In December 2016, the Nigerian government passed a new policy which allowed whistleblowers to anonymously disclose information through a secure portal as part of a broader effort to tackle corruption. If the information provided leads to the recovery of stolen funds, the whistleblower is entitled to between 2.5% and 5% of the total funds recovered. According to the Minister of Information, as of February 2017 the law has led to the recovery of $151 million in looted funds. This impact seems unlikely to slow down, as demonstrated by the recent discovery of $43 million stashed in an apartment owned by the now-suspended head of intelligence.
Beyond the headlines and the staggering amounts involved, what stands out is the realization that the fight against corruption in Nigeria — and elsewhere — has to be multi-pronged, and the role of the citizen, whether as whistleblowers or as pressure points, is more critical than ever. This is why we have invested in two Nigeria-based organizations — Budeshi and Connected Development — that are tackling corruption and the lack of transparency around the expenditure of public funds by allowing citizens to make sure that the government is spending public funds as promised.
Budeshi is an initiative within Nigeria’s Public and Private Development Centre that aims to make government contracting information more transparent. It is doing this by linking budget and procurement data to provision of public services and structuring the data, using the Open Contracting Data Standard, so that it can be visualized, searched, compared, and used. Budeshi’s work responds to the need for open, coherent, and useable data to enable better tracking of public finance for projects. This is important and complex work, requiring multiple partnerships and parsing of the information to make it accessible. Ultimately, it is at the heart of the global push for open data and inter-operable standards — to help citizens understand where their money is going. If the model is successful, there is huge potential for replication across the continent and indeed other parts of the world. Our funding support of $300,000 over two years will help Budeshi refine its model and demonstrate the impact of open contracting.
While Budeshi tracks the contracting process, Connected Development [CODE] literally “follows the money” by tracking whether or not work happens once a contract has been awarded. Since it is citizen-driven and focused on rural areas in Nigeria, which are often under-served by transparency and anti-corruption activities, their model is truly unique. The team responds to requests from citizens to conduct investigations into whether government or donor funds allocated for projects were spent as intended. They do so by mobilizing local citizen reporters to search for budget and procurement data, and to connect that information to tangible projects in their own communities. The local community activists are then supported to run their own advocacy campaigns to champion completion of the projects.
Since Connected Development [CODE] launched in 2012, they have run 17 campaigns to track health, education, and environment projects in communities all over Nigeria. In 2014, they successfully lobbied for 1,500 children in Zamfara state suffering from lead poisoning to receive the treatment they had been promised by government. In 2016, the Jeke community in Jigawa, in northern Nigeria, finally received their allocated 10-point water facility after months of campaigning. Following an initial grant of $100,000 in 2015 to help Connected Development grow its work, we are providing a further $450,000 grant over the next three years, to enable the organization to improve its capacity to respond to community requests and scale its work.
Fighting deep-seated corruption is complex and requires coordinated efforts on multiple fronts. We believe our investment in Budeshi and Connected Development, along with our existing investment in BudgIT in Nigeria, will play a role in linking those fronts while keeping the “office of the citizen” at the heart of the efforts.