Actions for Development and Empowerment Launches Initiative to Track Covid-19 Spending
A Covid-19 Transparency and Accountability initiative has kicked off in Cameroon. This was done yesterday by Cameroon’s civil society group Actions for Development and Empowerment (ADE) in Yaounde, Monday 22nd of February 2021 during a press conference held at the Solomon Tandeng Muna Foundation. The Initiative dubbed Covid-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP) was launched in the presence of Mr Hamzat Lawal Founder of Follow the Money International and Ndi Nancy Saiboh ADE Founder and Follow The Money Cameroon Lead
CTAP is a project sponsored by Skoll Foundation and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in partnership with Connected Development (CODE) and Follow The Money International which is currently the largest social mobilization & 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. Home-grown Nigerian initiative with its chapters in Kenya, The Gambia, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Liberia, and Malawi are holding their government to account for improved public services and accountable spending of public funds.
The project seeks to advocate for accountability, transparency, and open governance while strengthening civic awareness and ensuring that targeted governments use COVID-19 intervention funds effectively in 7 African Countries. With CTAP, Actions for Development and Empowerment (ADE) will advocate for accountability, transparency, and open governance while strengthening civic awareness and ensuring that targeted governments use COVID-19 intervention funds effectively. The project will also address the poor information access in the accountability of COVID-19 resources and the effects of COVID-19 on socioeconomic development.
In 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) carried out a survey on Covid-19 funds management in West and Central Africa and produced a report titled: Covid-19 Emergency Support Packages in West and Central Africa; An overview and analysis of fraud and corruption risks.
The survey provided an account of the measures setting up “emergency support packages” and economic safety nets in West and Central Africa, with a focus on the associated corruption risks. Such measures, the UNODC report said often include direct cash disbursements, short and medium-term forgivable loans and deferment of payments, as well as tax rebates. The need for urgent action with a rapid impact has been identified as a factor potentially leading policy and decision makers to overlook oversight and accountability mechanisms. Hence, the adoption and implementation of emergency support packages risks becoming a thriving ground for misuse, fraud and corruption.
The data was compiled by UNODC through a questionnaire transmitted in May 2020 to anticorruption agencies and government representatives of West and Central African countries, as well as civil society organizations (CSOs). It covered 21 countries, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
The analysis toke a closer look at: (1) the measures adopted under the emergency packages, including the types of measures taken, the targeted beneficiary groups, as well as the entities responsible for their implementation; (2) the existence of a legal basis for such measures; (3) the institutional frameworks in place for the oversight and monitoring of the disbursement of the funds as well as the implementation of the support packages; and (4) the risks of fraud and corruption emerging from this assessment. It noticed that relevant risks of fraud and corruption remain, notably with regard to the allocation, distribution and use of emergency funds. Several national anti-corruption agencies received complaints regarding the implementation of Covid-19-related measures or are aware of complaints made to other state agencies in their country. Similarly, representatives of CSOs consulted within the framework of this survey raised concerns with regard to the vulnerabilities of national rescue packages to fraud and corruption.
In West and Central Africa, around two thirds (62%) of the countries surveyed adopted emergency support packages by decree, thus relying considerably on the executive, while about one third followed a legislative process for the adoption of such packages (33%). The role of parliamentarians could be strengthened in the oversight over the design and implementation of Covid-19 emergency support packages, especially if the crisis persists in the longer term.
For recommendations, the report underscored the importance to set up and implement adequate legal and institutional frameworks in order to prevent and mitigate fraud and corruption risks related to public health crisis management and economic rescue measures. By doing so in a reasonable timeframe, allowing for the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including anti-corruption bodies, civil society and the private sector, and strong monitoring and evaluation processes, it says governments can ensure that their responses to current and potential future health emergencies effectively sustain public health, national economies, and the well-being of the affected communities.
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. CTAP is an initiative that seeks to advocate for proper accountability and transparency of funding, interventions and finances targeted at combating COVID-19
Through Follow the Money, CTAP seeks to set up an online open data platform that curates and tracks all financial and material donations to fight against Covid-19 in Africa, provide support to pan-African partners to understand the current situation in focus countries especially transparency and accountability mechanisms as regards the use of COVID-19 related funding. It also seeks to advocate and collaborate with governments in focus countries to provide and institute proper accountability along with procurement measures for all financial cum material donations received. Various expenditures of Covid-19 financing will also be made public, thereby promoting open government partners across the board as well as to analyze the post-COVID19 environment and its impact on marginalized and vulnerable communities
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. ADE had urged the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health in Cameroon to aggregate and centralize data on all contributions and donations. This according to the Yaounde based transparency and accountability group is an important approach to quenching fake news that may be intended to sway citizens against the government.
Follow The Money Cameroon will thus 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. It will 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.
Follow The Money is a network of activists, social workers, lawyers, journalists, development consultants, researchers, data analysts, that are signed up on a social mobility platform (www.ifollowthemoney.org) and use media platforms like twitter, Facebook, YouTube, mainstream media to amplify voices of marginalized communities.
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