Gift Olivia Samuel, The Sight News
Geared towards advocating for transparency and accountability, Follow The Money; Africa’s leading social accountability initiative, has launched a Pan-African Campaign called the COVID19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) to effectively track spending of all COVID-19 Donations in 7 African Countries.
As nations of the world tackle the plague of Coronavirus, with funding for African countries amassing in millions of dollars, it has become expedient to demand accountable spending of the money to block financial leakages, ensure funds do not end up in personal pockets and ultimately advocate for an improved healthcare system in the continent.
The Pan-African Campaign was launched Thursday at a virtual Press Conference which had over seven countries in attendance.
According to Hamzat Lawal, Founder, Follow the Money International, CTAP is an initiative that seeks to advocate for proper accountability and transparency of funding, interventions and finances targeted at combating COVID-19.
He noted that through CTAP, Follow the Money seeks to; Track all donations and contributions by the Government, the International Communities, Local Organisations, Philanthropists, and supporters; Ensure judicious use of funds and blocking financial leakages; Visualize and publicize all expenditures of COVID19 as a way to promote transparency; and Advocate for compliance with international best standards and practices and holding government institutions accountable to all stakeholders.
“The CTAP believes that response to pandemics should prioritize the participation of the affected communities at all stages, including needs assessments and provision of palliatives procurement and delivery of items, program reviews, and evaluations, etc” he said.
Recall CODE had urged the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in Nigeria to aggregate and centralise data on all contributions and donations. This approach, it said, is important to quenching fake news that may be intended to sway citizens against the government.
According to Lawal, “Follow The Money will pursue accurate dissemination of information to avoid fake news and misinformation. The team across the 7 African countries will mobilize community-driven interventions through a special COVID-19 Community Response Toolkit. Open contracting approach to regulate and monitor emergency COVID-19 procurement in various countries.
“Create an online public repository of received funding, their sources, amount, area of intervention and other relevant information. Ensure that emergency procurement have a structured reporting framework for all signed and concluded contracts be made public.
“Ensure and establish a framework while collaborating with businesses and CSOs to establish real-time procurement monitoring”, he added.
In Nigeria, Busayo Morakinyo, Community Engagement Manager, Follow The Money, noted that (through CODE), Follow The Money is mobilizing over 6000 citizens on its social accountability platform www.ifollowthemoney.org, to advocate strongly for improved health-care facilities for all. It is also building their capacity through an online radio and webinar as well as providing them with tools to monitor, drive conversation to spark actions and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach, urging government stakeholders to make public all funds released for the fight against COVID-19 and its implementation plans.
Follow The Money team, under Gambia Participates, is building a geolocation technology map for tracking COVID19 cases in the Gambia, said Teslima Jallow, Deputy Lead, Follow The Money, Gambia. He noted that the team is tackling government secrecy and researching on all funds and interventions the Government of the Gambia has received in the fight against COVID-19.
In Zimbabwe, Munya Dodo, Lead,Follow The Money team, revealed that under the Magamba Network FTM has launched a Coronavirus tracker powered by Open Parly ZW that visualizes data about the pandemic in Zimbabwe. The tracker he said, allows you to use your Google maps to see if you have been in a place where a COVID-19 patient has been flagged. The data is from the Ministry of Health and is updated daily according to the latest stats. Data is aggregated according to gender, province, and source of transmission (ie. Travel, Local, etc) on cpovidzw.info.
Samuel Kpator, Lead, Follow The Money, Liberia, stated that under the Inspire Liberia Project, FTM is actively tracking funding and participating in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Intervention (WASH) COVID-19 Response; monitoring and supervising the adherence to health protocols put in place by the Government of Liberia.
Follow the Money, Kenya under the Slums Information Development & Resource Centers (SIDREC) is engaging in civic education on plans/budgets set to combat COVID19, through the CSO COVID-19 rapid response platform(http://CSOCOVID19rapidresponse.discussion.community) social media engagement, via a tweet chat platform called #KeBudgetTalk and also through a community radio station 99.9 Ghetto FM which broadcasts to one of the major slums in Nairobi, Eve Mathai, Lead, Follow The Money, Kenya stated. She added that FTM Kenya also visualizes COVID-19 funds allocation data to encourage citizens to assume an oversight role for public finances.
According to Sharon Kalima, Follow the Money Malawi has started following up and tracking on money that was disbursed for COVID19 in Zomba, one of Malawi’s districts. The team is mobilizing and training CSOs on tracking funds disbursed, mining data for funds and developing a system where citizens can whistle-blow on misused funds.
In Cameroon, Nancy Saiboh explained that Follow The Money is tracking the proper dissemination of material support in terms of medical supply to practitioners across the country and food supply to marginalized communities during the lockdown. It is also working to visualize COVID19 interventions and mobilize citizens to demand accountability from government institutions working to curb the pandemic.
The Sight News gathered that the common challenge these countries face is poor access to information, secrecy in government and poor accountability. Now more than ever, the Follow The Money initiative in these countries are aligning in their mission to hold their respective governments to account, so that all interventions and funds can be put to proper use.
Lawal further revealed that the team is mobilizing citizens for social change, countering fake news and misinformation while using digital tools to engage with government accountability issues. He urged them to be alert and seek for government, agencies and institutions to be transparent and provide civil society groups and the media acting as watchdogs in this crucial time with accurate and timely information.
“While we commend the International Monetary Fund for granting debt relief to 25 African countries, CODE uses this opportunity to also urge the World Bank, the Chinese Government and other international bodies to toe the line of the IMF and grant debt reliefs to other African countries. This relief can position Africa to support itself as it battles COVID19”, he emphasized.