Follow the Money: from information to schools and hospitals

Follow the Money: from information to schools and hospitals

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ONE has a history of campaigning for information on revenues and government budgets to be opened up – our Trillion Dollar Scandal campaign last year pushed G20 leaders to make new commitments on extractives transparency, tax evasion and phantom firms – all critical information – without which we cannot hope to crack down on corruption.

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The steady drumbeat of progress last year should give us confidence. Here are some inspiring numbers from 2014:

60 new commitments by Open Government Partnership members to make natural resources more transparent, accountable, audited, published, and participatory.
41 countries made new commitments around public procurement.
27 countries agreed to new policies to crack down on anonymous companies (the favored channel of money launderers) through new rules in the European Union’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive.
20 countries (the G20) endorsed a set of principles calling for progress on public registers.
85 new Open Government Partnership commitments on budget transparency.
8 countries (Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Fiji, Ecuador) produced never before published budget reports

2015 – the year of the factivist

Last year, our co-founder Jamie Drummond travelled to Tanzania and came back with a depressing story: the “Pealing Poster Problem.” In a local village, where people were living in extreme poverty, the local school and clinic were in very poor condition.

A local leader’s job was to tell the community about the government budget and where the money was being allocated. But in reality, all of the information was held in an old, out-of-date poster behind his desk. He didn’t have answers to basic questions on where the money was going, nor was he telling the local community.

Contrast that with the team at the Open Institute in Kenya who use their Open County Dashboard to visualize local government budgets, train local community groups to identify questionable spending, and encourage them to take those questions to local leaders at town hall meetings.

TDS G20

In 2015 we want to go to the next level. Not only will we campaign for information – we will work more and more on turning that information into change for the world’s poorest people.

Last month, ONE convened a group of over 50 Follow the Money activists from around the world to figure out ways to track corruption and make sure that governments are spending money on the things they say they will.

It was inspiring to see investigative journalists who risk their lives in the fight against corruption, come together with coders from Berlin and Boston, and who are doing amazing work on visualizing and connecting up data.

The bringing together of grassroots campaigners from Kansas who are pushing for more extractives data from US oil companies, with community groups in rural Kenya asking why school teachers aren’t being paid is what Follow the Money is all about.

So after our big meeting we have a plan:

– We will gather examples of Follow the Money initiatives which can be used to convince political leaders of the importance of opening up data.
– We will provide spaces for helping the Follow the Money activists to learn from each other
– We will road-test technical data standards so that extractives data can be connected up to budget information
– And we will continue to campaign for transparency in international policy processes, ensuring that government and companies open up information that will empower people and help in the fight against corruption.

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