Following the money: using data to track development spending in Nigeria
By Hamzat Lawal, Founder and CEO of Connected Development in Nigeria
In the run up to the launch of the 2022 Aid Transparency Index, Hamzat Lawal discusses how Connected Development works with marginalised communities to track funding and monitor development projects. He reflects on whether international donors, and those inputting the aid data, know that teams of community volunteers are consuming and using the same data to ensure their projects are being implemented effectively.
Nigeria is extraordinary. We have a population quickly approaching 200 million, we have a thriving tech sector and exciting economic opportunities, but we also have our challenges. Health, education and employment indicators illustrate the work that still needs to be done to ensure our citizens have equitable access to the necessities of life. Funding that work is a mixture of national resources, paid by our companies and citizens and managed by our government, and international development finance from the likes of the UK, US, EU and the World Bank. It’s our job to make sure this money is visible, gets to where it’s supposed to, and responds to the needs of the communities it is intended to help. If a community in Madachi, in Kaduna State, is in need of a primary health care clinic, and the money is promised by an international donor or the state government, we’ll be there to make sure it’s built. Without entrenching accountability and transparency none of this would be possible.
“I sometimes reflect on whether international donors know whether we’re using their data to ensure their projects are being implemented effectively. There aren’t really any feedback loops, and frankly we’re often too busy to let them know. But I do sometimes wonder if those inputting the data in headquarters in the US and Europe know that our team are consuming that same data, and bringing it to life with citizens in some of our poorest communities.”
Hamzat Lawal, Connected Development
Founded in 2012, Connected Development (CODE) aims to strengthen local communities by creating platforms for dialogue, enabling informed debate, and building the capacities of citizens on how to hold their government accountable. We provide marginalized and vulnerable communities with resources to amplify their voices with independence and integrity while providing the communities with information that ushers social and economic progress. As international donors become more transparent we’re increasingly accessing and using aid data through tools such as d-Portal and donors’ own portals (foreignassistance.gov, EU Aid Explorer and the UK’s DevTracker).
One of our best known initiatives is “Follow the Money” which tracks and advocates for proper utilization of funds in government and international interventions in grassroots communities. Follow The Money is a network of like-minded individuals from all lines of work, ranging from activists, social workers and lawyers, to development consultants, researchers and data analysts, that utilize our social mobility platform (www.ifollowthemoney.org) and media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and mainstream media to amplify the voices of marginalised communities.
Over 25,000 government and international aid projects are tracked on a quarterly basis, and today we have 7605 activists and development workers signed up and tracking government and international funds in their communities. Consequently, essential public projects, previously abandoned or which otherwise would not have been implemented, are being restarted and completed, due to the tracking and monitoring of grassroots projects by these community volunteers. Thereby, facilitating social development in these communities, fighting inequality and poverty and advocating inclusive development.
I sometimes reflect on whether international donors know whether we’re using their data to ensure their projects are being implemented effectively. There aren’t really any feedback loops, and frankly we’re often too busy to let them know. But I do sometimes wonder if those inputting the data in headquarters in the US and Europe know that our team are consuming that same data, and bringing it to life with citizens in some of our poorest communities.
So, back to that primary health care (PHC) clinic in Madachi. In 2019, the Follow The Money team paid a courtesy visit to the Local Government Chairman in his office to discuss and agree on ways of tracking the construction of the clinic. The Chairman shared the plans for the clinic and the bill of quantities with our team. With these in hand our team could track the progress being made and ensure that the clinic met the expectations of the local . We found that the project, which includes the construction of fencing; two wards; one labour room; one consultation room with toilet; waiting room and two pit toilets, has been completed but not in use due to lack of hospital equipment and furniture. The findings have informed our advocacy intervention and approach towards ensuring that the new facility can be fully functional to benefit the members of the community.
This is the first in our blog series for the 2022 Aid Transparency Index, which will be launched on Wednesday 13th July at 2.30pm BST.