In a bid to provide African citizens with access to evidence on COVID resources, leading social accountability initiatives working on the continent, Follow The Money and BudgIT, with lending partners, Global Integrity, have launched a comprehensive user-friendly COVID-19 Fund Africa website as part of the COVID-19 Transparency & Accountability Project (CTAP).
According to a release signed by Mr. Abraham Varney, Country Director of BudgIT Liberia who supervised the program while the project was being launched in various countries around Africa said the COVID Africa Tracking website has flexible navigation and functionality that allows visitors to access all data on COVID in Africa, including intervention resources, funds allocations, palliative distributions, accurate number of cases, data on COVID funds, vaccine management and government’s responsiveness.
“Our primary goal for designing the website is to improve citizens’ use of data for advocacy and government engagement in a manner that promotes transparency, accountability and open governance,” Follow The Money Founder, Hamzat Lawal who was quoted by the release said.
Mr. Varney said the website currently displays information on $51.05B resources committed to COVID-19 across Africa, $5.08B In-Kind Donation as well as over 2,532 COVID Datasets across Africa. Published resources featured on the website analyze post-COVID economic environment and its impact on marginalized communities. His assertion was corroborated with the submission of his boss, Mr. Seun Onigbinde, Executive Director of BudgIT Africa who spoke from Nigeria via zoom
“In tracking government’s level of responsiveness, we have shown, through data on the CTAP website, overarching issues such as discrepancies in palliatives and cash transfer distributions, substandard healthcare compounded by the pandemic, disintegration of COVID data, vague procurement processes and blatant corruption by government officials.” .
He further explained that the COVID tracking site also featured COVID analysis and research resources for seven focus countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Nigeria. It highlights COVID status in these countries and also features knowledge centres on human angle stories curated from citizens across the countries. Built with a focus on user’s experience, the one-stop website (https://www.covidfund.africa/) has some of these attributes; such as live updates on Covid data on a daily basis from all over Africa, data display to provide face-level information on the total number of COVID fund allocation to Africa and COVID cases and research and papers on COVID tracking and government’s responsiveness in Africa.
Others are resource filters which allows citizens to easily narrow down to the country or specific resource portfolio and rapid response functionality allowing the site to be compatible with all browsers and mobile devices.
Under CTAP, Mr. Varney continued, the 3 CSOs seek to advocate and collaborate with governments in Africa to provide and institute proper accountability measures for all financial and material donations received. He said that since it kicked off 8 months ago, the project has inspired increased citizen engagement with issues of government’s transparency and accountability and a zero-tolerance for corruption in some countries. He cited the case of the dismissal of Dr. Mokassa Fallah, former Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) for misappropriation of COVID funds.
The release also discussed some overarching issues surrounding the COVID 19 among which are the fact that weak transparency and poor government accountability impede the implementation of standard policies. It indicated that this is evident in the inability of social accountability activists to access accurate data of funds received and disbursed by government to tackle the pandemic.
The release furthered: “Citizens’ apathy as a result of distrust in government. Citizens participation could have augmented the impact of certain relief packages such as the food packages which could have targeted the most vulnerable in society, including women, the disabled and the aged. Several sources at the local assembly level revealed to the CTAP team that the very poorest in their communities did not benefit from initiatives that were broadly distributed”.
“As a result of leveraging the media to amplify discoveries of misappropriations, embezzlements, and lack of preparedness by the government and institutions, there was an increased response to citizens’ demands for accountability”, the release added.
In view of these highlights, the CSOs urge citizens to utilise the new COVIDAfrica platform to access data that they need to engage with their governments
In view of these highlights, the CSOs urge citizens to utilise the new COVIDAfrica platform to access data that they need to engage with their governments.
Specific information on Liberia the release said that research conducted in Margibi County on the stimulus package for private schools’ teachers revealed that only 15% of teachers in the private schools received their shares of the $1 million, while 85% of the participants did not receive their shares of the $1 million budgetary allocation for private schools’ teachers in the 2020/2021 national budget.
The release further stated that the emergency standard operating procedure under sub-section seven (7) states that COVID-19 funds should be operated in dual currency and a separate bank account either at the central bank or commercial and will be managed under six (6) signatories from MOH & NPHIL Office. However, the release said it was observed that COVID-19 funds totaling USD750, 000 and a cash donation of USD246, 300 were being mixed up with the Ministry of Health’s operation account at the Central Bank of Liberia.
The three CSOs have forged a partnership to address germane issues bordering on transparency, fight against corruption and prudent use of resources for the benefit of citizens. Follow The Money is currently the largest social mobilization and accountability movement in Africa that has advocated, visualized and tracked over USD 15 million for social development across African grassroots communities, directly impacting over 4,000,000 lives. The home-grown Nigerian initiative has chapters in Kenya, The Gambia, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Liberia, and Malawi where citizens are holding their government to account for improved public service delivery and accountable spending of public funds.
BudgIT is a foremost civic-tech leading the advocacy for transparency and accountability in public finance across four African countries including Nigeria. It innovation within the public circle demystifies government data, especially on public finance, by either presenting them in simple tweets, interactive formats or infographic displays. BudgIT works with willing institutions and stakeholders interested in deepening transparency, citizen engagement and capacity building. Hitherto, BudgIT has supported over 135 institutions in Nigeria, launched over 6 civic-tech products and reached over 20million Nigerians.
Global Integrity is a non-profit organization that works with government and civil society partners in countries and communities around the world, supporting their efforts to address complex challenges relating to corruption, the use of resources and the delivery of public services. It has diverse and global team of 15 staff members in north and South America, Europe and Africa, with our main office at the Open Gov Hub in Washington D.C., USA.