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Promoting Transparency and Accountability

Koidu town, Sierra Leone

Koidu Town, previously a rebel stronghold during the war, is the center of Sierra Leone’s diamond mining industry. Grantees are working to ensure that profits benefit the poor. Photo courtesy of Matthew Genasci, Revenue Watch Institute.


One key to improving the lives of the world’s poorest people is to see to it they receive such basic services as education, health care and sanitation. Indeed, delivery of these services directly translates into improved well-being and has been shown to increase individual income. But getting services to the people, particularly to the poor, often is hobbled by corruption and inefficiency. For example, according to Transparencia Mexicana’s National Index of Corruption and Good Government, Mexican families living on less than $5 per day lose nearly a quarter of their income to corruption in the form of bribes to obtain essential services. In Bangladesh, lack of oversight allows for a 74 percent absenteeism rate among public health care doctors.

One solution to these problems and others like them lies in improving transparency and accountability in how public funds are allocated and spent. As a first step, the Global Development and Population Program makes grants to organizations that influence how national and local governments:

Collect Revenue. The focus here is on two primary sources of money for the delivery of basic services:  revenue from the extraction of natural resources and foreign aid. Grant recipients like the Revenue Watch Institute work in resource-rich countries to assure revenue from the extraction of natural resources actually reaches government coffers by pushing for public oversight and by offering the technical assistance to evaluate whether extracted resources match income. The Program also supports efforts both to reform how donor nations distribute foreign aid and to improve accountability of aid use in the countries that receive it.
Allocate Money. The first step in the effective use of public funds is getting better access to information about how funds are being allocated in the national budget.  The International Budget Partnership, a Hewlett grantee, works with watchdog groups around the world to advocate for more budget transparency, and then to analyze budget allocations to determine whether they are responding to citizen needs and priorities.
Spend Money. The Program also supports the work of local and international experts to track expenditures and ensure that funds make their way from the central government down to service providers at the local level.
Deliver Services. Even when funds make it to the agencies that provide services to the public, it is possible that the wrong services are delivered or they are delivered poorly.  To curtail such problems, the Global Development and Population Program supports efforts to collect direct feedback on the quality of services from citizens who use them.  In addition, Hewlett is a founding member of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, which helps governments and development agencies analyze programs they currently fund to evaluate whether they are achieving the desired results.
See how the Foundation's Mexico City office is working to further Transparency and Accountability in Mexico.

The Global Development and Population Program does not accept unsolicited Letters of Inquiry for itsTransparency and Accountability grantmaking.