Two-Thirds of OGP Members Don’t Contribute Financially

26 October 2015

By Toby McIntosh

Two-thirds of the 66 members of the Open Government Partnership have never contributed financially, but the trend in the numbers is slowly improving.

Only 22 governments have sent in checks over the past four years of the OGP”s existence, some providing way more than others. These are the 22 that have ponied up:

Armenia, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Georgia, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Panama, the Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tanzania, United Kingdom and the United States.

Which means 44 governments have not contributed financially. This includes one government with a representative on the Steering Committee, Chile, which has promised to contribute in 2016.

Ten additional countries have promised to pay dues before end of this year, an OGP official said. In the past, officials have pointed out that domestic hurdles can make it hard for governments to get the OGP into their national budgets. According to OGP planning documents, the organization doesn’t anticipate even close to full participation (just 50-60 percent was predicted), but even so, performance is running below expectations.

Still, with just one-third of the countries giving, the 2015 income total exceeds that of previous years, roughly $2 million. (Comparisons are complicated because of multi-year grants made by the US and UK development agencies. The OGP website list appears to include some of this development agency aid in the US and UK 2015 totals.)

And the number of countries contributing has climbed steadily, from five in 2012 to 17 in 2015. (The 22-nation total includes countries that have contributed at any time in OGP history.)

Chile on SC with IOU

The OGP has never insisted on donations from members, but asked for voluntary contributions beginning in 2012 and in 2014 began to press the point. It passed a new policy setting out a graduated contribution system, with a mild enforcement mechanism.

The May 5, 2014, Steering Committee resolution says  “governments  that  for  two  successive  years  have  not  made  financial  contributions  to  OGP  at  or  above  the  minimum  amount  for  their  income  tier  will  not  be  eligible  to  run  for  a  seat  on  the  OGP  Steering  Committee  or  participate  in  any  formal  vote  of  OGP  membership.”

This rule has been interpreted to mean that countries had until 2016 to contribute before running for election in the July 2016 elections.

Chile, just elected to the Steering Committee, has not contributed (the only member who had not). When asked about this, the OGP provided a June 3 letter from Chile, promising to pay $200,000 in 2016.

The OGP uses a sliding scale for contributions, based on World Bank income categorization. For low income countries the minimum is $10,000 and the recommended is $25,000. For lower middle income countries the minimum is $25,000 and the recommended is $50,000. For upper middle income countries the minimum is $50,000 and the recommended is $100,000. For high income countries the minimum is $100,000 and the recommended is $200,000.

The biggest supporters have been founding members, particularly those who also have taken on the burden of hosting OGP summits: the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Norway.

Other Sources of Income

The shortfall in country financial support does not seem to be seriously affecting OGP operations, which are expected to run at about a $5 million level for the near futures.

Five large private foundations that helped get the OGP going and with multi-million grants continue to provide bulk of the funding: the Hewlett Foundation: the Open Society Foundation: the Ford Foundation: the Omidyar Network and Hivos.

The detailed numbers are provided in the finances and budget section of the OGP website.

Aiming to diversify OGP income, the Steering Committee has set a goal of getting one-third of its funding from member governments and the rest from foundations and bilateral and multilateral aid organizations. This plan is discussed the four-year strategy for 2015-2018.

The strategy document discusses what income is possible, but predicts incomplete participation.

A footnote says: “Interviews with members and stakeholders revealed mixed support for universal member contributions. Roughly half of respondents endorsed universal contributions, while others opposed it. Most of the opposition was on practical grounds. Respondents felt that, given the bureaucratic hurdles to processing payments, transaction costs would be too high.”

As a result, the strategy makes the following projection:

If most countries (i.e. 80 percent or more) make their suggested contributions, this mechanism will yield about $3M a year in core funding for OGP. Actual response rates are difficult to predict, but are likely to be closer to 20-25 percent at first, gradually building up to 50-60 percent as payment norms are established. Realistically, we expect that this model, when fully established, will yield $1.5M-$2.5M annually for OGP programs.

The Steering Committee’s agenda for next week includes a discussion several steps that could ease the administration of handling funds; incorporation and setting up a World Bank Trust Fund. The Bank administers many trust funds, using them to channel not only Bank funds, but also contributions from other sources. (See report on the agendas for meetings Oct. 25 and 26.)

The strategic plan predicts in that reliance on donor funds “will likely increase in the near term” as the OGP works to institute this new funding model.

Over the next four years (2015-2018), OGP expects to raise $20 million from the following sources: $10 million from foundations, $4-$6 million from bilateral donor agencies, and $4-$6 million from participating governments.

In 2014, according to the most recent audit, OGP had revenues of $4.5 million. Countries provided $1.1 million and foundations $2.4 million, with another $850,000 from foundations being “temporarily restricted” for later use. “Other” sources provided $144,000.

The OGP spent $3 million in 2014.

For the next four years, the OGP Steering Committee has projected spending of about $5.5 million annually.

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