Our work

Financial Transparency

Tackling corruption and demanding transparency, accountability, and participation in the use of public funds.

The global context

Financial transparency underpins strong and healthy societies, increasing accountability, reducing corruption, and ensuring public funds are spent delivering the services the public really needs.

The past decade has seen real progress in this area, from the development and adoption of open standards, to the increased disclosure of critical information – including payments from extractive companies to governments.  

We have seen growing collaboration between local and global organisations too, particularly in addressing corruption and illicit financial flows. Just look at the worldwide impact of the Panama Papers and the growing momentum behind tackling beneficial ownership. Anti-corruption movements are also resurgent, demonstrating what can be achieved when the right legal infrastructure is in place and supported by strong institutions and an engaged civil society. 

Nevertheless, there is still work to be done. In recent years, there has been a fall in compliance against a number of indices, including, according to the Open Budget Survey, a global decline in budget transparency. The US epitomises this backslide. Adopted in 2016, The Dodd Frank Act required extractive companies to disclose all payments to foreign governments. Its implementation has now been halted. 

Moves like this highlight the increased importance of institutionalising the transparency gains made so far. This will not be easy. The civil society organisations fighting to make this happen are up against increasingly constrained civic spaces. All of our support is needed.

What we do

We provide grants to organisations working directly in financial transparency, while also supporting those undertaking research in the field. Alongside this, we collaborate with our other Impact Areas to address the wider challenge of shrinking civic space. Our current geographic focus is on Africa, Europe, and South East Asia.

We are increasingly investing in public accountability mechanisms and infrastructure, including standards development and government capacity building, for example through the Open Contracting Partnership and The Natural Resource Governance Institute. We also support models that improve service delivery to marginalised populations and organisations that push for accountability.  

The complex nature of corruption requires coordination between global, regional, and national organisations. We continue to support those committed to bringing various actors together for greater impact, such as the Financial Transparency Coalition. Finally, we work with other funders to bridge funding and capacity gaps in our priority countries, and document lessons learned from different approaches at a local level.  

Our current priorities include:

1

Setting higher transparency standards

We will continue to support transparency around public funds by helping people better understand where these resources are going. Here, we will focus on four areas: tax and extractives revenue, public participation in the budgeting process, contracting, and tracking expenditure. In all these areas, we will seek to strengthen the data and standards that form the building blocks of transparency.

2

Targeting corruption with a focus on responsiveness and enforcement

We will focus on work that enhances responsiveness at an institutional level, to include government, companies, and multilateral bodies, in order to drive prosecutions and sanctions. We have already begun grant-making in this area, supporting strategic litigation, led by public interest groups, targeted at the responsiveness of government agencies around access to public resource information and data.

3

Strengthening accountability at the local level

We will grow our support for groups that are focused on using publicly available data to push for accountability at regional and local levels.

4

Building the financial transparency ecosystem

Collaboration across sectors is essential in the battle for public finance integrity. We will continue to support these efforts, as well as conducting advocacy, and building a repository of evidence-based learning.

Improving lives by engaging governments differently

The International Budget Partnership collaborates with civil society around the world to use public budget analysis and advocacy to reduce poverty and improve service delivery. They recently released a video that celebrates their successes in three informal settlements in Wattville, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa.

Blood diamonds and beyond

Bountiful natural resources should be a blessing for developing countries, not a curse. However, all too often they bring war, corruption, and environmental catastrophe. For over 20 years, Global Witness has used its investigative, advocacy, and storytelling skills to tackle the root causes of these abuses. Their excellent introductory video explains more.

The Follow the Money movement

According to Connected Development (CODE), 80% of the $39 billion in international aid earmarked for rural African communities is stolen before it can make a positive difference. Their iFollowTheMoney.org movement gives these communities a platform to track funds and demand accountability.

Unmasking corruption with ProZorro

ProZorro means ‘transparent’ in Ukrainian. It is also the name of an electronic open-source government system developed by Transparency International Ukraine to reform the country’s notoriously corrupt public procurement system. Highly successful, it received the World Procurement Award in 2016 and gold at the 2016 Open Government Awards.

A new era in Mexican anti-corruption efforts

Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (IMCO) studies the economic and social issues affecting Mexico’s competitiveness in the global economy. Their revolutionary ‘3for3’ campaign led to a new law requiring every politician to publish their assets, taxes paid, and conflicts of interest for the first time. For their efforts, IMCO were awarded the 2017 Templeton Freedom Award.

Have a question about Financial Transparency?