Want to Follow The Money? You can start your own Chapter

Want to Follow The Money? You can start your own Chapter

In global development governance and the development sector more specifically, the question of sustainability has always recurred. Ideally, if a sustainable structure is put in place, projects and programs will still continue to run, long after the initial efforts are not there anymore. In our work through which we use a knowledge-based scientific process to visualize, track and monitor funds spent for development in rural communities by the government and other development partners and ensure such funds are spent for the reason they are budgeted for, we have always thought of sustainability. One of the ways to achieve this is by letting communities own Follow The Money (FTM) process. It was based on this that we have started identifying community activists, who have been working on FTM activities four years ago.with young people, which reside in rural communities and tracks the funds themselves while we provide technical assistance.

As part of our sustainability plan, we initiated the ifollowthemoney.org, a platform that already hosts over 500 people. Furthermore, we developed the idea of creating chapters. A Follow The Money chapter can be made up of individuals, an already existing association, or a non-government organization that carries out Follow The Money activities. We are officially piloting with 4 chapters in Nigeria, which will be led by Ali Isa in Kano State; Muazu Modu in Yobe State; Erdoo Anongo of Kwasi Foundation in Benue State; and these leads, having been completely empowered to follow the money themselves, will lead in following the money in their states, mobilize more community members in the process while the core team in Abuja provides technical support. They are responsible to formalize their chapters for better governance which includes having four principal officers like the lead, a treasurer, community outreach officer, public relations officer

Starting with these pilot chapters, the core team organized an internal 2-day training for these State Chapter Leads from 29th to 30th of June, 2017 at the Ventures Platform in Abuja. The training started by reiterating and broadening some of the things they already know and work with, from Getting Data of Money to Follow, Leveraging and Drafting of Freedom of Information requests, Mapping of Stakeholders (Government Agencies, Media House, Other NGOs), Drafting Short Write-ups on Campaigns, Organizing Community Outreaches/Preparing Questionnaires, Organizing Town Hall Meetings, as well as new trainings on Mobile Journalism, Hostile Environment Reportage, Preparing Budget and Financial Reporting, Making Use of Social Media for Engagement, ifollowthemoney Platform, Management, Theory of Change, Deliverables for Local Chapters etc. These sessions were facilitated by relevant CODE personnel.

 

In the meantime, we want to support more chapters, and not to forget that there are already intending chapters in Gambia, Kenya, Mozambique and Togo. Yes, we say they are intending as for CODE to support an intending chapter, or to recognize it as a chapter, there must be a leader, and the lead must have independently carried out Follow The Money activities within one year, with the assistance of the core team. Anyone can Follow The Money using our methodologies, we only provide guidance to the use of Follow The Money activities, with the hope that the vision of making everyone in every community in Africa to be empowered to engage their various government on funds meant for them. So, if you want to start a chapter, why not join us at http://ifollowthemoney.org and kickstart your activities, and in one year, you become eligible to run a chapter!

How Radio is fostering Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

How Radio is fostering Citizen Participation and Government Accountability

[ All 13 episodes of the Follow The Money Radio Program can be listened to at https://soundcloud.com/follow-the-money-129876762/sets/followthemoney-radio-editions ]

“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

Follow The Money Radio

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 info@connecteddevelopment.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!

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.

MEETING WITH DR. IBRAHIM KANA (SOMLPforR PROGRAM MANAGER) AND OTHER SOMLPforR TEAM MEMBERS

MEETING WITH DR. IBRAHIM KANA (SOMLPforR PROGRAM MANAGER) AND OTHER SOMLPforR TEAM MEMBERS

The saving one million lives Initiative was launched in October 2012, in response to the poor health outcomes in the country especially for mothers and children. Thus,the program is intended to improve the lives of mothers and children through a result based partnership with States ministries of health.

On the 16th of March, the team at CODE met with Dr. Ibrahim Kana the Program manager of Saving One Million Lives Program for Results to get an extensive elucidation of how the program is being run and what it entails.
Dr Ibrahim and his team excitedly aligning us on how ($500 million) credit that had been negotiated by Federal government with World Bank from which $1.5million was disbursed to states and FCT as grants, sought to deliver high impact, evidence based and cost effective health interventions based on 6 ‘pillars’, namely:-

– Maternal, newborn and child health;
– childhood essential medicines and increasing treatment of important childhood diseases;
– improving child nutrition;
– immunization
– malaria control; and
– the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.

He stated that the states were receiving 82% of the money and the program unit is not involved in the spending of the money, also that the SOML Program involves reorienting the discussion of service delivery to results rather than just inputs, establishing a limited set of clear and measurable indicators by which to track success, strengthening data collection so that these indicators can be measured more frequently, bolstering accountability so that managers and health workers at all levels are engaged to achieve better results and fostering innovations that increase the focus on results and include greater openness to working with private sector.

He highlighted that The Program for Result is an approach to structuring of flow of resources to pay for results, outcomes and inputs and under it, states will be rewarded for their performance based on objective indicators using data from household and health facility survey as well as achievement of certain process indicators related to implementation of a performance management system. The program is placed in the Federal Ministry of Health and will be overseen by a Steering Committee chaired by the Honourable Minister of Health and comprising representatives from the state’s commissioner of health which is ultimately responsible for achieving the PforR indicators and ensuring stakeholders’ focus on objectively verified results.
The PforR will provide funds to the federal and state governments based on a set of five Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) which are;

DLI 1.- Increasing Utilization of High Impact Reproductive, Child health and Nutrition Interventions; this will include states producing plans for achieving reductions in Maternal and Under 5 Child mortality, Improvements from states’ baseline on key health indicators such as penta 3 vaccination, insecticides treated nets used by children under 5, contraceptive prevalence rate, Vitamin A coverage, Skilled birth attendance and HIV counselling and testing during antenatal care. Lagging states are also encouraged to strengthen their MNCH weeks as part of an impact evaluation.
DLI 2. – Increasing Quality of High impact Reproductive and Child Health and Nutrition Interventions: This entails states improving the quality of care at primary health care facilities

DLI 3 – Improving Monitoring and Evaluation systems and Data Utilization; by conducting SMART surveys in all 36 states and widely disseminating the results.

DLI 4 – Increasing Utilization and Quality of Reproductive and Child Health and Nutrition Interventions Through Private Sector Innovation: A competitive innovation fund was established that supports innovations for techniques and technologies in health service delivery. This is been headed by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria.

DLI 5- Increasing Transparency in Management and Budgeting for PHC: States are required to transfer health staff to entity responsible for PHC while produce and publishing a consolidated budget execution report covering all income and expenditures for PHC.

Speaking on the disbursement arrangement, he stated that once state earnings have been determined and verified, the PMU will set in motion the disbursement process. As soon as the World Bank receives a withdrawal application, funds will be disbursed to a dedicated account of the Federal Government for transfer to the accounts states have in Central Bank within 30 days.

The meeting with the Program management unit was very insightful, as a lot of questions we earlier came with were clearly answered but that did not leave us without having a few “asks” and recommendation that we hope will enable us at FollowTheMoney to effectively monitor and track the I.5 million dollars allocated to states.

Recommendations from CODE
Civil Society Organizations be included as part of the Independent Verification Agents
the National Orientation Agency should be carried along in sensitizing the general public about the program.

Specific asks from CODE
we asked to obtain a copy of the State’s Implementation Plans.

 

Ijeoma Oforka is a Program Officer at Connected Development, with a background in Public Health. She is passionate about advocating for the plights and issues surrounding women and girls health and education. She tweets via @ijoforka

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

“the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly”.

Community Town Hall meetings are a veritable forum the largest grassroots movement on accountability –  Follow the Money employ  to engage all stakeholders in leading conversation around specific project(s) – This time, the project was about N20m that was budgeted by the Ministry of Education for the provision and furnishing of two blocks of classrooms in Tongo 2 primary school. Present at this meeting held on February 16th at the Tongo community town hall meeting were; the representative of the district head, the representative of the Funa Kaye Local government chairman and the education ministry representative, group of APC supporters, the representation of the Nigerian Police force, the school headmasters and his teachers and some other numerous countless stakeholders in Gombe state.

30 minutes into Muazu Modu of Connected Development introduction of the project, it was clear that the community members were not aware that such funds had been allocated. According to the councilor, Ahmed Bello Tongo who represented the chairman of the Local government, “CODE and it’s FOLLOW THE MONEY team are the first to give Funakaye local Government and Tongo community information on N20 million earmarked for the construction of 2 blocks of classrooms and equipping of Tongo 2 Primary School 2016 appropriation”

It was further revealed to us by the Special Assistant to Honourable Yaya Bauchi, representing Gombe in Federal House of Assembly that the project is the constituency project of Honorable Yaya Bauchi and the said fund is not N20m but N18m. He further threatened that if Follow the Money should have such a town hall meeting in Gombe Central, the life of our representative(s) will be greatly endangered. His entourage, who largely occupied the town hall meeting also claimed that Follow The Money was sponsored by the PDP. 

Likewise, one of the participants, named Madaki, warned the Follow The Money team to make this town hall meeting the first and the last as he would not condone us bringing together the elders to discuss such a baseless information.

While the meeting was about to be distracted by the claims of the honorable stooges, a representative of the Nigeria Police had to douse the tension in the room by his words“I have been in this community for a very long time I know all your personal and political differences. Please put your personal and political differences aside. From my point of view and details explanation and evidence presented by the Project Assistant, this organization has no political motive and this is a developmental and welcome idea” said the  Police Officer

At the end of the meeting,  Yahaya Umar who is the district head and the community stated that  “the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly, and that with the information gotten, they will make sure the school is renovated, and that their children enjoys the teaching aids that comes with it.”.

A day after the meeting,  another SA of Hon Yaya Bauchi called our community team and  asked if it is a must to complete all the projects appropriated in the budget, citing the example that in 2015 appropriation there is a contract of 145 million in that community and it was not executed up to date… He further explained that the project is not yet awarded, explaining that Hon Yaya Bauchi himself wrote a letter himself to Minister of Budget and National Planning and that he was surprised that they responded that 50% of the project has been funded,  “I’m advising you, people, that you should find the project that will be funded from the source which is the Ministry of finance to the office of Accountant General before you organize  any townhall meeting” he further says.

Abubakar Muhammed, headmaster of the school later called to report that the Local Education Authority directed him to write a report and send it across to the State Universal Primary Education Board, so they can follow up on the project.

The legislative arm of the government is very important in a democratic system, as they are meant to represent their citizens, and enact laws that liberate citizens, but it can be depressing when the “representative of the people” would not inform their citizens on decisions they make on behalf of them, after all, it’s their constituency!

Read more about the campaign here

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.