Follow The Money FTM, is an initiative of Connected Development, that aids in tracking government spending in the grassroots, and bringing dividends of democracy closer to the people. The Lagos Coordinator, Tosin Adesina, in this interview with The Eagle reporter, expantiate further on the need of the initative, how far they have gone and what they aim to achieve at the end of the day.
Enjoy the excerpts:
Can you please tell us, who is Tosin Adesina?
Adesina Tosin Nathaniel is a writer, humanitarian and Educationist. He is the Lagos state Community Champion for Connected Development an organization that empower marginalized communities by tracking government spending’s at the grassroots through the Follow the Money Platform.
There has been a social media noise about a campaign, Follow The Money, can you tell us what this campaign is all about?
Follow The Money (FTM) is a an Initiative of Connected Development, And one of our major success as an organization. What we do basically at FTM is to track government spendings at the grassroots in our country.
The fact is that what determines the level of development a community experience is proximity to government and those at the grassroots have consistently been deprived of these goodies due to their locations and absence of those concerned about their development, What we do is that whenever government at the state or federal level pay for the execution of a project in our key areas, FTM armed with data and the necessary materials send its community champions like me to such community.
Our three key areas for now is Health, Basic Education and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene). When I reach the community, I am expected to forge a working relationship with the community leaders and other stakeholders, embark on a community outreach where I sensitize community members about the project and hear from them if they are aware of the existence of such projects and give them the necessary details.
I report all my findings to my organization who later report to the ministry or agency executing the project. This will be going on from time to time til the project is completed. After the completion of the project, l will organize a town hall meeting where the community members will interface with the contractor and other stakeholders.
The importance of that meeting is to get a feedback from the community who are the end users of the project about it and the contractor who executed the project.
The whole process is what we call #FOLLOWTHEMONEY which simply means that we follow the Money that has been allocated to a community to make sure it is used judiciously and not diverted.
FTM is simply a transparency and accountability drive to fast track development at the grassroots. This is our 6th year of FTM and we have tracked projects in excess of 1 Million Dollars with over 160k beneficiaries in several states across the country.
In Lagos alone, I have tracked projects running into several millions of Naira in two communities of Iraye-Oke and Erikorodo that never have access to quality education infrastructure but now boast of one through our intervention.
What are the necessary machineries put in place towards achieving this goal?
Firstly, data. The organization have correct and accurate data about projects the moment it is publicized by the tenders board, we work on this data to locate the project and the community. The next tool is personnel as we can’t be in all community.
What we do is to send people there to do that as community champions. Another tool is the freedom of Information (FOI) is a great tool of getting informations from the government and we use that adequately well, though it comes wjth its own challenge but we are working towards obliterating such challenges through our organizations partnership with Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) for litigation
We also use the social media to drive conversations as relating to these projects while the organization has forged a working relationship with necessary government agencies.
How many states in the country has the campaign gotten to and how do sensitise the people on the purpose of the campaign?
We are in more than six states of the federation, namely, Lagos, Borno, Yobe, Plateau, Delta, Kaduna, Ondo, and we sensitize people on the purpose of the campaign through two methods.
Community outreach where we talk to the community members one on one to ascertain their awareness about the project and to tell them what we have come to do in their community, we organize town hall meetings in the communities after the completion of the project. We do this to serve as an interactive forum with the community members and other stakeholders.
What is your assessment concerning the non-accountability of our political office holders, which has done worse to the States and the country at large?
One of the reasons why Follow the Money was established is to serve as a tool to measure transparency. Our first project at Bagega where there was a lead poisoning occurrence came to fruition because we had to challenge the status quo on the non availability of the necessary social amenities like Primary Healthcare Centers which have already been appropriated for and it was later provided and it’s on record as our first project which gave birth to the Follow the Money program.
Non-Accountability by our political office holders has contributed in no small means to the poor state of Nigeria.
Development has remained at a low due to the absence of transparency and all solutions to ease transparency has been rebuffed by them. For example FOI was designed to encourage transparency but political office holders and give agencies have little or no respect for the law but we are happy the Judiciary is atop of the situation. Until our political office holders make accountability a way of life, Our growth process won’t be equitable as expected
What does the campaign tends to achieve in the next few years?
What we tend to achieve is massive development of our grassroots, not only in Nigeria but Africa, at the moment we have Follow the Money Platform in Nigeria, Gambia and Kenya.
And more will come in the fullness of time. Apart from developing the grassroots we also aim to build a massive network of active citizens that are concerned about the development of their society by asking their leaders the right questions. In a bid to drive the developmental process.