BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Africa faces significant governance challenges in managing funds for climate change projects, from conflicts of interest and creative accounting to pure embezzlement and misappropriation of money, according to the Kenyan branch of Transparency International.
Jacob Orina of the watchdog’s Nairobi office said governments could improve their vigilance by enlisting the help of citizens in monitoring how the money is spent.
“Climate finance governance can be aided by minimising opportunities for corruption and coming up with policy instruments that promote civil society participation and oversight of development,” Orina told a recent climate change workshop in Kenya.
“Setting up broader coalitions (with civil society) for integrity will also work towards accountability in finance flows and decisions on what the funds are to be spent on,” he said.
A 2011 Transparency International report noted that Congo Basin countries - which possess Africa’s richest forests - scored poorly on its corruption perceptions index. Millions of dollars of climate change funds are going to activities to protect forests, as well as efforts to turn ecosystem services into carbon revenue streams, raising fresh worries over governance in a sector that is already prone to graft.
Developed nations contributed more than $30 billion between 2010 and 2012 in “fast start finance” to help poorer countries cope with climate stresses and grow in a greener way. The aim is to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020, under a collective promise made at U.N. climate talks in 2009.
Doubts over the way some of this climate money will be spent were also flagged in a discussion paper, Towards a Framework for National Climate Finance Governance, published in January by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung, a political foundation associated with the German Green Party.
“Whether fully justified or not, grave concerns are often raised about the record of African countries when it comes to the management of development aid. Those concerns are likely to be raised as African countries seek access to climate finance in the coming years,” the report noted.
It said questions had been asked within the U.N.’s fledgling Green Climate Fund about whether African institutions are properly equipped to receive and deploy climate finance.
COMPLEX WEB OF FUNDS
Many African states complain that rich governments have been slow to meet pledges they made on climate finance. But Tigere Chagutah, programme manager for climate governance in Africa at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southern Africa, believes measures must be put in place to ensure transparency if and when the promised funds materialise.
“Governance of climate finance at national level will require that, once funding is available, African countries have enough capacity to receive and utilise adaptation funding efficiently, transparently and for the purpose it was intended,” Chagutah said.
Another problem is the complexity of actually getting the funds in the first place, he noted.
“African countries currently face major hurdles in terms of accessing the little funding that there is. Since 2002, a plethora of climate funds have been established with more than 20 different dedicated international and bilateral climate funds now in existence,” Chagutah said.
This makes achieving good governance even harder, because each financing mechanism has different objectives, conditions, ways of accessing and disbursing the funds, and monitoring requirements. There is also climate-related development assistance that comes through traditional aid mechanisms, Chagutah noted.
“Making the most of these resources will require increased capacity within recipient countries for accessing the funds, coordination of implementation, monitoring and reporting - all of which are challenges most Africa countries are not yet able to meet,” he said.
Mithika Mwenda, secretary general of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), lamented that while African governments are coming under scrutiny for how they manage climate finance, countries with the smallest carbon footprints are still not treated as equal partners by richer, more polluting nations.
“There must be a push for multi-sector involvement and strengthening of the Green Climate Fund and other funds too, as this assures African countries fair play,” Mwenda said.
“Any bilateral arrangement will always trick (African governments) to their disadvantage. Climate change is used to overburden Africa with more debts, as this is not free money,” he added. An analysis of the “fast start” aid by Oxfam showed that more than half of it was provided in the form of loans.
ASK THE PEOPLE WHO KNOW
The Heinrich Böll Stiftung report noted that the spotlight tends to shine on the amounts of money donors are releasing, while spending by recipient countries comes under less scrutiny.
“Accountability is a two-way street, but in three of the countries studied (Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana) this appears to happen only upwardly to donors, and not downward within the country,” said the report.
In Tanzania, for example, funding for climate change comes into the East African country through a number of channels, including financing for activities within wider sector programmes. This makes it difficult to identify and track money allocated specifically to climate-related projects, the report explained.
It recommended that tackling governance issues around climate finance must include civil society, long viewed by some African governments as hostile actors.
“Civil society capacity could also usefully be built to enable independent monitoring to take place, in terms of tracking expenditure and assessing impact at community level, where the benefits of climate finance need to be found,” the report said.
Some efforts are being made to bring African NGOs and communities into the fold. This approach was emphasized in 2011 at the Nairobi Call for Action on Climate Change Finance and Development Effectiveness.
And Oxfam, the World Resources Institute and the UK’s Overseas Development Institute launched the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative late last year, which is working with civil society groups in developing countries to monitor climate finance transparency.
Madalitso Mwando is a journalist based in Harare, Zimbabwe.