About the Institute of Economic Affairs and its Initiative Objectives
To foster greater public financial accountability and transparency, NDI partnered with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a Kenyan public policy and analysis think tank, to implement a budget monitoring initiative in 2019. In recent years, Kenyan citizens have increasingly voiced concerns about corruption and a pervasive lack of accountability and transparency in the management of public resources. In addition, recent legislation aimed at curbing corruption by introducing new requirements for reporting and evaluating public expenditures has fallen short due to insufficient enforcement and oversight mechanisms. To promote a culture of transparency and accountability in public expenditures, the monitoring initiative provided citizens, civic groups and accountability champions with credible and easy-to-understand information on government appropriations and spending, areas of financial malfeasance, and gaps in public oversight and action.
Monitoring the Political Process and Communicating the Findings
IEA conducted a comprehensive analysis of key national budget documents as well as the Report of the Auditor General on the National Government’s Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. Based on this analysis, IEA identified critical gaps in public financial oversight and reporting and areas of misappropriation or malfeasance. IEA issued high-level recommendations aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in public financial management. In collaboration with NDI, IEA translated the highly technical information into digestible and actionable reports, fact-sheets and briefings that are accessible to a wide array of actors.
To disseminate the findings and foster more informed oversight and advocacy initiatives, IEA led engagement and outreach campaigns with diverse actors in government, civil society, media and academia. IEA convened government briefings on public appropriation and spending issues, as well as responsiveness to citizens. In collaboration with NDI, IEA conducted a power-mapping exercise to identify potential changemakers within government who demonstrated a strong commitment to fighting corruption. These “accountability champions” were equipped with the knowledge and tools to maintain public dialogue and pressure within government to promote culture change. As the program progressed, IEA saw an increase in engagement on issues by government officials and parliamentary committees responsible for performing key oversight roles.
IEA also convened representatives from civil society, academia and the media for expert briefings on gaps in fiscal and budgetary performance and financial responsibilities and to identify opportunities for greater public participation and engagement in the budget cycle and in public oversight of government fiscal responsibilities. In some instances, IEA combined the briefings with targeted trainings. For example, to strengthen the media’s role in raising public awareness through evidence-based reporting, IEA and NDI facilitated training for media practitioners and journalists on budget analysis and fiscal responsibilities and procedures. Following the training, various media outlets increased coverage of national budget-related issues and explicitly covered the gaps and recommendations outlined in IEA’s reports.
In an effort to leverage religious groups’ significant public following to raise awareness and enhance public demand for accountability, IEA facilitated a briefing with religious leaders on the findings and identified strategies for religious structures and platforms to amplify public voices on gaps in budget implementation and reporting. Following the briefing, the religious leaders expressed interest in engaging in additional advocacy initiatives related to public financial management accountability and transparency.
IEA also held a series of town halls and conducted social media campaigns to raise public awareness and promote online conversations. IEA created citizen-friendly fact-sheets that distilled the analytical reports into a concise, digestible language to support greater accessibility by a lay audience. The fact-sheets, which were disseminated at the town halls and through IEA’s website, Twitter and Facebook pages, generated higher levels of engagement and circulation than the analytical reports, while also driving increased traffic to the reports. Using “Tweet Chats,” IEA sparked significant online engagement and conversation around their conclusions on the Auditor General’s report. Engagements with the event’s hashtag #TrackingOurShillingKE numbered over 8,000, making this type of social media campaign IEA’s most effective for broad public engagement. NDI also created WhatsApp groups to support sustained communication among civil society actors who participated in IEA’s briefings. Members have used the groups to share real-time information on public finance issues, and to coordinate advocacy initiatives.
Through this initiative, IEA succeeded in simplifying and publicly disseminating analysis and credible information on current patterns of risk and mismanagement in national government spending of public resources. Through IEA’s accessible reports, fact-sheets, and in-person and online outreach campaigns, the public gained a better understanding of the national government’s management of public funds. Citizens and civic groups now benefit from access to IEA’s fact-sheets and analytical reports, which provide an overview of fiscal and budgetary performance in simplified language that lends itself to public dialogue and advocacy initiatives. Public finance management has increasingly become a topic of conversation through enhanced media coverage and burgeoning online engagement. Briefings, town hall meetings, strategy meetings, and capacity-building sessions convened by NDI and IEA with participants across CSO, media, parliament and academic sectors have also forged a network of diverse accountability advocates. In addition, IEA benefits from more robust working relationships with key government financial offices and is in a stronger position to push for the timely and regular release of key budget reports. NDI and IEA intend to build on the analysis and public awareness-raising fostered at the national level to conduct activities aimed at increasing financial accountability and transparency at the county level.
- Consider online engagements through social media platforms. These played an important role in expanding outreach to a wider audience beyond government actors, academia and CSOs with a technical focus on finance issues.
- Understand the difficulty in identifying accountability champions both willing and well-positioned to continue independent advocacy. This underscores the challenge inherent in transformative culture change.
- Be prepared for delays and lack of access. Delays in the release of government financial reports or a lack of access to information can inhibit the regular release of analytical reports and the interrelated capacity of accountability actors to address gaps and issues in a timely fashion.
- Craft an inclusive communication strategy. The highly technical nature of financial analysis can present challenges to the broad dissemination of findings, and in fostering awareness and conversation among the general public and diverse accountability actors without financial expertise. It is crucial to craft an inclusive communication strategy that translates technical conclusions into everyday, nontechnical language. Presenting findings in digestible and accessible formats and making the findings and recommendations applicable to everyday life can better generate public conversations on public expenditure and fiscal responsibility.