TAI Weekly | December 11
By TAI
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Highlights:

  • December 9 – what did you celebrate?
  • Welcome idolatry
  • Mind the (accountability) gap
  • Captured – global bodies that hardly inspire confidence
  • 2040 Utopia or dystopia?
  • The perfect match – donor and consultant?
  • TAI spotlight: From taxation without representation to defending the right to protest

In case you missed it…

December 9 – what did you celebrate?

Photo:  Rux Centea on Unsplash

This past Sunday was memorable on two fronts. First, it was global Anti-Corruption Day – we come to that in a moment – but it also marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Activists used the occasion to call for the end of harassment and killings of activists in their work of promoting civic engagement and holding the government to account.
 
Encouragingly there are some signs that the trajectory need not always be negative. Yared Hailemariam is pushing adoption of a  revised CSO law into legislation in Ethiopia for better engagement with the government, while former Rwanda presidential candidate and government critic, Diane Rwigara and her mother were acquitted by Rwandan court on charges of inciting insurrection and forgery.
 
For transparency advocates, last week’s OGP steering Committee was a reminder of battles still to be won. While the committee discussed the state of democracy and OGP’s thematic priorities for 2019, one key committee member, Aidan Eyakuze, Twaweza’s executive director could only participate remotely. Reason? Lack of his passport confiscated by the Tanzania Immigration Department back in August.
 
More encouragingly for OGPers, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 2018 world e-parliament report notes that over a third of parliaments now have a formal working arrangement with parliamentary monitoring organizations, which can serve as catalysts for greater public understanding and engagement. A mark of progress – albeit a long way still to go.

 

Welcome idolatry

Returning to December 9th and to Anti-Corruption Day, we were cheered that Accountability Lab won the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award – read their take on the ceremony in Malaysia. Plus, we saw welcome policy and prosecution moves this week. On the policy front, you will recall that earlier this year; the UK Parliament passed a bill to require British Overseas Territories to introduce public registers revealing the individuals behind companies that are incorporated in their jurisdictions. Will this directive help to curb money laundering? Only time will tell, but new research by Transparency International UK finds 237 global economic crime cases – worth £250 billion – were allowed by 1,107 companies based in the British Overseas Territories.
 
Meanwhile, in a welcome policy reverse, the UK agreed to revisit issuance of golden visas. The result of smart advocacy or of national security concerns? Perhaps both.
 
What of missing regulatory policy? Maira Martini calls for proper legislation to deal with banks. Would you buy a bank with the primary aim of using it to launder money? Venezuelan businessman, Raul Gorrin Belisario, apparently did just that as part of an alleged billion-dollar corruption scheme.
 
On the legal front, U.S. prosecutors finally announced criminal charges for four suspects involved in the Panama papers scandal, and a representative from a Chinese oil company faces charges of trying to bribe African government leaders.
 
Elsewhere, Vietnam has set up a telephone hotline for whistleblowers to report accusations of police corruption but requires them to submit their full name and address when reporting these police officials. Otherwise, the report is discounted. Potential pitfalls anyone?
 
Ever thought of an effective way for citizens to fight corruption and mismanagement in public service delivery? Don’t forget the good old social audit – Transparency International details 20 steps on how to implement one.
 

Mind the (accountability) gap

It’s been a year full of tech scandals from Facebook potentially being used to incite ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, to Cambridge Analytica seeking to manipulate elections, to Google building a secret censored search engine for the Chinese. All this raises the critical need for accountability, a recurring theme in AI Now’s 2018 report and their 10 recommendations for industry, governments, and academia starting with providing sector-specific agencies with the power to oversee, audit, and monitor the technologies.
 
Additionally, the impact of AI in the news ecosystem is a global concern. Check out the 66 finalists who are contesting for a share of the $750,000 to address specific problems at the intersection of AI and the news
 
One of the AI Now recommendations refer to the need for government vendors to waive trade secrecy and other legal claims that stand in the way of accountability in the public sector – one way to overcome the “black-box” effect. Yet, a Spanish government agency has dragged its feet in responding to a public records request seeking source code for a computer program that assesses citizen eligibility for electricity subsidies. Currently, only electricity brokers have access to the program (in Spanish). What is the next step?
 
The ‘Mediterranean Seven,’ a grouping of southern EU countries, have signed a declaration pledging to lead on developing blockchain technology for government use and promote its use for governing, such as land and corporate registries. They cite the technology’s ability “to increase transparency, minimize administrative burdens, and better access to public information.” High claims.
 
Recently the World Bank launched its new worldwide bureaucracy indicators database that gives an understanding of the fiscal implications of the government wage bill. Pamela Jakiela draws three lessons from the data. Government size doesn’t vary with income. Better pay isn’t linked to less corruption. Women are over-represented in the public sector relative to the private sector.
 
Finally, wondering how to develop and deliver data training in innovative ways? Julian Tait advises you start with data expedition. Check out other strategies here.

Captured – global bodies that hardly inspire confidence

Ever think about the Universal Postal Union or the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)? We don’t either, but maybe we should. The Economist flags how global regulatory bodies are getting captured by special interests which tends to be bad news for global consumers. See who dominates the budget of the IMO for example…

Meanwhile, is the G20 undermining Africa in its advancement of global issues? Cobus Van Staden argues yes, and says it’s time for the G20 to treat Africa as an international partner, not a development problem for external actors to solve.

 

2040 Utopia or dystopia?

Monday saw the launch of a new set of scenarios for our world in 2040 developed by 35 experts from a range of disciplines. Focusing on fiscal issues, the range of possibilities for the mythical country of Thule range wide as variables such as levels of participation and democratic space come into play.  What shifts do tax and budget advocates need to make? (see more under TAI Spotlight).
 
Talking of revenues and participation, a new report from EITI details how increases in said participation, dialogue, and data accessibility can enable women to better harness the benefits of extractive resources in their countries. Pair with the impact story of how Natural Resource Governance Institute has helped civil society in Tunisia to ensure resource governance and transparency and champion EITI membership. Finally, check out Andrew Bauer and Ines Schjolberg Marques’ argument on how to fight corruption and mismanagement of natural resources.

 

The perfect match – donor and consultant

Are funders making the most of consultants? The ability to match the right consultant with the organization’s need, budget, and work style can generate substantial benefits for all involved. How do you go about it? S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation shares lessons they have learned as well as the experiences of grantees they support and useful resources for working with consultants.
 
Beyond consultancies, how do funders know they are supporting effective programming? One way is to open the communication channels with grantees. A recent study by the Centre for Effective Philanthropy and Open Road Alliance found out that foundations are not as in touch with non-profits’ needs as they think. Why is there a failure in communication and what can be done?
 
Want to measure your program accountability? Don’t know where to start and how to go about it? Start by making a survey. Check how Civicus used the baseline survey and the Net Performance Analysis (NPA) methodology.

Long read of the week

The Cost of Secrecy: The Role Played by Companies Registered in The UK’s Overseas Territories in Money Laundering and Corruption by Transparency International

The report exposes the massive role of companies registered in the UK’s overseas territories in money laundering and corruption.

TAI spotlight

Taxation without representation | TAI
TAI’s Alison Miranda and Yeukai Mukorombindo in their blog: “Taxation without representation? Do international norms matter?” take a deep dive on two evidence briefs exploring learning questions on taxation and international norms and standards.
 
Fiscal futures 2040 | TAI
TAI has partnered with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and International Budget Partnership to support a scenarios process focusing on tax and budget issues. Check out the four scenarios and stay tuned for a blog series digging in on the field-wide gaps it surfaced.


On diversity, equity, and inclusion | Luminate Group
Luminate Group reflects on its approach to DEI, sharing its new priorities and processes for it.
 
Transparency, participation, and accountability strategy evaluation | Hewlett Foundation
Pat Scheid and Joseph Asunka share their strategy evaluation results and lessons learned.
 
Boosting civic tech | Luminate Group
Donohue details their increasing commitment to support civic tech and the allocation of $60 million in 2019 for grants and investments.
 
Defending the right to protest | Open Society Foundations
Sharan Srinivas speaks with Stanley Malematja, Right2Protest’s attorney about the organization’s critical role of defending and advancing the rights of peaceful protesters in South Africa.

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