Recognising the Need for Greater Aid Transparency in the Health Sector in Mozambique
Case study interview: Jorge A. Matine – Coordinator of the Public Finance programme, Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) Mozambique. 15th March 2018
Jorge works for the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), a think tank and watchdog organisation in Mozambique that promotes transparency, good governance and integrity. Based in Maputo, CIP employs 14 staff – nine researchers and five administrators. It serves as an anti-corruption watchdog across five main programmes/pillars:
- The extractive industry
- Public private partnerships
- Public revenues and expenditure
- Anti-corruption institutions
- Investigative Journalism and Public Procurement.
Jorge coordinates the Public Revenues and Expenditure pillar. He is also the Mozambique researcher for the Open Budget Index.
“We collect evidence about the misuse of public funds. To do this we use different methods, we probably know less than 30% of what is going on in each sector – it’s investigative journalism. We use our findings to produce Indexes or comparative studies. We publish reports. We want things to go public and to hold the government accountable.”
Mozambique still relies heavily on aid and it is therefore important to know what is coming into the country from donors. To find their information, CIP engage with the Ministry of Finance, Parliament and the Supreme Audit Institution. It is anticipated that revenues will increase and CIP therefore considers it essential to continue monitoring at different levels how public expenditure priorities are determined and if public expenditures produce satisfactory outputs. They focus on three main sectors that are dominated by international donors: Health, Education and Water and Sanitation. Agriculture is also a new area they are starting to look at.
Jorge and his team work through donors and Government reports and try to follow donor support through to public finances and then impact.
“We look at how much has been given to the government. We want to see that reflected in budget expenditure and documents. In terms of aid, what is the link between disbursements and results?”
Another issue is that individual systems are siloes. For example, in the health sector, USAID is a large donor and it has its own way of reporting things. Other donors are the same. Jorge finds consolidating this information and matching expenditures with results to be very difficult as a result.
“Finding the information is a big problem – this is why we use investigative journalism. The government doesn’t publish everything. The Ministry of Finance will publish the budget but it’s not clear what constitutes money from donors and money from taxes. Donors also rely on government reports – however, the ones produced for them are not public, so we can’t see them.”
The problem of transparency is difficult to solve in Mozambique as there are so many actors involved. There are emerging donors such as China and Cuba who can be secretive about their work: “You will see a lot of buildings with signs saying it’s been built by them but you can’t trace it.” There are also small donors and the private sector who might provide aid but this could also be through in-kind donations. Jorge says, “This is different to European donors who have the pressure to work together. Even if they don’t actually do it, the pressure is there.”
Jorge finds the government’s commitment to transparency depends very much on the current political economy of the country. Five years ago, the economy was strong and the government was very populist, which was an attractive proposition for investors. The expectation was that the extractives industry would bring financial stability and so the narrative was one of self-determination and reducing dependence on international help. This has now changed and the country has high debts and the economy is not doing well. Jorge says: “When the government has a lot of sources of money, they aren’t good at being transparent to donors. As dependency on donors is increasing again, then donors push for more transparency and the government responds.”
One key challenge of working with donors is the high turnover of staff. International staff often work two-year contracts before moving on. This makes it difficult to maintain a conversation and progress. Jorge says “It isn’t possible to strengthen these sectors without having donors buy in to it. I would like donors to include disbursement indicators related to transparency and accountability when they sign their annual deals with the government.”
When asked if there is a demand for more data, Jorge replies:
“There is a lot of appetite for this information. We had the debt crises, we all became aware of it when it was published in newspapers abroad – if you leave the government to do their own thing, it can go wrong.. We have been working for 10 years in Mozambique and there is increasing interest in transparency. Even donors, are now starting to speak up publicly. It’s become a very sensitive political issue. This might be different in a country where aid doesn’t play such a big role but here, it matters.”
All of this creates an environment where Jorge and his colleagues feel they can make real change. They want to start implementing small projects using the Aid Transparency Index methodology and IATI data to get more information about specific sectors, starting with health. This will help them engage donors on open data issues.
“For me, this is a very important issue. Having access to methodologies and tools is very important. When we engage with donors we can show that this is a global issue – this creates an environment where they want to be seen to be acting on these issues.”