TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | COVID Radicalism
Print Page


  • COVID Radicalism
  • Accounting damage – human and financial
  • Grifting and grafting
  • Over resourced?
  • Accountability conundrums
  • Dance no more?
  • TAI Spotlight: Our Collaboration Case Notes


COVID Radicalism

Photo by SOAS University of London 

With the world’s inequalities more visible due to the pandemic, analysis of global survey data by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University shows increased support for radical policies. Seems people really might want to “build back better” – large majorities want to see progress on inequality and climate change, including large majorities supporting higher taxes on the rich.

Perhaps buoyed by the idea of being in line with public desires (or just scared by the balance sheet), the European Commission this week attempted to shrug off defeat in courts over Apple’s back taxes and go on the attack. The Commissioner for the Economy argues that a Union-wide clampdown on tax avoidance is essential, given the demands on public finance due to the current crisis, and is to test new tactics to justify reform. Will the EU Courts go along?  

Meanwhile, Alex Cobham responds to the court decision, arguing for the urgency of ending corporate tax abuse – not just in Europe, but globally. France is holding firm on its digital tax affecting huge tech companies, even in the face of sanction threats from the United States, and also instituting tax credits to news subscribers in an effort to boost the struggling media sector. IBP’s Paolo de Renzio and Alex Ciconello put it quite plainly that Latin America must make tax expenditures transparent and eliminate all inequitable tax privileges. 

No doubt, interest in tax is motivated in part by the mountains of debt being incurred by governments to help stabilize economies and fund health responses. Want to see the scale of that debt? The World Bank has created a heatmap tool to visualize debt data dissemination in borrowing countries.

Accounting damage – human and financial

Talking of a desire for systemic change, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker is calling for a new capitalism “rooted in generosity and accountability.” (See TAI Spotlight below). Corporate willingness to pay a fair share of taxes would no doubt be part of that vision, but also avoiding abuses (a need brought home again by the Boohoo scandal). The Mind the Gap consortium have pinpointed five corporate strategies to avoid responsibility for human rights abuses that societies need to counter.

Will companies that hold high standards be rewarded? Perhaps so. Gillian Tett notes how  Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investments are doing even better amid current crisis even though the US administration seems intent on undermining ESG investment potential.

What of philanthropy following suit? David Wood believes a better understanding of foundations’ role in Impact Investing can shed light on the problems that arise when philanthropy turns to the private sector to help with achieving a greater good. 

Getting the basics of responsible accounting right would also help, but incentives seem askew. The UK Financial Reporting Council has lambasted accounting firms for poor quality of audit (all the more reason to respond to Luminate ask for proposals to support audit reform – deadline end of month).

Grifting and grafting

Elizabeth Warren GIF by Election 2020

In time for a (virtual) High Level Political Forum this month, a coalition of over 1600 organizations led by Catalyst 2030 members has provided recommendations to make the implementation of the SDGs possible. Among those recommendation a whole set on fighting corruption related to Goal 16 (with input from TAI and TAI member Chandler Foundation.) On that note, Chandler CEO Tim Hanstad issues a call for action with corruption on the rise amid the pandemic.

What worry? Martin Woods urges us to think of the victims of corruption whose health is endangered, while Nick Schwellenbach and David Szakonyi lift the hood on how more than 1,300 companies backed by private equity investors received at least $1.5 billion in funds meant to help businesses hard-hit by coronavirus.

Want some inspiration on fighting back? Open Contracting Partnership reveals how Colombia’s data-driven procurement reforms have increased competition and offer a blueprint for other governments to reboot their economy post-COVID. Pair with this new paper on how robust media freedom and open government data could help curb corruption. Also, don’t miss updates from Transparency International’s Tracking the Trillions which monitors anti-corruption efforts at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including during COVID-19, to ensure funds reach those most in need. Read alongside the story of the World Bank’s prototype COVID fund tracker financed by the Dutch government.

Let’s not forget the linkages between poor governance and broader societal issues. Mathew Jenkins explores the connection between discrimination and corruption as Sarah Saadoun sends an important message to the IMF and economists on tackling inequality for a just economic recovery – cut corruption, not social spending.

CIVICUS’s Inés M. Pousadela highlights four ways global financial institutions can work more effectively with civil society after COVID-19. The idea of a multi-stakeholder approach has proven effective in Kenya, where an external evaluation revealed real results.

How to balance corruption risk and economic growth demands? Hard to know where a “global Britain” will land post-Brexit, but a new investigative report on a UK Export Finance trade drive suggests the scheme isn’t taking corruption seriously. Spotlight on Corruption found some serious transparency deficits and some very high risk transactions including one with a company linked to the brother of the dictatorial President of Uganda, and several subsidiaries of Spanish companies that have been embroiled in corruption allegations.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the suspended acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, is out of jail after 10 days detension, but the President authorized suspension of 10 senior officials of the EFCC for “various alleged criminal and corrupt infractions.” Magu’s lawyer claims it is all politically motivated to undermine the EFCC.

Finally on the corruption thread, an analysis of 20 years anti-corruption data by Global Financial Integrity reveals that public perceptions of corruption failed to improve or worsened in nearly 85 percent of countries surveyed,. Testament to failures in response or the limitations of perceptions surveys?

Over resourced?

TAI enjoyed being part of natural resource governance discussions last week, including inevitable debates on pandemic impacts. Dani Kaufmann points us to weak – often worsening – governance standards in resource rich countries and pushes us to think what new we can try, for example with more “radical transparency.”

It may not be radical, but the UN Environment Programme has a new paper on mineral resource governance and is inviting comment. You can join the regional consultation sessions and share your views here

Want a reminder of urgency? In light of the democratic election of Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi and the plummeting oil prices straining the Iraqi state and economy, Patricia Karam calls for a paradigm shift in addressing corruption. Meanwhile, networks of Venezuela’s corrupt oil-dependent elite continue to flourish in the United States despite sanctions – further evidence of the need to end anonymous companies. Plus, the  Nigerian government appeals in London against a $6 billion arbitration judgment – explore a story of missing gas plants and processing, accusations of “sham” contracts, opaque proceedings and more. 

Accountability conundrums

Another reminder of the risk of civil society groups being targeted by governments for foreign funding, as a group of MPs from the parliamentary group “United Patriots” (a partner in the ruling coalition) proposed restrictive amendments to the Bulgarian CSO law. Yet, out on the streets, anti-corruption protests continue with the Prime Minister under pressure to resign. Read up on what’s driving the protests with this explainer.

Accountable Now’s first CSO Accountability in Focus report focuses on four key areas where the civil society sector is advancing accountability: partnerships, the environment, stakeholder engagement and feedback & complaints. Overseas Development Institute’s (ODI) Tiina Pasanen shares five key lessons on constructing participatory scenarios that could be useful for other organizations and programs.

We recently flagged the perilous financial position facing many African CSOs, could faith based giving be part of the solution? The West Africa Civil Society Institute scoping report offers a path to boosting revenues for CSOs in Ghana.

Of course, financial troubles are not the only stressor for activists in the current environment. Alana Cookman and Gayle Karen Young Whyte explore ways to integrate individual and organizational well-being to improve their effectiveness and overall culture for social change. According to them, “well-functioning, effective organizations integrate mission and well-being in order to effectively engage in social change over the long term”

Integrity Action’s Isabelle Kermeen questions the exclusion of aid recipients from the conversation surrounding aid transparency and data engagement and calls for more grantee influence in donor-grantee relationship.

Meanwhile, ODI’s Managing Director, Simon Gill and other experts explore the challenges and opportunities presented by the Department for International Development’s (DFID) planned merger with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and how to make the merger work.

Dance no more?

Cant Stop Dave Chappelle GIF

Addicted to the latest TikTok dance challenge? Mr Trump may be cutting you off if you are US resident – one of a suite of popular apps raising concerns over the personal data it provides to Chinese based firms. Susan Ariel Aaronson breaks down how security risks are felt differently across three different countries.

How can we reconcile the risks of data overload with a public need for transparency?  Living With Data conducted a review of original empirical research into public perceptions of, attitudes toward, and feelings about data practices  to improve understanding of public views on data practices.  Development Gateway’s Paige Kirby reminds us of the need to speak up on making data accessible, useful and used. tools,

Finally, Open Ownership’s Steve Day examines the fundamental task of modelling beneficial ownership data in the first of a series of blog posts on the topic, while Alan Hudson and Parker Essick invites you to help explore the role that models can play in the design and implementation of public policies relating to complex, systemic and social challenges.

TAI Spotlight: Our Collaboration Case Notes

Our Collaboration Case Notes | Transparency and Accountability Initiative

We published our latest set of Collaborative Case Notes featuring learnings from the natural resource governance field dayorganization effectiveness working groupOGP evaluationTAI external evaluation, and more. Find reasons why collaboration is harder to do but always a source of learning.

New steps to address systemic racism | Hewlett Foundation

Hewlett Foundation announced a new 10-year $150 million racial justice investment to elevate the fight against systemic racism in its ongoing programs and operations. But first, it will provide $18 million to organizations working on systemic racism, and especially anti-Black racism this year

Introducing partner support at Luminate | Luminate

Laura Bacon introduces the partner support function at Luminate designed to help cultivate healthy, resilient, and effective partner organizations.

How to disrupt philanthropy in response to crisis | Ford Foundation

“If we want to build back better after the pandemic, we must reconsider philanthropy and create a new kind of capitalism that’s rooted in generosity and accountability,” says Ford Foundation President, Darren Walker.

Fighting for Racial Justice in the United States | Open Society Foundations

Open Society Foundations will invest a total of $220 million in emerging organizations and leaders building power in Black communities across the United States, placing a bet on their ability to carry today’s momentum toward a better tomorrow. Also check out the organization’s history of investing in racial justice over the years.

Grant Makers Can Improve Government Effectiveness in the Covid-19 Era | Chandler Foundation

What are the untapped opportunities lies for philanthropy organizations as committed billions of dollars in response to the Covid-19 pandemic? Director of Social Impact, Leslie Tsai explore largely untapped opportunities for funders and social investors and why they should invest in good governance.

Job listings