Peer-Learning and Network-Building: The East Africa Expenditure Tracking Conference

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Over the past decade, civil society organizations (CSOs) in more than 60 countries have initiated activities to analyze their governments’ budgets.Initially, CSOs specialized in budget analysis and advocacy to influence national budget policy.However, as a broader range of CSOs undertake budget work, the scope of this work has expanded to include activities throughout the budget process, including budget implementation and assessing the impact of expenditures.

East Africain particular has experienced an enormous growth in new and innovative “expenditure tracking” exercises (as grassroots budget monitoring is popularly termed).A common theme linking the work of organizations in this region is that they monitor government expenditures within local communities.Importantly, while each of these groups uses a different methodology and format in their monitoring activities – the methodologies and formats are sufficiently similar to allow lessons learned to be shared among these groups.

In October 2007, IBP and the Policy Forum of Tanzania organized an East Africa Expenditure Tracking Conference sponsored by a grant from the Open Society Initiative of East Africa (OSIEA).Held in Arusha, Tanzania, the conference was attended by 23 participants from 15 organizations from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi.Two observers from the Poverty Action Network of Civil Society in Ethiopia (PANE), an IBP partner, also attended to learn about methodologies for implementing expenditure tracking in Ethiopia.The three-day conference provided a forum for peer-learning and for exploring opportunities to strengthen and expand expenditure tracking work in East Africa through a regional network.

The first part of the conference involved joint-learning among peers, where groups from each country presented case studies of their expenditure tracking work, with a focus on methodology, access to information, challenges, and results.The conference also included a site visit to a nearby village to observe the results of the PIMA Card methodology developed and implemented by Hakikazi Catalyst, an Arusha-based NGO.During the site visit, participants met with members of the village monitoring committee, who presented the results of their monitoring activities, and also observed a community notice board (constructed by Hakikazi) where information on village governance, development projects, and finances are posted.

Following the presentations and site visit, participants from each organization got together to discuss what they could do differently in their work, what they would encourage others to consider, and two key lessons learned from the different methodologies presented.

Several groups, including the Centre for Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) and the Youth Agenda of Kenya, found the community notice boards useful and expressed an interest in adopting this tool in their work.The Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRC) of Uganda and CEDGG noted that they would like to take up aspects of Hakikazi’s PIMA Card methodology in their expenditure monitoring work.

The Uganda Debt Network (UDN) presented their work on monitoring the Schools Facilities Grant using community-based monitors, community radio, sub-county and district dialogues with local officials, and advocacy with national-level stakeholders.Inspired by UDN’s advocacy work, the Apac Anti-Corruption Coalition (TAACC) of Uganda and Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) of Kenya recognized that they need to strengthen linkages upwards and downwards to ensure that the impact of their work is felt at the national level.The Youth Agenda liked UDN’s use of community radio and will consider incorporating it into their media strategy.

After learning about the expenditure tracking guide for trainers, “Follow the Money”, produced by several of the Tanzanian groups (Hakikazi, REPOA and TGNP), TAACC and Youth Action Volunteers (YAV) identified strengthening documentation, dissemination, and sharing of best practices as an area in which they could improve their work.

Other groups, particularly the Civil Society Coalition on Quality Basic Education (CSCQBE) of Malawi and TAACC of Uganda, emphasized that monitoring work requires consistent use of evidence-based advocacy to bring about change.TAACC also pointed out the necessity of taking action to enforce accountability through prosecution and legal redress.In their presentation, TAACC highlighted their success in using the courts to recover public funds and remove corrupt public officials, particularly in the case of Universal Primary Education funds in northern Uganda.

When asked what they would do differently in their work, KRC and the Youth Agenda responded that they could improve the use of tracking tools which monitor both expenditures and quality of services, which is a component of methodologies used by groups such as Hakikazi, UDN, and YAV.

Following the presentations by CSCQBE on tracking of education expenditures and by YAV on health budget tracking, CEDGG and the Youth Agenda expressed interest in exploring sector-focused monitoring work.

A majority of the groups, including UDN, Kivulini (representing the Mwanza Policy Initiative), Hakikazi, Youth Agenda, KRC, and YAV, also stressed that the role of CSOs is to facilitate communities to undertake their own monitoring work, and to empower them to articulate their own concerns and engage with government and decision-making processes.

During the last session of the conference, Policy Forum presented their experience of coordinating a national network in Tanzania and the challenges involved.One key challenge noted was getting member organizations to hold joint-learning events, rather than just conducting trainings in their own organizations.After this presentation, participants gathered in their country groups to discuss establishing an East Africa expenditure tracking network, followed by a plenary session.Participants agreed that a network is needed to address common challenges, facilitate joint learning, and strengthen and expand tracking work in the region.It was generally decided that the development of the network should be gradual and should start by focusing on an issue common to all three countries.IBP is currently following up with all of the participants to discuss next steps and focus issues for the network and possible activities to be held in the coming year.

Story Courtesy of IBP Newsletter

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