Corruption is a hot topic. Budget advocacy? Sadly, not as much.
But a recent interview in prominent Nigerian newspaper This Day suggests that budget advocates could be the missing link to keeping corruption in check.
The interview Mr. Ugo Jim-Nwoko, Executive Director of the International Centre for Development and Budget Advocacy Abuja, highlighted the low-level of financial commitment to health spending and questioned the role of corruption on proper spending of government funds. Despite a promise to allocate 15 percent of its budget to health following the 2001 Abuja Declaration, Nigeria’s health budget is only 6 percent of the overall budget and some funds within the budget have yet to be released.
“The challenge we face as a nation has been more as a result of the undue influence of corruption on our development process,” Mr. Jim-Nwoko remarked. He called upon maternal health advocates to analyze and monitor public spending to ensure that funding for projects like the Governments’ SURE-P Maternal and Child Health program—which works to bring maternal health care to rural communities—is receiving the 16 billion naira (about $96 million) the government says it spends.
As advocates work to translate these commitments to policies and programs to improve the lives of women and girls in Nigeria, the role of budget advocacy is critical. As PAI’s work on RH BudgetWatch has shown, budget advocacy for family planning and reproductive health provides an opportunity for civil society organizations to ensure funds are spent as promised and raise awareness when they are not. It helps identify the gaps in processes that holdup effective spending—whether delays in procurement orders in Kenya, poor planning for releasing funds in Tanzania, or more illicit occurrences like the concerns of corruption Mr. Jim-Nwoko revealed.
Given the behind-the-scenes, under-the-table nature of corruption, it can be difficult to truly assess the magnitude of the problem. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer is one measure that attempts to assess this problem on a global scale. The survey found that 69 percent of respondents in Nigeria felt that public officials and civil servants were corrupt. On a corruption perception index scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), Nigeria received a dismal 25.
The role of personnel in helping (or hindering) policy implementation is critical. High-level country commitments to family planning or maternal health will not be achieved unless everyday processes within government ministries—such as handling financial forms or disbursing funds—are done in a reliable, consistent way.
Effective budget advocacy can help break the cycle of corruption. By both uncovering corrupt practices and creating an environment that keeps public officials on their toes, groups like the International Centre for Development and Budget Advocacy Abuja help make public spending more effective and honest.