Case study interview: Paola Palacios – Programme Coordinator, Transparencia Mexicana (Transparency International Chapter in Mexico). 14th March 2018

Paola is currently trying to follow the money pledged after the earthquake that hit Mexico in September 2017. They want to know how the government is using the donations and to challenge the lack of transparency from private companies or donors.

In response, Transparencia Mexicana’s team in coordination with other civil society organizations created #Epicentro, a civic platform of around 100 CSOs to call for transparency and accountability. The platform aimed to:

  1. Track and monitor public and private resources for the reconstruction process.
  2. Ensure that the reconstruction has human development and inclusion as a core part of process
  3. Address the impunity that led to higher levels of damage, for example, bring corruption cases against developers who build without the correct standard of materials or on soil that isn’t safe enough.

With regards to tracking resources, Paola has found it to be a real challenge.

“We have found a lack of information from the government in their response. The databases we are looking at don’t match. International donors don’t always have transparency and accountability built into their processes. They don’t inform us where the money is going or what they are doing with it.”

The team are trying to map and see which agencies and grassroots organisations are receiving the funds. They are using an aid analysis using some of the Aid Transparency Index components, in order to track what is important. There’s money coming from a range of partners and often aspects such as interest isn’t reported or taken into account. They are trying to get across to all actors that “this is the minimum amount of information that we need”.

Paola started tracking funds the day after the earthquake, using public announcements and pledges. This is hard to do… “Someone said Lady Gaga was donating $1million – we can’t find this!!! It’s a challenge as sometimes it is not true or donors don’t give the information. If a donor says they will give $1million, they don’t say when, where, for who.”

They find information through all mechanisms possible. They visit website, Google pledges, even through twitter! To track that you have to follow where that tweet is related.

To be as effective as possible, they created a platform of around 100 CSOs in the weeks after the earthquake.

“Every Friday we have online conferences. We created these three areas and different organisations were placed in an area. We collaborate online and we have a database that we all share and feed into.”

Paola is working on a report about the state of the earthquake aid transparency. In order to have maximum impact, they have been working with two Mexican movie stars who have been publicly fundraising. “It would be great for them to be the public figures campaigning for the private sector, NGOs and donors to be more transparent.”