The PTF is Founded (2000)
The idea of establishing the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF) emerged in the late 1990s though conversations among Board members of Transparency International, including the then Chairman of TI, Peter Eigen and Vice-Chair Frank Vogl, Barry Metzger, former General Counsel of the Asian Development Bank and Pierre Landell-Mills, a former World Bank colleague of Eigen and Vogl. They recognized that the still young TI did not have the capacity to pursue specific anti-corruption projects on its own. They decided to establish the PTF as an independent organization with its own legal structure, headquarters and staffing. The PTF was registered under New York State law in December 2000. Peter Eigen became the first Board Chair. Pierre Landell-Mills agreed to serve as President and Daniel Ritchie, a former World Bank colleague, agreed to become Secretary.
In 2000, there was virtually no concept of the so-called “demand side” of good governance, in which citizens act to hold their governments responsible and accountable. But the PTF founders and managers who had worked for many years on the “supply side” of promoting improvement in public institutions of good governance recognized that governments rarely reform themselves and need the pressure of citizens to effect real change. They both served as the PTF volunteer managers for the next ten years.
Modest Beginnings (2001-2006)
The PTF’s work started with an anonymous contribution from a UK foundation of $25,000 to jump start the program that enabled the PTF to make its first grant, to a Bulgarian CSO monitoring the issue of a telecoms license, in late December 2000.
Pierre from his home in Devon, UK and Dan from Washington, DC spent the first year developing the approach and procedures for the PTF as a financial intermediary, making small grants of about $25,000 each on a purely demand-driven basis. They recognized that local CSOs themselves were best placed to know what kinds of interventions would work in different circumstances. Context mattered. The PTF’s role was to help design and support project implementation. It meant recruiting a cadre of volunteer project advisers who would follow individual projects from beginning to end. Project designs focused on measuring and evaluating results. Each project would have an evaluation by the grant recipient and about one-third would have independent evaluations by PTF advisers. The focus was on demonstrating the impact of citizen engagement on fighting corruption.
At the same time, largely under the leadership of Barry Metzger, the structure of the PTF Board and separately PTF “Members” was formulated; accounting systems were put in place and good governance approaches were developed. Kumi Naidoo succeeded Peter Eigen as Board Chair in 2002.
The initial six years were a struggle to persuade donors that citizen pressure was an important part of the fight against corruption. The PTF program averaged 10 grants per year. Even then, the approach showed considerable promise. The first independent evaluation carried out for the first major funder, UNOPS, indicated “The PTF is an extremely valuable and effective instrument for support to small but important anti-corruption projects. This volunteer operation sets very high standards, and meets them.” [Alex Shakow, March 2005].
Breakthrough and Significant Results (2007-2013)
A major breakthrough came in 2007-2008 with major new funding from the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Inter-American Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank and expanded funding by the World Bank. While it had taken six years to make 50 grants, it took only three years to make the next 150 grants.
As the program expanded, it became increasingly clear that while the demand-driven approach had enabled the PTF to be active in 50 countries, supporting several projects in one country with CSOs collaborating together tended to have greater impact than having one project in several countries. This prompted the PTF to begin focusing on specific countries like the Philippines, Mongolia, India, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Serbia and Argentina. The initial focus on fighting corruption also began to evolve into a broader agenda of accountability and transparency.
“Constructive engagement” between government and civil society was a fundamental premise of the PTF from the outset, recognizing the disparity in power relationships between the public sector and the civil society sector. Every project was expected to include a public agency, municipality, education system, health clinic or other organization that was committed to collaboration with CSOs.
A second independent evaluation for the World Bank in 2008 reinforced the conclusion that citizen demand for better governance could have a significant impact at the grass roots level. “The evaluation finds, like the earlier one, that PTF is a highly valuable and effective mechanism for support of small-scale civil society efforts to fight corruption and promote greater transparency and accountability in government. Through the use of unusually small grants, it has helped civil society organizations to innovate and do projects they may not have been able to do before, and thereby enhances their experience, their visibility and their voice. Some 25 of the 29 projects examined for this review achieved all or most of their objectives, which amounts to a success rate of 86 percent.” (Catherine Gwin and Silvia Saborio, March 2008).
By 2009 the PTF had become too big to be managed entirely by volunteers. A program manager was recruited and an office opened in Washington, DC. After ten years as President, Pierre Landell-Mills retired and was succeeded by Daniel Ritchie. Richard Stern became President in 2014.
Focus on Results and Impact
In the initial decade, the work supported by the PTF had a number of highly successful and visible results. For example, the Philippines Textbook project recruited 8000 boy scouts girl scouts to monitor the delivery of textbooks at the school level. While 40% of the textbooks ordered by the Department of Education had disappeared the year before, 95% of the textbooks were delivered in the first year of the project, saving the government $450,000. The Department of Education made citizen monitoring a regular part of its textbook program.
In India, the Citizens Against Corruption Program funded by DfID engaged a dozen CSOs in four states to monitor the performance of two national anti-poverty programs for food security and rural employment which were rife with corruption. Over three years, more than 75,000 families received the rice ration cards and work permits to which they were entitled but had been denied. There was widespread press and TV reporting of women standing in front of the so-called “fair price shops” protesting the corrupt practices of the program managers.
There were many other success stories such as those described above. A third independent evaluation for DfID in 2011 once again reinforced the conclusions that the PTF effort was providing significant results in a very efficient and effective way. “The main Mid Term Review (MTR) conclusion is its confidence that the Citizens Against Corruption Program represents high value for money, impressive innovation, and valuable support to civil society in fighting corruption. It is difficult to envisage a programme that more closely fits with the stated purpose of DfID’s Governance and Transparency Fund. The MTR affirms that CAC is having a strongly positive impact, exceeding what can reasonably be expected given the scale of funding. The substantial—often dramatic—benefit that can derive swiftly from its small grants is a success story worthy of wider telling.” (John Clark, May 2011).
Sharing Experience and Knowledge
The PTF recognized from the outset that the knowledge gained from its experience with 250 projects needed to be analyzed and shared. Workshops and seminars have always been central part of the PTF agenda. In 2013, Pierre Landell-Mills distilled the PTF experience into Citizens Against Corruption: Report from the Front Line. It described the PTF experience over a dozen years in India, Mongolia, Uganda and the Philippines. It analyzed key areas of focus such as the rule of law, public expenditures, public procurement, service delivery, institutions of integrity and the media. It drew lessons of experience regarding the need to focus, measure results, constantly build civic capacity, find ways to scale up local interventions and sustain the effort.
The PTF has always had a close relationship with the international financial institutions, based in part by the prior experience of its 50 plus volunteer advisers in the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, IDB and African Development Bank. A consulting practice began to emerge in 2012 with the publication of the PTF’s Stimulating the Demand for Good Governance: Eight Strategic Recommendations for Intensifying the Role of the World Bank, which contributed to the creation of the Global Partnership for Social Accountability. The PTF has subsequently provided technical support to the ADB, World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank in enhancing the role of citizens in their development efforts.
Refocus and Reinvention (2014-2018)
The growing development of consulting services coincided with the decline in PTF’s role as a financial intermediary. By 2013-14, major donors were turning away from making grants to international NGOs such as the PTF and supporting local CSOs directly. This prompted a fundamental shift in the PTF’s approach, from financial intermediary to technical assistance adviser, consultant and subordinate partner to CSOs. The “reinvention” is reflected in the 2017 Strategic Directions Paper. In this new role, the PTF is typically a subordinate partner to an international or national CSO or a consulting firm. For example, the PTF partnered with a Philippine CSO in 2014 and a Mongolian CSO in 2015 to help design and provide knowledge and learning services for GPSA projects.
A second shift in donor practice in which decisions on projects and funding are increasingly made by local offices prompted the PTF to establish affiliate offices, first in the Philippines (2012) and subsequently in Europe (2014), India (2016) and South Africa (2017). The affiliates are now beginning to tap local sources of funding and initiate their own projects.
The PTF’s unique business model has always been its reliance on a cadre of experienced, volunteer advisers who help manage the program and provide support to partner agencies. The advisers, management team, Board and PTF friends also provide significant financial support covering the annual operating costs of about $250,000.
In 2015, the PTF celebrated its fifteenth anniversary with a seminar at the Center for Global Development on corruption and its consequences. Speakers included Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance of Nigeria, Robert Mueller, Former head of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Nancy Birdsall, Executive Director of the Center for Global Development. It attracted more than 100 participants. Subsequently, the PTF established the PTF Anti-Corruption Forum in Washington, DC, the brainchild of Frank Vogl, an original PTF Board Member and author of Waging War on Corruption. The Anti-Corruption has featured speakers such as Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Delia Ferreira Rubio, Board Chair of TI, Pascale Helene Dubois, Vice President for Integrity, World Bank.
The Road Ahead
Moving forward, the PTF will continue to support CCOs in their efforts to hold governments accountable and transparent. The focus has shifted from the original single purpose of fighting corruption to the broader agenda of promoting good governance, citizen engagement and development effectiveness, recognizing that transparency and accountability make corrupt practices more difficult. The PTF will pursue three avenues—responding to donor requests, developing and sharing concept notes and project proposals with interested donors, and maintaining partnerships with like-minded organizations to promote the common cause.