Fighting corruption was at the center of the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia that ended in September. Not surprisingly, Open Contracting, an approach to bring deals between governments and businesses into the open, was identified as a key tool in fighting corruption in the Putrajaya Declaration that emerged from the Conference.
As contracts cut across sectors, every service a government provides can be affected by it. Life saving medicines, and schools buildings, and infrastructure projects such as roads, ports, bridges, estimated at US $1 trillion worth, provide opportunities for agreements behind closed doors that can harm societies in the long-term.
Just three months after the deadly Ebola Virus touched down in Nigeria, the country was pronounced “Ebola free” by the World Health Organization. In a country with a mobile population of more than 173 million, mixed progress in public health outcomes and challenges in government coordination and delivery, this is a remarkable case of delivery despite the odds, with international assistance playing an ‘arm’s length’ role and Nigerians taking the lead.
But it doesn’t always take a crisis to align the interests of politicians, institutions and the public like this. We recently attended the Overseas Development Institute’s ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’ event where participants presented several cases of how governments delivered despite the odds.
The civil society members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) steering committee are proud to announce the inaugural OGP Government Champion Award!
. Even though the country has vibrant democracy and policy interventions like right to information act, citizens lack awareness and necessary toolkit for exercising their rights through social audit.
In late June, we sent two of our bravest colleagues, Marta and Marcelo, on a daring mission into the Tundra, close to the Arctic Circle. Even though the temperature was in the mid-80s (mid-20s Celsius), you could feel the glacial breezes. Since our unit focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, you might wonder what brought them so far north.
The team had arrived in Toronto, Ontario with a mission: to learn more about shared corporate services (SCS) and their potential application to save costs and improve government efficiency in other parts of the world.
In the late 90s, reeling from a financial crisis, the provincial government of Ontario was faced with a daunting task: to cut a third of its administrative budget in one year. In other words, they had to do more with less. Over the next decade the government managed to save C$43 million in direct costs and C$227 million through efficiency gains. Their secret was an innovative solution borrowed from the private sector.
This is an important week: it marks both International Right to Know Week and the week of the United Nations’ summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.
At this meeting, The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are expected to be adopted. Among these goals is Goal 16, Target 10 – to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.
Inclusion of this target recognizes that incredible progress has been made on the right to know--over one hundred countries worldwide already have made significant progress towards achieving this target and other countries are actively discussing the passage of access to information laws--and that there is still more work to be done.
Among the findings in a recent report of the Independent Evaluation Group entitled ‘World Bank Group Engagement in Resource-Rich Developing Countries: The Cases of the Plurinationational State of Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Zambia’ was that: “The World Bank’s programs often lacked attention to the demand side of reforms, including building partnerships and maintaining communications with stakeholders beyond the executive branch of government.”
This finding caught my eye because, given my own experience with a number of particularly assertive governments, I know that the more important issue, and where the real accountability lies, is for governments themselves to pay attention to the demand side, in other words that they listen to their own citizens.
Efficiency. Competitiveness. Innovation. Integrity.
Do these words come to mind when you think of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)?
From June 2-3, 2015 in Santiago, Chile, over 100 representatives of governments, SOEs, and academia from 13 countries came together to discuss how to advance these ideals, at the fourth Annual Meeting of the Latin American Network on Corporate Governance of State-Owned Enterprises, co-organized by the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the Latin American Development Bank (CAF).
SOEs are commercial enterprises owned by governments, in full or in part. , national expenditures, employment, and government revenues.
These are exciting times for those of us who believe in the potential of greater budget accountability to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. The upcoming release of the Open Budget Survey promises to shed some light on three pillars of accountable budgets: transparency, participation, and oversight.
The importance of budget transparency is now well established. Recent years, however, have seen growing recognition that, along with access to information, it is critical that the public is provided with formal opportunities to engage in how budgets are managed.
Photo: Daniel Kozak, World Bank
The first time I came to Bucharest in 2013 the Bank office offered to arrange a pick up from the airport. Being a seasoned traveler, I declined the offer. I reasoned that I had lived and worked in so many countries I could manage the transfer to the hotel without assistance. I was wrong.
I picked up my luggage to find a local cab outside the airport. A taxi driver offered me a ride. I didn’t negotiate the price upfront seeing that he had a meter in the car.
Twenty minutes later we reached the hotel. The meter read Lei 200 - at the that time about $60. That was over twice the going rate but there was little else I could do. I felt cheated as so many tourists do.
I learned from the experience, accepted offers of help from colleagues and paid more attention to rates going forward.
An electronic kiosk had been installed at the airport. Arriving visitors could now press a button to get an estimated wait time to hail a taxi. I took my ticket. It was a smooth ride.
What made the difference?
The new taxi ordering system is now available on mobile phones mirroring, in many ways, the service provided by Uber. Passengers can rate drivers and increase accountability.
Bucharest has gone from being a difficult place to find an honest cab driver to one of the most convenient.
The change has been driven by incentives and improved technology.