TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | July 30
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In case you missed it…

The TAI Weekly is going on holiday for August and will be back in your inbox on September 3. If you need your fix of transparency and accountability developments in the meantime keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, or dig into our recommended beach reading and listening below.


99 Stories of graft on the wall
Photo: Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash 

No shortage of corruption stories this week – from Guatemala’s prosecutor investigating a $7 million corruption scandal at the Public Health Ministry to Malaysia’s Ministry of Communications and Multimedia filing reports on the abuse of public funds to the arrest of Kenyan Finance Minister Henry Rotich over graft in a multi-million-dollar project. Rotich’s arrest marks the first time a sitting Kenyan government minister will be held on corruption charges. Kenyans and the international community are following the news closely as Patrick Gathara asks if the country’s anti-corruption drive is working. Deputy President, William Ruto, admits the government does not know how much it loses to corruption every year. His boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, enamored by the potential of tech solutions, noted the country’s digital strategy has helped stem the free flow of illicit cash as digitization improves transparency and accountability.

Not all decisions are to stem corruption – Brazil’s Supreme Court has halted anti-money laundering investigations concerning the president’s son, leaving the country at odds with the international anti-money laundering regime. Perhaps the likes of Sonia Braga or Jesus Luz could take inspiration from Jennifer Lawrence and talk to risks of political corruption.

China’s leaders have not been immune from accusations of politically motivated use of anti-corruption measures domestically, but the U4 team reflect on the mixed results of efforts to clean up a checkered image abroad with a “belt and road to integrity”. The formation of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) to coordinate international development is a good start, but questions remain over Chinese commitment to counter corruption when dealing with geostrategic interests. Perhaps they might find some inspiration in “Fighting Corruption: What works/What Doesn’t” – the focus of the latest issue from Americas Quarterly.

Lest we forget the real world implications of when things go wrong, the United Nations says that drug trafficking in East and Southeast Asia is growing faster amid flaws in law enforcement, border controls and ineffective anti-corruption initiatives.


Beach listening

Why is it so hard to change our minds – and those of others? (Mis)information spreads because of some combination of network effects and psychological and cognitive biases. The truth isn’t always binary. How might this change our evidence use and learning practices? Find out in the latest Hidden Brain Podcast.

In case you missed How Change Happens in print form, check out this recent podcast with author Duncan Green as he seeks to understand how power and systems shape change, and how to influence them.

Want to binge listen as you sunbathe? Why not check out What Donors Want or Future Perfect


Lacking “common destiny”
Recent international gatherings leave no doubt that much more needs to be done to help companies mobilize and spend revenues in ways that foster development. One challenge is that international rules often work against that. Adva Saldinger digs into tax gaps, reform debates and their impact on countries realizing their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlighting the lack of convergence among country interests and standpoints. Julie Martin also digs into how G7 finance ministers are looking to find some agreement in revising the system for taxing multinationals while Edda Pleitez offers a snapshot of how each G7 member is progressing in terms of support to achieving the SDGs.Returning to the tech’s promise, Ecobank has partnered with the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to offer digital solutions to ease payments at a border point in the country. Of course, it doesn’t help in raising money if you give away sweetheart deals. New research suggests that resource rich countries are doing just that with unnecessary or overly generous tax holidays for extractives firms.

Such deals are obviously legal, but there can be much murkier goings on in the sector, too. Building on conversations at last month’s global conference, Inês Schjølberg Marques ponders how the EITI can be more effective in fighting corruption. There was also much talk at EITI’s conference on how the initiative might help address climate change – the need for transparent analysis to inform policies may be getting more obvious.

Researchers have analyzed a large proprietary database of field-level oil data to show that a carbon tax even as high as $200 a ton of CO2 might only reduce cumulative oil emissions by 4%. Turning to local impacts, communities often struggle to see local benefits of production – this time Alice McCool reflects on how Uganda’s gold boom has failed to benefit the indigenous miners.


Party poopers

Political parties have been pillars of the democratic process, but you don’t have to look far these days to find parties that have been captured by particular interests, facing a disaffected public. Are they even a barrier to democratic credibility? Referencing the current Indian political climate, Bharat Bhushan suggests civil society organizations may be better placed to claim the territory parties are ceding to effectively enact change.  

Speaking of the impact of CSO’s, a new study highlights how enabling national contexts can support the effective engagement of civil society in monitoring and implementing the SDGs. Some of the lessons inferred could be applied to Egypt where CSOs in the country are discontent with the changes made to a controversial law which aims at regulating their work.


Into the breach

Last week, we told you how data of Bulgarian taxpayers was hacked through the country’s tax agency. Telangana, an Indian state, almost suffered the same fate this past week. Credit card users seem at constant threat – Capital One’s hack just the latest. We may be at the point where it is no longer a question of “if” your data will be targeted in an attack, but “when.” What to do? Try to practice good ‘cyberwellness’ to mitigate the effects. To help you achieve cyberwellness, check out this toolbox from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Yet, hackers aren’t always at play – Kenan Malik believes that we are all victims of our own undoing as we constantly trade away our data without thinking about it. Researchers from Belgium’s Université Catholique de Louvain and Imperial College London may agree with Malik as their latest research suggests thatsuccessfully anonymizing data is fictitious. Yet Martin Tisné of Luminate (TAI Member) asks us to question whether sharing our own data is the real problem – we can be just as affected by the consent provided by those around us. See TAI Spotlight below for more on the need for an “environmental approach to data rights.”

Big cities and big data tend to get most of the attention in publications. Small and rural cities due to their size can effectively harness data for actionable insight through modern technology. By focusing on these cities, what can CSOs learn? Oliver Wise attempts to answer the question looking at the US context.


Let me tell you a story

Thinking of making credible social impact in your philanthropic organization? The Center for Effective Philanthropy invites funders to take a storytelling pledge to bring the work of grantees or the realities of those they are seeking to help to light, rather than being at the fore-front of the advocacy narrative.

TAI members are committed to supporting grantee story telling, extending to stories of impact and failures to achieve impact as expected. To get the insights it conveys, it helps to be able to better measure results. Two resources this week on that front – first Courtney Tolmie offers indicators and lessons on better evaluating fiscal governance projects while Development Gateway (DG) digs into how to measure Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy – useful for funders considering adopting new and/or feminist policies.

After a strategy refresh process Media Impact Funders (MIF) has identified four new learning priorities and invites other funders to follow suit: making the case for media funding (TAI member Luminate is helping lead the charge here), assessing the impact of media funding, understanding evidence-based science communications, and exploring funding models and other best practices to support local journalism. To help, MIF is offering a series of webinars for funders only on related topics.
TAI aims to follow suit and share our evaluation learnings and forthcoming strategy refresh of our own in 2020.

To end, we have all felt the pain of sitting in pointless meetings – whether in government, private or civic sectors. So good to remind ourselves of what it takes to make meetings better.


Beach reading?

The Disinformation Age – Peter Pomerantsev details how the digital world is being harnessed to crush dissent, not least through swamping critical voices and looks at how to fight back.

Want to satisfy your inner tax geek? The Tax Justice Network has uploaded papers, videos, slides from its recent research conference. Dig in.

The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age – Tim Wu on the history of antitrust and failings to stop big tech amassing too much power.

TAI Spotlight
Data isn’t the new oil, it’s the new CO2 | Luminate
It’s a common trope in the data/tech field to say that “data is the new oil”. Martin Tisné of Luminate, however, argues that we are more impacted by other people’s data (with whom we are grouped) than we are by data about us.

Marielle Franco’s Enduring Legacy | Open Society Foundations
After anticorruption advocate and Rio di Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco was assassinated, her sister Anielle speaks about reviving their program Papo Franco (straight talk), serving the underserved in the community.

Accountability Despite Fragility: Lessons for Supporting Budget Transparency in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings | TAI
Over the last few years, donor resources have become increasingly focused on Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS). Yet too often, budget transparency projects in FCS are top-down and fail to deliver results to ordinary citizens. TAI Fellow Alden LeClair outlines a few lessons which can help increase the efficiency of these projects.

*Don’t forget to check out our Open Gov Stories Global Podcast Series with Open Gov Hub. It goes behind the scenes to explore why social changemakers do the work they do. Listen to more than 20 stories from people in the TAP field and add yours!