I must confess. After Kenya’s 2007 elections – the work I am doing with development aid didn’t make much sense anymore. It seemed to me that no amount of “development aid” can make a positive change in peoples lives as long as; i) corruption went unchecked; ii) the bulk of national budgets went to line the mansions of the leaders; and iii) people lost their property and lives every election cycle and had to start all over again. Development aid started to seem very similar to pouring water into a pot full of holes. The minute you take a breath – it gushes out to the ground. 

If this is the case, – how can strategic planning, monitoring, learning, and all our well-intentioned initiatives in SMIP & MfI make any difference? To me, it was (and still is) extremely frustrating and I even considered taking up shop-keeping instead! 

I wrote about these sentiments to Irene Guijt (one of the co-author’s of the IFAD Guide to Project M&E) who’s work and opinion I highly respect. As part of her response, she sent me a link to the International Budget Project, that works to build civil society’s capacity to “analyze and influence government budget processes, institutions and outcomes.” The project’s overall aim is to “make budget systems more responsive to the needs of society and, accordingly, to make these systems more transparent and accountable to the public.” In Africa, the project is working with the Uganda Debt Network. 

Reading about their work was very exciting – particularly the involvement of civil society groups. For Government development initiatives such as the Kenya’s Constituency Development Fund (CDF) or even loan financed initiatives – where tax payers in the recipient countries “pay the price” (so to speak) – this seems critical! And in engaging civil society/non-government actors in processes where they are in a position to hold their leaders accountable – surely this in turn influences their own ways of viewing governance & leadership? Perhaps contributing to a shift from – “we have no choice but to accept what our leaders tell us” to “we do have a choice and a responsibility”. 

Has anyone else come across similar initiatives? If so, please do share them with us all…after all – those working in development in Africa must have bumped into the irresponsible governance issue at once in their lives (if not regularly)!