Following the Money: A Mexican road trip

Jorge Florez
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By Jorge Florez, Project Manager & Balam Barcelo, Researcher at IMCO* – Spanish Version here, May 13, 2016


We are thrilled to have spent two weeks in Mexico visiting local partners to support their efforts to design and implement commitments to follow the money – or to enable citizens to see how public resources are spent and what results they deliver – at the state and municipal level. This is part of the collaboration between Global Integrity, IMCO and INAI which aims to support Mexico’s progress towards more open fiscal governance. It was great to have the opportunity to share our ideas with the Instituto Coahuilense de Acceso a la Información (ICAI), local CSOs and government representatives in Coahuila; and with the Instituto Veracruzano de Acceso a la Información (IVAI) and the local open government technical secretariat in Veracruz (comprised of CSOs, the IVAI and government representatives). We are very happy to see the continued efforts of these leaders in local government and civil society to promote open government and to implement their commitments to follow the money in particular issues.

What have the states and municipalities been up to?

In the State of Veracruz the Audit Institution, the Department of Health, and the National Statistics Institute are opening information about health infrastructure projects for citizens. They are building an interactive tool that will enable citizens to access information regarding projects that are under constructión, where they are, how much they cost, who is doing it, and more. The system is also being  designed in a way that can enable citizen feedback on those public works and will be tested, and then adapted, by conducting citizen assessments – or “treasure hunts” – about the value of the information that will be released.

Video shared by Veracruz Audit Institution about their follow the money commitment

In the municipality of Veracruz, local CSOs and government officials were keen to tackle the lack of clarity about the use of resources spent  strengthening the capacity of police forces. We helped them conduct a preparatory assessment about the availability of data on this issue and its usability, aiming to inform their efforts to release the information and to implement treasure hunts with citizens in the coming months. Participants identified existing gaps in the release of data about the program and highlighted the need to facilitate communication – in a plain language – about the program and to clearly connect available information. Ultimately, they recognized the importance of going beyond existing transparency obligations, understood that limiting the release of information to complying with minimum legal obligations leaves citizens with many unanswered questions.

Veracruz Workshop

CSOs, Government representatives from the Municipality of Veracruz, and Commissioners from the IVAI following the money allocated to strengthening police capacity.

The municipality of Durango has made important efforts to engage all the government agencies involved in the implementation of projects on clean water to release information about these projects. They plan to engage citizens in treasure hunts to assess the quality of this information and design ways to present this information in a more compelling and accessible  way. In this preparation they have found out that budget information is difficult to understand and use even for civil servants that are not directly engaged in the implementation of the project. This finding has made them eager to better understand what kind of questions are relevant to citizens and what can be a better way to make budget information on clean water, and other similar programs, more useful for citizens.

The state of Coahuila is making an important effort to engage civil society and government agencies in the development of their open government action plan. Under the leadership of ICAI, we were able to talk to more than 100 representatives from government and CSOs to discuss the potential of using a treasure hunt approach to follow the money in particular issues relevant to them.

During our conversations with citizens in four municipalities (Saltillo, Torreón, Monclova y Piedras Negras) we used results obtained by participants in our federal level treasure hunt to illustrate how a better understanding of the flow of public resources can help them in their efforts to demand accountability and request specific solutions to issues that were relevant to them. Participants found these examples very informative and highlighted the importance of using information available at the federal level, connecting this information with the one released at the state and municipal level (See here and here), and demanding more information needed to address particular issues important at the local level.

Coahuila Road Trip

Civil society, government representatives and ICAI who participated in conversations – held in Saltillo, Torreón, Piedras Negras, and Monclova – about designing follow the money commitments for Coahuila’s Open government action plan.

Moving towards more open governance in Mexico

On our return to Mexico City we also had the opportunity to meet with the Ministry of Finance and the National Digital Strategy. Both agencies showed interest in engaging in efforts to use the insights from our work to improve the publication of fiscal information and open data and to move towards more proactive transparency. We are exploring possibilities to take this work forward, including:

  • Increasing our engagement with state and city efforts to open fiscal governance
  • Taking as a use case one of the  programs from the federal level exercise to assess available information, to work with government agencies to try, learn, and adapt better ways to improve the release of information
  • Connect our work with different important processes happening in Mexico like the development of the anti-corruption sector open data package and the implementation of the open contracting data standard..

Stay tuned for the launch of the results of this project and more news about Mexican progress towards open fiscal governance!

We want to thank the teams of the ICAI and IVAI who welcomed us and were keen to discuss and share ideas about open fiscal governance. Special thanks go to Yolli García and Jesus Flores, lead commissioners at IVAI and ICAI, respectively.

* Balam Barcelo is a researcher at the Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad A.C.

Jorge Florez
Jorge Florez
Manager, Fiscal Governance

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