Going Forward, Looking Beyond: A Reflection on BudgIT’s Expansion In Ghana

When we started BudgIT nine years ago in Nigeria, before widespread protests like #OccupyNigeria and #EndSARS, the atmosphere was different from what we have now. Budgets were dizzying zeroes lost in Excel sheets that many Nigerians did not understand. There was limited civic awareness, and not many people understood how the budget affected them. BudgIT has leveraged technology to demystify the budget and present data in easy-to-understand formats. We continue to engage the grassroots through community engagement meetings to ensure government accountability and public service delivery.

So far, more Nigerians are better informed about national and state budgets. As such, they are more empowered to demand transparency and accountability from government officials. Having observed similar opaque budgeting issues, misappropriation of public funds, huge budget sums but little returns to citizens, lack of public infrastructure in other West African countries, we decided to expand our outreach to Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

At the core of our work is the idea that every person deserves the right to access, understand, and benefit from the government budget. We believe the budget should transform into tangible infrastructure that improves citizens’ welfare. Nine years later, these are still our most critical driving principles, our hopes, and expectations for not just Nigeria, but the entire African continent.

Our foundation started operations in Ghana (September 2019), Liberia, and Sierra Leone (September 2020), registered as a non-governmental entity to drive citizen participation in governance and promote development through efficient service delivery. We believe that it is important to examine where we are, even as we move forward, even as we expand beyond Nigeria.

Ghana

Ghana is a stable country and has enjoyed deepening democratic governance, with free and fair elections over the past four election cycles. This development has strengthened the effectiveness of vital national institutions in the country. While Ghana’s growth has been relatively robust, the country still struggles with poverty, an inadequate healthcare system, and a weak business climate.

Nasurulai Abdulai, BudgIT Country Lead in Ghana, writes more on his experience kickstarting the BudgIT Ghana office.

Registration

“We completed BudgIT Ghana registration as a nonprofit organisation within three weeks. Compared to other countries, there is a well-defined process for organisation registration, and it is available online. The website of the Department of Ghana’s Registrar General provides a real-time update on the registration process via emails and text messages.”

Work Strategy- Transparency and Accountability

Nasurulai: Ghana has an open budgeting system where citizens can access national budgets online, so we chose to use a different strategy. We explored some research around the disbursement and utilisation of the COVID-19 intervention funds donated to Ghana since the discovery of the first case in March 2020. However, we found that the institutions in charge of the COVID-19 relief funds have a poor public fund management history and are politicised. With the 2020 presidential elections in the corner, many have speculated that the funds are siphoned to support political campaigns. The atmosphere in Ghana is tense due to the upcoming elections in December. There is very little information on the total funds donated to COVID-19 relief, making it challenging to pursue accountability.

Election Data

2020 is an election year in Ghana, as such, we will be turning our gaze on the different ways we can improve voters’ knowledge of presidential candidates and the voting process. To do this, we will analyse past and current election data, including the presidential candidates’ background information, the total number of registered voters, and voter registration by age, gender, and region. We will present this information in exciting visualisations and share it on our social media platforms.

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