Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF)
Background: In 2021, Niger scored 31 on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, ranking 124 out of 180 countries, and according to the World Bank, Niger’s performance in terms of transparency and accountability is low. Even though Niger’s Cour des Comptes – the national board of auditors and the highest jurisdiction for auditing public finances- does release the results of its national budget audit, pointing out significantly questionable spending, little media attention is drawn to these matters. Print, television, and online media rarely investigate cases of corruption, and normally report only information released by the government. The fight against corruption is an ongoing battle that requires the contribution of all actors, among whom the media is prominent. This year, the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF) will support programs that aim to create a self-sustaining journalistic ecosystem which can investigate and report on corruption independent of official government statements and create evidentiary reporting that the government must respond to. Niger’s only journalism academy, the Technical Training Institute for Information and Communication (IFTIC in French), does not have a concentration in investigative journalism. The lack of properly trained and motivated investigative journalists in Niger offers buoyancy to this system of impunity as it lessens public pressure to hold the government accountable to investigate and prosecute corruption. If the pool of properly trained investigative journalists expanded and included regular reporting on fiscal malfeasance, then the government would be forced to investigate and prosecute corrupt actors because of greater public knowledge of corrupt acts revealed through the media more readily. Goal: Decrease the level of corruption, fiscal malfeasance, and budget irregularities in Niger Project Objectives: The Government of Niger enhances fiscal transparency measures and more readily investigates and prosecutes corruption as a result of an increase in investigative media reporting into corruption and fiscal malfeasance. Outcomes: The pool of trained investigative journalists in Niger capable of reporting on corruption and fiscal malfeasance is considerably expanded Media reporting by Nigerien journalists on corruption, fiscal malfeasance, and budget irregularities is noticeably increased. The Government of Niger enacts necessary fiscal transparency measures as a result of investigative journalists reporting. The Nigerien public has a greater understanding of the “watchdog” role of the media regarding corruption and fiscal transparency and can use this information to pressure the Government of Niger for effective prosecutions against known corruption cases. Nigerien investigative journalists have enhanced communications with West African and international investigative journalist groups to coordinate on investigations, reporting, and best practices. Nigerien investigative journalists are better organized through a formal self-sustainable structure, capable of creating broader outreach to Nigerien media at large, civil society, educational institutions, and government officials. Nigerien investigative journalists also have a centralized online platform for support and technical collaboration to distribute published materials for citizen and international consumption. Activities: The Project core activity is to: Recruit and train about 50 journalists on investigative best practices and journalistic ethics in Niger’s four largest cities: Niamey, Zinder, Maradi, and Agadez. Journalists selected in other locations will participate in the trainings at the nearest training location. If feasible, the project should reach journalists from all regions of Niger. The training may be carried out in conjunction with an internationally based investigative journalist organization. The aim of the training is to equip journalists for better production of press articles that could serve as a credible basis for the Niger official anti-corruption body: the Haute Autorité de Lutte contre la Corruption et les Infractions Assimilées (HALCIA) to carry out investigations The following elements should be considered in carrying out the training: · Training sessions will be conducted in each location of these four Niamey, Zinder, Maradi, and Agadez, at intervals throughout the 12-month implementation period, with a combination of representatives of West African and international investigative journalist organizations. · Training will be specific to best practices to investigate government financial corruption, private sector financial corruption, fiscal forensic practices, ethics in reporting on government officials and private citizens, judicial practices on investigating and prosecuting corruption, and adherence to Niger’s privacy and defamation laws. · Training will be in consultation with the Nigerien High Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (HALCIA) and the National Court of Auditors (Cour des Comptes) to understand legal regulations and government procedures. · The program implementers will work with the participants and trainers to formalize and register the network of Nigerien investigative journalists in order to provide a platform for support and technical collaboration for the investigative journalists in Niger. This network will be a sustainable resource maintained by members to run training and workshops for future iterations following the completion of the FTIF program. The network will maintain a website to post investigatory pieces and content for the benefit of the public. · Throughout the project, implementing partners will work to ensure appropriate gender and ethnic representation. Participants and Audiences: About fifty (50) journalists will be engaged in the project’s trainings. Some of the project’s activities will involve collaboration with the HALCIA, la Cour des Comptes, and some CSOs performing in the field of fiscal transparency and combatting corruption.