Overcoming obstacles, discovering new horizons; My four weeks as an intern at CODE

Communications June 27, 2022 0

By Stephanie Iwunze

As a third year student of Public Health, a 6 month work experience with a public health or public health related organisation forms a compulsory component of my bachelors degree program. I looked forward to this experience from my first year in Baze because I just wanted an escape from writing tests and examinations. 

The days leading to my first day at Connected Development (CODE) were a bit difficult for me to process. I was no longer enthusiastic about skipping tests and exams, instead I was wondering if I was ready after all. 

I joined the team on a Tuesday in the middle of May. As an intern, the idea is to amass as much knowledge and experience as I can by working with all the departments in CODE. The programs department was the first department I worked with. Ruth Okafor, a programs officer was directly responsible for assigning tasks to me and the first task was to take notes for a meeting’s report. 

Turns out this meeting was a weeklong workshop to review all the projects CODE is currently working on. At first I had no idea what was going on until I barely managed to make sense of the abstract words and acronyms I heard. Eventually, there was something I could fully comprehend without opening my dictionary or losing my train of thoughts; Project Sabi, a project aimed at tackling Gender-based Violence supported by Oxfam Voice. 

Another project that resonated with me was EMOC (Empowering Oil Rich Communities) supported by the FORD foundation. The aim of the project is simply to amplify the demands of citizens in oil-rich communities. The strategy employed for this project which involves citizen participation is something I find interesting especially because progress has been recorded around government waste management in the focal state; Rivers State.

The “Girl Child Education” project in partnership with Malala Fund which seeks to address the current  state of our educational sector is one other project I quickly picked interest in. My interest in this project is simply because it aims at  ensuring  the provision of 12 year free and compulsory education with no hidden charges. I am really looking forward to the education summit in Adamawa during  the last week of July. During the summit, all the North-East governors will pledge their support towards improving girl child education in their states. 

Thankfully, the workshop acted as a crash course on CODE’s activities for me.I also got to meet other staff members including the Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal. His humility and ability to cordially relate with everyone inspired me. I watched him motivate CODErs to think outside the box and acknowledge the little success stories they get. I was encouraged to put in my best while having confidence in my abilities no matter how small.  

I was still trying to fully settle into the system when I was asked to join a team to draft a grant proposal for conducting a research on Violence Against Women and Children (VAW/VAC)  from the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI). This formed part of my onboarding process alongside other relatively new staff members. It was a huge challenge because I had struggled overtime with working in teams and I had no idea what a proposal was supposed to look like. Overtime, I enjoyed working with my team. We went back and forth on different concepts, raised constructive criticism and learnt from each other before we finally sent in a concept note on our proposed research topic for approval.

My third week kicked off with a motor park town hall meeting for Project Sabi which is focused on stimulating a movement aimed at ending all forms of violence against Women and Girls with men as the advocates in the participating states; Lagos, Abuja and Enugu.

Apart from the fact that I could easily relate to the project, it was a big learning experience for me. I observed the project officers come up with ways to manage whatever situation was thrown at us within seconds. Some key stakeholders of the project like the NURTW, NAPTIP, NOA and MoWA were in attendance. They made their contributions to the meeting after which plans for signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) commenced.

I was assigned to the Human Resource department in my fourth week and I worked directly under our HR manager, Nene Ibeku. We were working on hiring a few support staff members for a project running in seven states so I assisted with drafting the terms of reference (TORs)  for the different roles we were hiring. So far, this has been one of the most challenging tasks I have worked on but with Nene’s support and encouragement, I was able to put something meaningful together.

My time at CODE has been somewhat challenging but intriguing and I look forward to working with the several departments and doing even more challenging work before the end of my internship here at CODE.

Stephanie Iwunze is a third year student of Public Health at Baze University, Abuja. She hopes to use her experience at CODE as a stepping stone into an impactful Public Health career.

How One School Network is Helping Revive Post-COVID Education in Kenya

Communications June 26, 2022 0

For over a decade, Connected Development has worked hard to empower marginalised communities. In particular, its social accountability initiative, Follow the Money helps these communities hold their governments accountable. This project has become even more important due to COVID-19.

In its Kenya, Malawi, and Cameroon COVID Funds Report, CODE found that due to the lack of financial information it was difficult to track where resources were allocated in Kenya alone. This poses a further challenge for communities rebuilding in the post-COVID era.

In these circumstances, private or non-government-affiliated organisations play a significant role by providing resources where they’re most needed. One standout case in the field of education is Bridge International Academies, an Africa-wide school network that is helping revive post-COVID education in Kenya.

What is Bridge?

This school network spans African countries Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda, as well as the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Like its counterparts, Bridge Kenya offers low-cost yet high-quality education to the country’s communities. Its teachers are given data-driven, standardised teaching guides. They are designed to create a dynamic learning environment that gives pupils the opportunity to practice a core set of skills.

Amid COVID-19, Bridge Kenya instituted its ‘@Home’ programme. This provided pupils and their families with the parent-friendly learning guides, self-study activity packs, digital storybooks, and WhatsApp-accessible quizzes needed to continue learning throughout the pandemic.

Currently Bridge provides its education to communities hit hardest by the pandemic as they strive to rehabilitate. The network’s structured teaching system is also helping the pupils close any learning gaps that may have been caused by COVID-19.

The Bridge Effect

Although the structure of learning in a Bridge classroom may seem rigid, the teacher guides that nurture it are just guides. They allow teachers to merge their creativity and innovation with the speed and effectiveness that they deliver their lessons.

2019 Nobel Prize winner Michael Kremer even found that pupils at the pre-primary and primary school levels learn 53% more at Bridge Kenya. In other words, pupils could learn enough in two years’ time that would usually take other schools three and a half years to teach.

This makes a strong case for standardised education, especially today. With pupils going back to school after at-home learning and even younger pupils enrolling for the first time, the low-cost effective lesson plans Bridge provides proves that their method of teaching can quickly help Kenyan education get back on its feet.

Lessons to Share

In reviving post-COVID Kenyan education, we can learn from the challenges that the school network overcame to reach success. One was how to recruit and train teachers best suited to Kenya’s communities. This was solved through the Bridge Teacher Training programme – a rigorous selection process that recruits experienced teachers from their local communities.

Despite being a private institution, Bridge has also gained government support by sharing its “school-in-a-box” methods. This was evident from the launch of the EkoEXCEL programme in Nigeria in 2019 — a programme that’s seen similar results to the findings in Kremer’s study.

Finally, Bridge is taking steps to tackle gender inequality by changing pupils’ perspectives on gender roles while they’re young. All its textbooks, workbooks, and digital storybooks portray male and female characters in equal fashion and represent the latter in empowering and unconventional roles.

When it comes to bolstering Kenyan education post-COVID, Bridge International Academies in Kenya has a lot to offer. Its methods for training teachers, fostering learning, and tackling societal inequalities are definitely something to consider as possible solutions elsewhere in the country.

Article was written for https://www.connecteddevelopment.org/ by Allie Cooper

Nigerian Elites are Cannibalising the Poor. It is time for Business Unusual

Ani Nwachukwu Agwu June 21, 2022 0

Typically, Nigeria’s fiscal position improves when oil prices rise. This economic phenomenon is called the ‘oil boom’ effect. The recent increase in crude oil prices (33% between January and March 2022) triggered by the war in Ukraine should ordinarily be beneficial to Nigeria’s fiscal position. However, in contrast to past periods of oil boom, two factors are eating up the opportunities presented by high oil prices.

The first factor is falling oil production. Oil production has consistently fallen below Nigeria’s Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota (1.8 million bpd). As of May this year, oil production stood at 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) – the lowest in 15 years – stemming mainly from oil theft and production inefficiencies. The second factor is petrol subsidy payments. In 2020, the cost of petrol subsidy stood at US$0.3 billion. In 2021, it had risen to US$4.5 billion. In this year’s amended budget, petrol subsidy is estimated to cost Nigeria US$9 billion – higher than the combined budget allocation for education, health and social protection.

Whereas households in the bottom 40% of the income distribution account for less than 3% of all gasoline purchases in Nigeria, three-quarters of all gasoline sold in Nigeria is consumed by private firms, public transportation services, and government agencies and a substantial share is smuggled out of Nigeria for resale in neighbouring countries. Somewhat, the government is subsidising illegal trade (smuggling) while also preventing the formation of a legitimate market for cross-border petrol transportation and sale.

To keep it short, perhaps, the best way to understand the politics of petrol subsidy is to borrow insights from President Muhammadu Buhari who in 2015 described petrol subsidy as fraudulent payments. His position that petrol subsidy is a brainchild of political corruption cannot be truer because the benefits overwhelmingly accrue to wealthier households, and a large share is captured by smugglers and black marketeers. Under the subsidy regime, we are unconscionably sacrificing opportunities for critical investments in physical and human capital to fund some unholy appetites of the elites.

Where are the poor and vulnerable groups in all these? Where are their interests? Are they forgotten? They simply do not matter? For every US$1 billion paid to subsidy marketeers or oil smugglers, there are prohibitive opportunity costs. While petrol subsidy unforgivably constitutes unsustainable fiscal burdens on the federation, it disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable groups. One specific way this happens is through inflationary pressures.

Before the war in Ukraine, higher inflation pushed an estimated 8 million more Nigerians into poverty between 2020 and 2021. In 2021, inflation averaged 17 percent, undermining Nigeria’s economic recovery by eroding the purchasing power of the most vulnerable households. The World Bank projects that the added inflationary pressure emanating from the war in Ukraine could push as many as one million more Nigerians into poverty, on top of the six million already projected before the war. Overall, the “inflation shock” is estimated to result in about 15 million more Nigerians living in poverty between 2020 and 2022.

Perhaps, the most frightening implication of petrol subsidy on public finance is the precarious fiscal position of subnational levels of government. This is because most states rely heavily on Federation Account to meet their obligation. As such, diminished revenue inflows to the Federation Account distort revenue integrity and jeopardise fiscal sustainability. For example, in Bayelsa State, Federal transfers account for 91 percent of revenues, and declining transfers caused a 22-percent drop in Bayelsa’s revenues per capita in 2021.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria’s fiscal deficit in 2022 is expected to grow to 5.8 percent of GDP, up from an earlier projection of 5.3 percent. Already, the results are trickling in with NNPC’s zero remittance to Federation Accounts for months going now – a situation that may lead to state governments’ inability to pay salaries and administrative expenses. Inevitably, this will lead to more borrowing.

We fear that the unholy appetites of the elites (petrol subsidy and its consequences) are fueling citizens’ distrust, cynicism and social grievances. Left unresolved for a longer time, they could crystallise into violent demonstrations and political instability. From catastrophic security experiences to tertiary institutions being closed down due to perennial industrial disputes, mass protests will be a dangerous path for Nigeria. In this likely event (may it not happen), the poor and vulnerable will be balkanised and further cannibalised – they are always at the receiving end!

For macroeconomic survival and stability to return, Nigeria needs the consensus of the elites on the future of petrol subsidies. As everyone already knows, petrol subsidy is regressive, opaque, costly, inefficient, unsustainable, harmful, and unfair. It has to go and the proceeds reinvested in critical sectors that would spur growth in a pro-poor manner. It is true that many Nigerians do not support removing the petrol subsidy. This is simply because they do not trust the government to use any fiscal savings for pro-poor causes. While petrol subsidy removal will remain politically sensitive, it is disproportionately benefitting the elites who need no subsidy. It has to go!

We must admit, however, that the poor and vulnerable groups would need to endure temporary hardships if petrol subsidy must give way to a long-term reform agenda. Since the buck stops on President Buhari, he must, therefore, summon the will to lead the conversation; overcome all constraints and generate the trust needed to pursue politically sensitive and hard reforms. Fundamentally, this does not require business-as-usual gloves.

The mix of politics and policy that will play out must be “business unusual”. The recalcitrant insistence and politicisation of subsidy removal arguments is a way the elites cannibalise the poor and vulnerable groups. By any means necessary, petrol subsidy has to give way. It is economic cannibalism!

Written by Hamzat Lawal; Founder/CEO at Connected Development and Ani Nwachukwu Agwu; Head of Research and Policy at Connected Development. For correspondence, please contact Ani at nwachukwu@connecteddevelopment.org

Acknowledgement
This piece immensely benefited from the Nigeria Development Update. NDU is a World Bank report series produced twice a year which assesses recent economic and social developments and provides an in-depth examination of selected economic and policy issues and an analysis of Nigeria’s medium-term development challenges.

Call for Third-Party Monitoring State Civil Engineer, for The Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment( AGILE)

Communications June 11, 2022 1

DEADLINE: 13th June 2022

Job Description
State Civil Engineer

Locations: Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Plateau States.

Reports to: Project Lead

Organizational Background

Connected Development [CODE] is a non-government organization [NGO] whose mission is to empower marginalized communities in Africa.

We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of citizens on how to hold their government accountable through Follow The Money.  CODE provides marginalized and vulnerable communities with resources to amplify their voices with independence and integrity while providing the communities with information that ushers social and economic progress.

To enhance effective democratic governance and accountability, CODE creates platforms [mobile and web technologies] that close the feedback loop between citizens and the government. With global expertise and reach, we focus on community outreach, influencing policies, practices, and knowledge mobilization.

One of the projects to be implemented to achieve this goal is the AGILE (Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment) project. The Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) Project was developed by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with the World Bank as part of the Government’s long-term education reform agenda, to adequately address the identified constraints of accessing and completing secondary education facing adolescent girls in Nigeria.

AGILE consists of three distinct but complementary components. These are:

(1) Creating Safe and accessible learning spaces
(2) Fostering an enabling environment for girls) and
(3) Project management and system strengthening components.

CODE is calling for a civil engineer for the AGILE Project who will join the team to carry out the following responsibilities:

–   Measure outputs and outcomes using available data and by undertaking interviews and field assessments where necessary;

– Support the Project lead to prepare/update their system of tracking and reporting against their agreed performance indicators;

– Support AGILE to implement agreed institutional strengthening and personnel capacity building projects related to performance monitoring;

– Work closely with the engineers supporting capacity development of AGILE team .

– Track progress of AGILE project interventions and report in progress monthly;

– Collect data, analyze, and present data on outputs, outcomes, and impact of AGILE project in all localities;

– Support the project manager on project compliance, monitoring and reporting.

– Support the development of a monitoring plan

– Assist in providing training and technology transfer to national personnel

– Represent CODE in project implementation activities in the State, as directed by the Project Manager and the Senior Engineer to ensure that AGILE procedures and the standards adhere to all project implementation activities.

–   Ensure regular supervision of the monitoring plan progress and quality for on time delivery

– Provide data and information about project to the PM for reporting purposes.

Requirement

– Degree in Civil Engineering or related disciplines.
– Minimum 2 years’ experience
– Previous experience in monitoring project performance would be preferred.
– Experience in preparing reports on project progress is desirable.
– Strong in communication skill and speaks the local language fluently.
– A team player.

Method of Application:

Interested candidates should fill the form provided below. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Women are strongly advised to apply.

APPLY HERE

Call for Third-Party Monitoring M&E Support Officer, for The Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment( AGILE).

Communications June 10, 2022 42

DEADLINE: 13th June 2022

Job Description
Monitoring and Evaluation Support Officer

Locations: Borno, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Plateau States.

Reports to: Project Lead

Organizational Background

Connected Development [CODE] is a non-government organization [NGO] whose mission is to empower marginalized communities in Africa.

We strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building capacities of citizens on how to hold their government accountable through Follow The Money.  CODE provides marginalized and vulnerable communities with resources to amplify their voices with independence and integrity while providing the communities with information that ushers social and economic progress.

To enhance effective democratic governance and accountability, CODE creates platforms [mobile and web technologies] that close the feedback loop between citizens and the government. With global expertise and reach, we focus on community outreach, influencing policies, practices, and knowledge mobilization.

One of the projects to be implemented to achieve this goal is the Third Party Monitoring of Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE) project across seven states. The AGILE Project was developed by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with the World Bank as part of the Government’s long-term education reform agenda, to adequately address the identified constraints of accessing and completing secondary education facing adolescent girls in Nigeria.

CODE is calling for a State M&E Support Officer for the AGILE Project who will join the team to carry out the following responsibilities:
He/ She will be responsible in assisting the Project team to design, coordinate and implement the monitoring and evaluation, research, and learning framework of the Project. He/she will assist to develop a systematic monitoring framework to improve the qualitative and quantitative evidence gathered by the Project.

Specific duties;

  • Collect data on a regular basis to measure achievement against the performance indicators.
  • Check data quality with partners
  • Maintain and administer the M&E database; analyse and aggregate findings.
  • Support project progress reporting, project mid-term review and final evaluation.
  • Provide advice to the supervisor on improving project performance using M&E findings.
  • Produce reports on M&E findings and prepare presentations based on M&E data as required.
  • Provide the Project Manager with management information she/he may require.
  • Check that monitoring data are discussed in appropriate forum and in a timely fashion in terms of implications for future action. If necessary, create such discussions to fill any gap.
  • Perform other duties as may be assigned by the Project Manager

Skills & Qualities  

  • Minimum of three (3) years of professional experience in an M&E position responsible for implementing M&E activities of international development projects.
  • Experience in designing, implementing, and operating project M&E systems from project initiation to closeout stages.
  • Experience in designing and managing beneficiary monitoring and database systems.
  • Proven experience in community projects.
  • Experience in Advocacy.
  • Excellent writing skills in English.
  • Outstanding communication skills (both written and verbal).
  • An ego-free attitude when it comes to taking constructive feedback and running with it.
  • Ability to work methodically and meet deadlines.
  • Positive, flexible, solution-oriented, and excited to work with a diverse team of professionals working toward a common goal.
  • Mature, coachable, and happy doing high-level projects.
  • BSc degree.

Method of Application:

Interested candidates should fill the form provided in the link below. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Women are strongly advised to apply.

APPLY HERE

The COVID 19 Transparency and Accountability Project –  Platform

Lucy Abagi June 9, 2022 0

In a bid to provide African citizens with access to evidence on COVID-19 resources, leading social accountability initiatives, Follow The Money and BudgIT, with learning partners Global Integrity, launched a comprehensive user-friendly COVID-19 Fund Africa website as part of the COVID-19 Transparency & Accountability Project (CTAP).

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.

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 centers 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;

  • 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.
  • Resource Filters which allows citizens to easily narrow down to the country or specific resource portfolio by clicking the African country they would like data on.
  • Research and Papers on COVID tracking and government’s responsiveness in Africa.
  • Rapid Response Functionality allowing the site to be compatible with all browsers and mobile devices.

All of these have allowed us a window of opportunity to engage with governments from all our focus countries, as this gives us opportunity to make informed decisions and ask the right questions from the concerned government officials across board. We believe we have led the way, we expect more citizens to take action with the information they now have access to. 

Covidfund.africa harnesses all data gathered from our work across Africa. The process that went into this included all partners submitting relevant data sets from in country, most especially our focus country, this was because, we understood some of these donations will not be on the world wide web because they were private donations, for example, Nigeria was able to raise over N20bn from private individuals across the country when COVID-19 hit the country, it was important to capture data sets like this, as this allowed us to know the full story concerning both cash and material donations. CTAP project leads in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon were able to provide data sets of private donors from the country. 

All the gathered data needs to tell stories that can be related to by individuals and stakeholders across Africa. We also wanted the policy makers and leaders across all our focus countries to understand that we are aware and we are mapping out and implementing informed strategies to aid the reduction of corruption in the system of administering the funds received by individual countries. 

The platform does not only tell stories of data gathered, it’s also a repository of knowledge gathered across our focus countries, this includes, the research documents, human angle stories across Africa, Infographics, efforts to track in real time COVID-19 cases across africa and also tell stories as to how our focus countries are mitigating the effects of the pandemic in their respective countries. The platform has also allowed people to tell their stories and share challenges which they ordinarily will be afraid of sharing due to the consequences that follow such actions. 

In the past year, the website has had over 5,000,000 unique visits across the globe, this indicates that we are doing something right and we have also got some feedback to help improve the platform to better serve the needs of Africans and provide the best accountability platform everyone can trust. Our hope is that this platform actually gives every African the opportunity to hold their leaders accountable and give the insight to ask the right questions that will spur actions. 

The CTAP project needed to not only speak about the funds and donations coming into all African countries, we also wanted a platform where everyone who wants information concerning these funds can log into and get information. The success recorded by CTAP in all our focus countries largely sits on the back of the data we were able to collect from all open source platforms available to us. Bilateral, multilateral and private donors were the largest contributors to these funds across all African countries, we made sure not to only put our focus on Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Malawi, we also spread our lens across all African countries. We know combing the internet for information is quite a task, however, we seek to make that easy by putting all verified information into the platform we have developed.

COVID 19 Transparency and Accountability Projects – The Challenges and Way Forward.

Lucy Abagi June 9, 2022 0

The COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) is an innovation implemented by Connected Development, BudgIT and Global Integrity with support from the Skoll and Conrad Hilton Foundation with a commitment to track all resources from public sector, private, multilateral and bilateral donors committed to COVID-19 pandemic. 

Phase one of the first year was implemented in seven countries – Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon & Kenya with massive results and impact. 

Amidst all the success stories recorded, The CTAP project across focal countries encountered diverse challenges ranging from restricted public gatherings due to the pandemic and the shrinking civic space with accompanying media clampdown; as seen with the ban of Twitter in Nigeria.

Busayo Morakinyo CE Director Anchoring a panel discussion with CSO partners in Nigeria

Access to information, low political will accompanied by insecurity and uprising posed a challenge for the campaign team in ensuring smooth data collection, verification and dissemination. Notwithstanding, our multidimensional and citizen-driven strategy was utilized in ensuring the achievement of the project goals. 

The robustness of evidence was hampered by difficulties in accessing government records, Incident Action plans, audit reports and performance reports, etc., relating to the disbursement of COVID-19 funds and management. The broad unwillingness of officials to speak on the fiscal responsibility of states was frustrating and inhibitory. 

Our “carrot” approach was initially incorporated to ensure effective dialogue with government agencies on our research and tracking findings but this did not yield expected results. To mitigate this, our research and findings were cross-promoted via online and offline platforms resulting in massive outcomes and adoption of our recommendation by concerned government institutions. 

We activated civil society interest recorded during the coalition meetings but encountered stalled momentum in activating the aggregated actions due to funding constraints. The language barrier and financial constraint in publishing campaign materials in local country dialects and audiotapes for persons with disabilities hampered the dissemination of findings to grassroots communities. 

This also had some challenges for our human angle stories. Survivors of COVID-19 were not very open to telling their stories due to the accompanying stigma. We needed this to intensify the fight against misinformation, disinformation and fake news to fight these stigmatization. 

Our plan to work with the coalition was also initially challenged in some of the countries due to inadequate capacity of local CSOs to track government activities. However, we took time to train some of these partners and supported their project implementation process. We have also seen the need to advocate for the FOI (Freedom of Information Act) in these countries to make it easier to access government information and to demand transparency and accountability Specifically in; 

KENYA

Language barrier during the dissemination of findings to grassroots communities was a roadblock. Transfer of functions of Government in Nairobi County to a new entity hampered access to information. Cessation of movement as a Government directive to control the spread of the pandemic restricted public gatherings hence affected FTM-Kenya meetings. Bureaucracy by Government officials hampered access to information. Finally, early campaigns and electioneering period led to limited civic engagement spaces which hampered transparency.

CAMEROON

Across the focal regions, the robustness of evidence was hampered by difficulties in accessing government records, Incident Action plans, audit reports and performance reports, etc., relating to the disbursement of COVID-19 funds and management. The broad unwillingness of officials to speak on the fiscal responsibility of states was frustrating and inhibitory. The efforts of the researchers to access key documents from relevant offices and senior officials in the regions were stunted by time constraints imposed by the study duration (period) and the unfavorable attitudes of officials.

Insecurity in Bamenda and Mora hampered the tracking of PHC in the region. The security of the team was of paramount importance and could not be jeopardized. Throughout the implementation of the project in the crisis zones, the CTAP team respected  ‘’ghost town’’, during “ghost town” our champions did not go on the field to collect data.

MALAWI

Malawi invited government officials and representatives to be part of the coalition but none of them came through.  In addition,  we had set up numerous meetings with government representatives to present our research findings and recommendations on how covid 19 funds should be handled (transparency and accountability) but to no avail.   Only when we published our research in the local media platforms and sent the research findings to our individual connections is when we yielded results and our recommendations got to the President.  

In addition,  after we held our two coalition-building workshops, we had a lot of interest from like-minded organizations to be part of the CTAP project and track how the government is spending COVID-19 funds.  However, when it came to implementing the action plans, most of the organizations in the Coalition had to be pushed.  They also looked up to us to provide funds for the Coalition to carry out their activities.   The Whatsapp group that we created was vibrant at first but the engagement on the platform started hitting a dead end when we couldn’t provide financial support for the activities.  

NIGERIA

The PHC campaign encountered other roadblocks, for example, meeting with the Executive Secretary of State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) in some States was next to impossible, insecurity in Kebbi and Imo States affected the campaign activities. In Kebbi State, the campaign was truncated. In Imo State, the campaign was completed after the safety of the FTM team was assured and the monopoly of mainstream media by the government hindered reportage of findings and outcomes in Ebonyi state.

Across the focal states, the robustness of evidence was hampered by difficulties in accessing government records, Incident Action plans, audit reports and performance reports, etc., relating to the disbursement of COVID-19 funds and management.  The broad unwillingness of officials to speak on the fiscal response of states was frustrating and inhibitory. The efforts of the researchers to access key documents from relevant offices and senior officials in the states were stunted by time constraints imposed by the study duration (period) and the unfavorable attitudes of officials. Specifically, the insistence of officials that such records can only be authorized by Executive Governors (Incident Commanders) implicates the strength and autonomy of public institutions and pervasive cultures of secrecy in the civil service. Due to malfunctional government websites, information was not easily accessible. To inhibit these, we hope to build stronger collaborations with the government, creating conducive platforms that would enhance political will for more openness with information sharing. We would request for ample time for project execution especially when  research is involved.

Insecurity in Kebbi and Imo States hampered the tracking of PHC in the region. The security of the team is of paramount importance and could not be jeopardized. 

In addition to the tracking of PHCs, the team was also very pertinent in telling the stories of Nigerians and how the pandemic affected their lives, sources of livelihood and the ability to scale through the economic hardship that came with the pandemic. To gather these stories, we tried to link the acclaimed government support most especially with the palliatives and the support funds that came in different forms and amounts to over N23tn. Our findings showed that the middle men looted most of these materials and funds. 

Notwithstanding all these challenges, we advocated and collaborated with governments in focus countries to provide and institute proper accountability along with procurement measures for all financial cum material donations received. Specifically

In Kenya, the CTAP team advocated and influenced policy by contributing to legislative amendments related to COVID-19 as follows:

  1. Public Finance Management Act (Emergency response fund) regulations 2020 policy was developed.
  2. Senate Adhoc Committee on COVID-19 situation committee requested the controller of budget and the Office of the Auditor-General to conduct a special audit report 
  3. Submitted a memorandum on the public procurement and asset disposal (amendment) bill to the National Assembly. 

In Cameroon, we influenced institutional audit processes across the ministry of public health and ministry of Justice on the use of funds intended for the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic at a time when persistent information indicates “serious” financial embezzlement.

In Nigeria, our advocacy influenced documentation of COVID 19 fund disbursement by the Ministry of State, Budget and National Planning, providing the public with the breakdown of COVID-19 funds expenditure and the process of distribution

In Malawi, we collaborated with the Center For Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) to track a Covid-19 school expansion project in Salima District. Government officials were engaged and all relevant stakeholders mobilized to track down and prosecute the defaulting contractor. 

In Ghana, our advocacy, augmented through our partnerships with other CSOs and activists, resulted in the formulation of a parliamentary committee to review covid spending. Senior members of the Ghana Audit Service have also indicated in meetings their acquiescence to undertaking a forensic audit of covid spending in the coming months. 

In Sierra Leone, our advocacy with other civil society groups and the media prompted law enforcement agencies (the Anti-Corruption Commission) to investigate and prosecute erring officials involved in corruption cases related to covid-19 funds.

In Liberia, our advocacy with other civil society organizations and media institutions led to the national government accounting for covid-19 funds. It strengthened existing partnerships with antigraph institutions, making covid-19 public financial data accessible to citizens.

Our result has been due to our multi-dimensional project approach that is flexible and all encompassing to accommodate new challenges and trends in solving social issues and with more resources the CTAP has proven that it has the capacity to scale and deliver results even in challenging and high-risk countries.

Burying Health Sector Corruption in Kenya, Malawi, and Cameroon via the COVID 19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP)

Lucy Abagi June 9, 2022 0

The Mandate of Follow The Money (FTM) is to build citizens’ capacity to stop and uncover corruption in Africa. This mandate has birthed 9 Chapters and is still counting. 

The role of citizens in rescuing the continent from institutional and systemic corruption can not be underestimated. As a leading Pan African Movement, follow the money is taking intentional steps in supporting organizations in Africa to adopt its tracking model and strategy in achieving its accountability mandate.

The CTAP initiative provided the opportunity to support 4 FTM international chapters to track the utilization of COVID 19 funds in their countries. Kenya, Malawi, Liberia and Cameroon received some funding for CTAP in their country for a period of 12 months. And BudgIT supported 3 countries (Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone) Since the inception of these projects, massive results have been recorded providing a case for scalability across other African Countries.

In Liberia, the 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 $1 million budgetary allocation for private schools’ teachers in the 2020/2021 national budget. We advocated for the release of funds to the right people. We have also engaged stakeholders to ensure accessibility is straightforward for the school teachers to access these funds. In Kenya, As of December 2020, the Government of Kenya had mobilized Kshs 214 Billion ($ 2,332,600 Million) through loans, for COVID-19 related expenses, out of which Kshs 162 Billion ($1,765,800 Million) was disbursed to Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDA’s) of County Governments. Out of the amount allocated to the County Governments, there was underutilization of funds, despite the urgency and needs brought about by the impact of the pandemic on citizens.

CTAP Kenya documenting citizens voices on COVID 19 Fund Transparency.
  • Improved participation from government officials– Government officials from several County Governments were key informants in the tracking phase of the Kenya CTAP initiative. These included; Health & Water-Sanitation Chief officers who are in charge of authorizing the expenditure of department budgets, and County Executive Committee members-Health, who are the equivalent of Ministers on the County level. The aforementioned participated in a video interview, discussing the Covid-19 incidence in their respective counties, gaps identified and mitigation strategies for the same, which has been consolidated into a feature documentary produced by the FTM Kenya team at SIDAREC.
  • Development of a Coalition coordination strategy– The first CTAP coalition building meeting held in April 2021 brought together 11 CSOs namely; Transparency International Kenya (TI-K), Shining Hope For Communities (Shofco), Kelin Kenya, International Budget Partnership Kenya (IBP-K), Uraia Trust, the Institute of Public Finance Kenya (IPF-K) and Association of Grassroots Journalists Kenya (AGJK). This has since grown to include Hivos, Development Gateway, Mzalendo and COVID-Kenya. The strategy paper encompasses a situation analysis (SWOT), communication/advocacy strategy, coalition resourcing strategy, expected outcome/impact and roles and responsibilities of the Coalition members. The document served as a roadmap to guide and consolidate collective advocacy efforts at the sub-national and the national levels in regards to enhancing transparency and accountability in public budgeting and contracting processes and access to information around COVID-19. 

In Cameroon, On March 29 2021, the Head of State through the Secretary-General at the Presidency in a letter instructed the Minister of Justice to initiate immediate judicial investigation against co-authors, authors or accomplices in the potential embezzlement of COVID 19 funds. While awaiting the outcome of this governmental investigation of itself ADE/CTAP released Press Statements commending the government for accelerating the call for public administrations to be audited for COVID funds. Due to our intense advocacy on CTAP, the President of the Republic of Cameroon Paul Biya ordered an audit on the use of funds for the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic at a time when persistent information indicated “serious” financial embezzlement. He directed  the Secretary-General, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh who ordered the Minister of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze to release FCFA 32,555,000 to cover the audit costs for the Supreme State Control (CONSUPE) mission at the Ministry of Public Health.

Launch of CTAP Cameroun

In July 29 2020, after the launch of CTAP in Cameroon, the Ministry of Health, citing “the urgent need for transparency”, published in a two-page press release, summary information on how it had spent FCFA 21,973,799,873 billion ($40,556,387.318 million), claiming that this was its total spending in response to COVID-19 within March to July, 2020. Though insufficient in details, this press release provided a baseline for further investigations on the expenditure of COVID funds in Cameroon.In Malawi, CTAP Malawi released our research on how COVID funds were spent and exposed how several people from the government had mismanaged COVID-19 funds. Immediately after releasing this report, the president of Malawi Dr Lazarus Chakwera fired the Minister of Labour and arrested 19 officials who were involved in the mismanagement of Covid 19 funds. This was a success for CTAP in Malawi because even after the audit report on the COVID funds had come out and exposed the mismanagement of the funds, nothing was done until the CTAP report was shared in public domain.

Launch of CTAP Malawi by the CEO of CODE Hamzat Lawal

In the second phase, We plan to upskill local groups and strengthen the operationalization of coalitions in sharpening conversations and engagement with governments on wider health sector accountability and transparent utilization of COVID 19 funds across more African countries.

Nigeria’s Health System In the COVID 19 Era 

Lucy Abagi June 9, 2022 0

As the world woke up to the news of a novel virus, and the World Health Organization classifying it a pandemic, the Africa continent was projected to be the most hit due to the poor state of our health centers coupled with systemic corruption and increasing migration of health personnels in search of better and sustainable remuneration in developed countries. 

In Nigeria, the state of health centers are lagging, as recent data shows Nigeria as one of the worst places for a woman to birth a child. In fact, a new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, ranked Nigeria the least (80th out of the 80 countries considered) with the study with a score of 4.74 out of 10.

In the early days of the pandemic, most organizations folded up and retrenched staff due to lack of funding as most donor agencies withdrew their resources in order to adequately prepare for the unknown and unanticipated impact of the pandemic.

Lucy Making A Presentation on Project designs and Ideation

As an activist with multidimensional skills in turning complex problems into fundable projects, I remember the ideation process that led to the creation of the COVID Transparency and Accountability Project- brand. Instead of resorting to fate and hoping that the mandatory COVID 19 lock down order be removed by the federal government, CODE’s CEO Hamzat Lawal, challenged us to either “innovate or die ” and shared some strategies around tracking COVID 19 funds.

At the aim of CODE’s operations in Abuja Nigeria,  HQ staff dribbled in some ideas and so did our Follow the money International chapters. In less than twenty hours, we had two ideas and Immediately, I reviewed the available ideas and confirmed they were novel, fundable and scalable. So I reviewed and a full concept note and innovation was birthed and shared with partners and prospective donors.

CODE & BudgIT Launch the CTAP in Abuja

Then, an opportunity appeared for a partnership with BudgIT, one of our strong allies in the sector and I quickly finalized on the concept note and shared with BudgIT team for inputs and after series of donor meetings and pitch sessions, we were able to access $500,000 from the Skoll and Conrad Hilton Foundation for the launch of the CTAP project in 7 African Countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroun, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Ghana). 

In Nigeria, the CTAP Project under CODE’s deliverables had diverse components including “Tracking the state of Primary Health Care (PHCs) and Vaccine distribution in Nigeria” in order to monitor the state of and vaccine storage in 15 States namely Cross River, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Abia, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kebbi, Osun States across the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria, and monitor and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach on the distribution of COVID-19 Vaccines in Nigeria. The PHC tracking component was crafted to increase citizens participation in advocating for transparency and accountability in the health care sector by monitoring and reporting the state of PHCs across Nigeria.  

Follow The Money team members across the 15 states conducted intense tracking and data gathering using our designed toolkit on the kobotool box. The result of this intense research revealed that only about 20% of PHCs meet the required standards for infrastructure, personnel, service delivery, vaccine storage and vaccine administration. From this analysis, it could be inferred that only two (2) out of every ten (10) PHCs in Nigeria are up to standard. Further discoveries show that 30% of PHCs do not have access to clean and safe water, as some facilities use wells as their source of water and 7% use rain water. However, maternity and ante-natal service showed up as the most readily available and accessed service across Nigeria.

The follow the money team (FTM) teams in each of the 15 States soon after data collection on PHCs commenced Community outreach (CO) in May, 2021. They engaged with community stakeholders such as community head/chiefs, women leaders, men leaders, youth leaders. This activity was targeted at compiling evidence to advocate for the improvement of PHCs by engaging community gatekeepers in garnering community support for the tracking of COVID-19 vaccines, create awareness for the importance of the vaccines, and identify the level of knowledge about services the PHCs render. This activity revealed the disproportionate ratio of PHC to the size of each community and community leaders testified that vaccines were hoarded in some communities by health workers.

The final activity in CTAP tracking was the town hall meeting which held across all project States, it served as a rendezvous for health workers, representatives of local governments area councils, the Executive Secretaries of various States Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), traditional heads, community chiefs, women leaders and men leader, to have a dialogue and map out an action plan for the standardization of PHCs to efficiently service the communities that host them as well as foster their preparedness for future COVID-19 vaccine administration. 

To further intensify the campaign and present our findings across these states for policy changes and institutional restructuring across PHC, our team states have further engaged with key stakeholders and partnered with frontline media agencies in amplifying the findings in their states.

The representative of Gombe SPHCDA showing evidence of Kumbiya-Kumbiya PHC

We reviewed seven cases of COVID-19 related corruption, contacted witnesses, and gathered evidence. We also forwarded petitions to relevant prosecutory bodies. Six petitions were sent to ICPC(Independent Corrupt Practices Commission). ICPC reached out and has opened investigations into some of the cases upon receipt of our petitions. Our team is helping them with relevant facts/evidence in the cases.  

During the course of tracking the state of Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs), the campaign garnered public and media attention in Osun State, South-West Nigeria, as conversations around the use of torch lights and candles to take delivery of babies in PHCs gathered momentum. According to public sources, the Osun State Government in 2019 received $20.5million from WHO as a grant to revitalize 332 PHCs. Less than two (2) years later, the revitalized PHCs are only visible with painted buildings but not in amenities.

Relying on findings during CTAP, the team influenced Rave 91.7 FM, a radio station with about 5.1 million listenership in Osun State, to carry-out more investigation on two (2) out of the six (6) PHCs we assessed. Find the story here

Two weeks after the findings were published, those two PHCs received brand new generators. The reporter who conducted the investigations, Emmanuel Ujiagughele, received the Best Reporter Award during the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) event in the State. Follow-up investigations were conducted by HumAngle, a notable reporting media in the State. The HumAngle publication of investigations made reference to FollowTheMoney/CTAP investigations uncovering gaps as well as the unresponsiveness of the State Government in being transparent and accountable for COVID-19 funds.

Another outstanding unanticipated success was entering into a formalized partnership with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), a parastatal under Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health responsible for the development of the primary health care delivery system, storage and distribution of vaccines in Nigeria. This partnership grants FollowTheMoney/CTAP access to all of the Agency’s data necessary for social accountability in the health sector as well as unfettered access to PHCs for joint monitoring and evaluation of health services, COVID-19 vaccine exercises and health intervention programmes across the Federation.

My Documentary Experience in Kano State

Communications June 9, 2022 0

By Ruth Okafor

In the first month of  2022, I was tasked with a different level of challenge when I was assigned project manager for the Galvanizing Mass Action Against Gender-Based Violence in Kano state (GMAA-K) project. The major objective of the project was to ensure that the masses join their voices to demand the passage of the Child Protection Act and Harmonized Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act (VAPP) Bill in Kano State. The adoption of the Child Protection bill and VAPP bill into law will increase protection for children and women against rights violations.

Our immediate approach was to document and amplify the stories of girls and women who have suffered varying degrees of Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV). With this objective in mind, I and a small team traveled to the ancient city of Kano with nothing but recording equipment and hope that by telling these stories we influence an attitudinal change in the society.  

We visited the only Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in the State and found reasons to further advocate for support, especially for survivors who were bold enough to tell their stories and seek help.

As far as telling stories go, this was one of the hardest documentaries I have had to work on. It was simply an eye opener as I was opportuned to speak with victims, understand their plight, and even share in their pain. 

Traveling down memory lane, I had just arrived in Kano State when the Attorney General of the State, Bar. Musa Abdullahi Lawan called to mention that he would only be available that day. That immediately put a strain on our plans as the documentary team was flying in and time was of the essence. As fate would have it, he eventually came around and we got the opportunity to talk at length about the status of the VAPP Act and Child Rights Act in the State House of Assembly. He assured us that the Bills would make it to passage before his tenure elapses.

Though he convinced us that the laws would be passed, I wanted to dig deeper and find out what the delay was and so when I asked about the hindrances and challenges delaying the passage of the Bill, he made it clear that the State operated and maintained a Penal Code, emphasizing that the existing penal code speaks to some aspects of GBV, hence the need for harmonizing the VAPP Act into the Penal Code as opposed to adopting an entirely new legal framework.

The Penal Code is a code of laws concerning crimes and offenses and their punishment. The penal code is similar to the criminal code that functions in the southern part of Nigeria. The penal code is prevalent in the northern part of Nigeria. 

But beyond laws and policies, there’s a bigger existential threat to victims who are denied justice after experiencing an attack or abuse. Speaking on this, he mentioned that most victims hesitate to pursue justice, especially parents, who are more worried about discrimination. This, as well as cultural and religious factors, make it hard for justice to be served and more often than not, cases are settled out of court and perpetrators walk free.

After the interview, a question kept burning in my mind: If the goal is to ensure justice,why aren’t  cases taken up as crimes against the State?

While I got no response to the question drilling hard in my mind, the happenings of the next couple of hours transported me to another disturbing state of mind. It was 10am the next day and we had set out to the Kaura Mata community to interview some survivors. We arrived a little past 11am, and were informed that the girls and young women who wanted to share their stories would have to wait for their husbands to set out on their daily activities before coming out. By 12pm some of them had started arriving.

We began setting up for the documentary at the home of the woman leader as that was the only place the young girls felt safe enough to share their stories and get support in the community. When we interviewed the woman leader, she stated that she had gone through a similar challenge as a young girl.

Ruth (Program Manager GMAA-K and some Kano state legislators

Besides the story of the woman leader, two compelling stories stayed with me even after I left Kano. 

The first is a story of Salihu (not real name), a 20-year-old lady who is a mother of four. She mentioned that at the age of 10 her parents wanted her to get married but she refused. This led them to send her to a food vendor in another community, where she got raped by one of the customers and fell pregnant. She got sent off by the food vendor and all her parents decided to marry her off to her abuser. Life for Salihu and her four kids got worse after her husband abandoned them.

For Zainab (not real name) a 17-year-old girl with a vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), life has been unfair. At age 14, she was married off to a 70-year-old man. She took in but lost her child due to the fact that he was born prematurely. In fact, between the ages of 14 and 17, she has lost several pregnancies. She also stated that her husband is currently bedridden and she has to cater for herself, her surviving twin, and the husband. 

The chill from the stories shared will forever be a memory which is part of the reasons I decided to pen them down. You can read through PART 2 of my experience documenting the stories of victims in Kano state.