portal encompasses features such as: Citizen Guide to the ‘2017’ Budget, Sectoral budget information, Geopolitical allocation of funds, Planning and key policy documents to be included on the portal, ‘2017’ Budget facts, Budget monitoring reports, FAQs, Budget Calendar and A feedback platform.

CODE made some inputs and suggestions on other features of the portal such as. 1). A mechanism for citizens to be able to sort/filter the budget sectorally, by states, LGAs, communities, quoted amounts etc. 2). A mechanism for one to be able to click on a budget item and have further details. 3). A mobile application component. 4). A Live chat. 5). And ultimately, for the portal to have information on budget implementation such as implementation stage, procurement processes, contractors etc. Other CSOs also made suggestions such as for the online portal to be in different languages, for the use of infographics and information of policies guiding the budget.

We are expecting that further collaboration between DFID PERL and the Budget Office while carrying other stakeholders along would see to the successful implementation of this platform. This we also expect would go a long way to ensure transparency, accountability and civic engagement in Nigeria’s governance.

Press Release: Government Should Scale-Up Primary Health Care Service Delivery Nationwide

Press Release: Government Should Scale-Up Primary Health Care Service Delivery Nationwide

A leading NGO Connected development [CODE] has called on government at all level to take up one of its responsibilities by ensuring proper facilities are put in place in various primary health care centers in Nigeria.

Following the release of $1.5million dollars from World Bank to the 36 states respectively including the Federal Capital Territory as part of the World Bank supported “Save One million Lives” the Follow the Money team of CODE visited 6 states respectively to assess the state of the PHCs to track the implementation of these funds. These states are Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe.

Findings from the field visit to each of the states are appalling as most of the Primary Health Centres are facing several reprehensible and elementary challenges. Generically, most of them have no improved water supply, electricity, security, quarters for hospital staffers; there is no stationed doctor, and the toilet facilities are in a mess. Furthermore, because of these challenges, the PHCs do not operate 24/7, cannot admit or treat sick people and lack sufficient tables & chairs.

Some key Findings:

In Kano

Follow The money team visited Kantudu in Makoda LGA of Kano State. They found out that the PHC serves 2,500 people, all coming from 13 surrounding villages. The PHC was built 5-6 years ago as a senatorial project in Makoda LGA. The PHC has one male and female ward, which are not presently functioning. There are only three staffers with one community health worker who are not certified health professionals.

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During the interactive section with the head of community Alhaji Muhammad Musa, and the community association said that they have reached out to the government of Kano twice on the state of the health centre in Kantudu, but there was no response. “We hope this campaign with ONE and CODE will make the government of Kano look at the plight of our health center so that our people can start using it” says Malam Ali, the medical head at the PHC.

In Yobe State

We were in Lantenwa, Yobe where a Primary Health Care is in a messy situation. The PHC in Lantenwa is in Lantewa village, Lantewa ward, Tarmuwa LGA. It serves a population of 13,400 under 5 yrs; 10-15 patients daily, 70-105 weekly. Speaking to the head community ,AuduLantewa, mentioned that the dispensary has been dilapidated for more than 7 years, he added that dispensary situation is critical and he personally reported the issue to local authorities several times. He further lamented that “Lantewa is the gathering centre of four neighbouring with approximately 7,000 registered voters, as such, we should get better things from the government” he said

In Kogi State

We went to the PHC to find out if the implementation of the fund is ongoing as well as to track the implementation of the N10.5 million earmarked by the National Primary Health care Development Agency for the rehabilitation of the PHC. On reaching there, there was no such intervention taking place. The Officer in Charge (OIC) said it was the first time she was hearing of such. The village head whom we paid a courtesy visit to also said he has never heard of such. We then went to the Operational Base of the NsitIbom LGA’s Health Centres and the Director of the base told us that she has never heard of such fund for the PHC’s rehabilitation30817372226_364e4ee1b1_n

In Osun State

Our team went on ground to track the $1.5m earmarked by the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Saving One Million Lives Initiative and all we could see while on the field is nothing to write home about. From our findings, the facility is meant to serve 11 villages which are: Gboore, Alajue-Logun, Asunmo, Ayegbami, Agbopa, Jagun-Odomu, Olodan, Aladie, Amosun, Seesa, Akiribiti amongst others. In total, the target population which the facility is meant to serve is 12,498. 498 of the population are children less than one year, the Primary Health Care Centre has a monthly target of 42 patients, but it ends up serving more than 400 on an average.

Consequently, a Freedom of Information letters was sent to the concerned government institutions and offices for a breakdown of the funds usage, implementation window and respective contractors, especially the governmental institutions concerned, to instantaneously start the implementation of these funds, ensure transparency & accountability in the funds’ implementation, and make government data open in line with the Open Government Partnership.

Follow The Money is a growing movement currently in 32 states of the country, held community outreaches to 10 primary health facilities in Kano, Yobe, Osun, and found out that all were in a state of dysfunction, even with the funds that have been released to the states to upgrade the primary health care “Most of the Clinic at the PHC in the 5 states that our community reporters visited were in an abandoned state, lacks basic healthcare amenities and needs urgent attention to serve people at local communities.” affirmed HamzatLawal, CODE’s Chief Executive & Co-Founder, Follow The Money.   

He stressed that annually; Nigeria loses over 99% children below the age of 5 due to dilapidated healthcare services and urges government actions to serve the people by improving better service delivery while ensuring transparency and accountability.

More pictures can be found here https://flic.kr/s/aHskNiNznP

 

 

The Future We See Through the Open Government Partnership in #Nigeria

The Future We See Through the Open Government Partnership in #Nigeria

“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria

Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting,  transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data.  I quite  understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.

I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.

Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!

My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.