The Republic of Congo is a rich country. The oil and minerals in the ground, which account for 80% of government revenues, could fund world class hospitals, schools and infrastructure. Yet in 2011 nearly half of the population was living in poverty and almost a third of the population was living on less than US $1.90 a day. For every 100 children born in the country, five won’t reach their 5th birthday. (By comparison, in Switzerland it’s four in every 1000).
In 2013, Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Congo exposed how only 16% of health projects were completed and only 9% were functioning. More than half of the projects reviewed had not been started at all, and another 16% lay abandoned. But thanks to the work of local activists, many of these stalled projects are now back on track.
The citizen-initiated monitoring project focused on how oil money is spent on healthcare. Civil society activists requested information from government and conducted a detailed review of 2011-2013 health budgets, followed by eight field visits. In total, 192 projects were reviewed. Conflicts of interest, corruption and incompetence were discovered, but the firms faced no sanctions.
The report made headlines in the national newspaper, and quickly had an impact. When news of the monitoring reached the contractors responsible for having abandoned construction of a large dialysis centre in the port of Pointe Noire, work started within two weeks.
In Moukondo, a village in the west of the country, an abandoned construction site for a health centre for impoverished people saw workers turning up and rebuilding the roof following PWYP’s visit. To make sure the construction is sustained, PWYP conducts training events for local activists, who continue the field monitoring of health care projects.
Since the release of the PWYP report, the government has issued regulations that require that projects take account of the planning process conducted by local community groups. The situation in which public contractors from Brazzaville have little accountability to the local people is changing.
- Giving the responsible entities a feeling that “someone’s watching them” led to improvements in their behaviour.
- Project-level data availability allows for efficient monitoring, for defining exact responsibilities and for holding relevant entities to account.
Photo credit: Julien Harneis from Conakry, Guinea