TAI Weekly

TAI Weekly | September 20, 2017
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In case you missed it…

Is it time to focus more on the role of accounting firms in good governance? They can have both positive and negative influence as noted in yesterday’s Brookings and World Bank Group hosted discussion on transparency and anti-corruption in the extractives sector. Will the consequences for KPMG from the Gupta scandal in South Africa herald increased scrutiny?

It is good to see anonymous shell companies attract the attention of CNN. Meanwhile in India, the market regulator has ordered forensic audits of two suspected shell companies. The use of such structures by kleptocratic networks is heightening attention. We should no longer be surprised, for example, that the wealth held offshore by rich Russians is about three times larger than official net foreign reserves and comparable in magnitude to total household financial assets held in Russia (see estimates of Pikkety, Zucman and Novokmet).  

Want to check numbers for yourself? A new tool lets you compare OECD and G20 countries on a range of data points from particular tax revenues through to disclosure of assets of public officials. Can we mobilize the necessary data to replicate to lower income countries?

As tax authorities scramble to increase revenues, one approach is to make payments easier. Liberia has partnered with Orange to roll out a Mobile Tax Payment Platform. You might expect such a step of Kenya that again tops the ranking of countries on digital financial inclusion – what potential to extend citizen comfort with online banking to online democratic engagement?

Talking of digital platforms, what can Yelp, Amazon and Trip Advisor teach us about improving public services?Hewlett Foundation is seeking ideas and suggestions to identify lessons that private digital review platforms can teach organizations working for social good.

As the great and the good gather in New York for UNGA week, there is no shortage of big donor presence to fill the Clinton Global Initiative void. Buzzwords will abound and expect digitalization to be prominent among them. At least World Economic Forum offers some more in depth guidance on the topic with launch of a playbook for policymakers on national digital governance. 

You can also expect much discussion of progress toward the SDGs. A timely analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies draws on experiences in Laos and Myanmar to suggest countries can better tap the “data revolution” to achieve the goals, but many still need to build foundations to handle even “small data” before they can take advantage of any leapfrog technologies. They might look to Vietnam’s data revolution for inspiration as detailed by UNU.  

Is Nepal ready for open government? Accountability Lab’s assessment says yes. They may want to follow New Zealand’s example of an open data charter and read up on the evolution of Germany’s open data law. It helps to have demonstrable citizen demand for data. Sunlight Foundation’s US survey reveal the most popular datasets relate to 1) police and crime, 2) transportation, 3) emergency calls, 4) housing and economic development and 5) building safety.  Prosaic but relevant.

Mor Rubenstein calls for more research into data use. Richard Bartlett questions whether blockchain can really help decentralize power (more on testing blockchain hype to come from TAI). ODI highlights the risks of open data including potential loss of trust in making the case for their data ethics canvas.

Talking of trust, the damage done to the OGP process in Mexico continues to reverberate. The New York Times unpacked the extent of government use of spyware while CSO networks consider the implications for international human rights. In Ukraine, fake news are leveraged by the government to attack anti-corruption activists. Even your tweets may be used against you, warn Privacy International. More bleak still, the deaths of anti-corruption activists in India continue to mount as they look to exercise their right to information.

How effective can accountability programming be in a fragile context? USAID is testing the boundaries with a project in Somalia and claim success. Yet how can we effectively assess second-generation ways of working in the
transparency, accountability and participation (TAP) field? Monitoring, evaluation, research, and learning (MERL) maturity models can provide some inspiration. Open Society Foundation’s Megan Colnar and TAI’s Alison Miranda note takeaways from the largest gathering of evaluation experts and techies. They may be intrigued in turn by growing use of participatory video to capture experience of marginalized groups.

Do donors want results or deep rooted change? Duncan Green reflects on a new review of twenty years of DfID and the results agenda.  What of private funder practice? A group of philanthropic facilitators write to grant makers to offer seven ethical principles for collaboration in the philanthropic center. Most will likely agree with a shift from output-based to outcome-based models as this video suggests.


Of potential interest

Field-wide Calls for Proposals


On the calendar…

– Open Data Initiative Training Courses – September 19-28, Ireland

– Stockholm Civic Society Days, Sept 20-22 (Stockholm)

– Populist Plutocrats: Lessons from Around the World, Sept. 23 (Harvard Law School)

– Fighting Inequality and Fiscal Injustice: Innovative Models for Successful Campaigning – Lessons from Peru and Beyond, TAI and Oxfam America, September 27, Washington DC

– Virtual Roundtable: Internet Health: A Checkup for Civil Society – September 27, 2017

– Data Transparency 2017 Conference, September 26 (Washington DC) – US focus

– 10th West Coast Conference on FCPA Enforcement and Compliance, Sept 26-27, (San Francisco)

– What works for social accountability? Findings from DFID’s Macro Evaluation October 4, 2017

– 7th Financial Transparency Conference, October 24-25 (Helsinki)

– GPSA Citizen Action for Open, Accountable and Inclusive Institutions, Global Forum, October 31 – November 1, 2017 (Washington, DC)

– 6th Asia Pacific Summit on Anti-Corruption Compliance and Risk Management, Oct 31-Nov 1, (Singapore) 

– Feedback Lab Summit November 2-3 (Washington, DC)

– Leading Change Conference 2017– November 13-14, 2017 (Pennsylvania, USA)

– OGP Summit side-event: Academic Conference on Open Government, November 17-18 (Buenos Aires) 

– Open Government Partnership Americas Regional Meeting, November 21-22 (Buenos Aires) 

– Open Contracting 2017, November 28-29 (Amsterdam)

– International Civil Society Week December 4-8, Suva, Fiji

– Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency – February 23-24, 2018 (New York, USA)


The TAI Weekly is an informal recap of news, research, and events relevant to our four work streams: data use for accountability, taxation and tax governance, strengthening civic space, and learning from improved grant making.The Weekly is in no way a reflection of TAI member views or thinking. The Weekly now goes to our mailing list and live on the website every Wednesday morning.

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