BudgIT is a civic organization promoting accountability and transparency in public spending in Nigeria. The term “BudgIT” is a hybrid of budget and information technology.
Mission and Purpose
Established in September 2011, BudgIT seeks a transparent relationship between the government and the governed by applying technology to intersect citizen engagement with institutional improvement and facilitate societal change. The Nigerian budget remains a thick document with dismal performance, especially in capital projects implementation. Cases of poor data management and analysis in the Nigerian government have continued to affect government projects’ accuracy and hinder accountability and transparency of government operations. To tackle this, BudgIT’s services are classified into four: “providing simplified access to budgets and public finance data; project monitoring for efficient service delivery; promoting accountability and fiscal inclusion in the extractive industries, and collaboration with government and stakeholders such as media and civil society institutions.
Origins and Development
In February 2011, Co-Creation Hub (a technology-oriented centre dedicated to social capital acceleration to ensure development in various spheres) organized a 48-hour Tech-In-Series event. The BudgIT team emerged second of the three contenders where they came up with the idea for open data access of government spending for public knowledge. As part of its reward, Co-Creation Hub provided BudgIT with financial resources and office space to carry out its projects. In 2019, with Oluseun Onigbinde and Joseph Agunbiade as co-founders of BudgIT, BudgIT metamorphosed from two to thirty full-time staff and twenty-nine project tracking officers charged with monitoring budgetary activities in 33 states in Nigeria. The annual budgets (state and federal) contain projects that meet the basic amenities required by Nigerians, such as road network, electricity, water supply, healthcare facilities, and education. BudgIT seeks to promote accountability and transparency in government budgets and expenditures through its published reports and infographics by providing a platform for Nigerians to access Nigerian budgetary activities. Nigerian States experience human development issues such as poverty, unemployment, underemployment, avoidable disease outbreaks (excluding COVID -19), and a host of third-world problems. The disease outbreaks include cholera, monkeypox, measles, Cerebro-spinal meningitis, Lassa fever, and Yellow fever. According to BudgIT, to solve these issues, each state needs to be a sustainable subnational entity. Each state should generate enough revenue to meet its capital and recurrent expenditure.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
BudgIT is headed by Gabriel Okeowo (Chief Executive Officer), Oluseun Onigbinde (Director), Joseph Agunbiade (Technology Lead), and Mercy Titus (Finance Lead). There are thirty full-time staff and interns are sourced from the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC), a one-year mandatory service for Nigerian graduates. The Research and Advocacy department comprises seven people charged with research, data spreading, data analysis, policy advocacy, and budget analysis. For full-time positions, the recruitment process is need-based in which an advert is put out on its social media platforms. Applicants are interviewed and asked scenario-based questions to emphasize skills and capacity rather than academic qualifications and experience. The volunteers referred to as community champions are available in the thirty-three states with BudgIT visibility. There are also service delivery trackers of about 15,000 who conduct field investigations of government projects in various states. Its social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) boast thousands of followers, creating awareness on government projects in their respective communities. Physical offices are situated in Nigeria (Lagos and Abuja), Ghana, and Sierra Leone.
The availability of funds plays an influential role in ensuring the success of projects and the attainment of objectives. BudgIT’s financial capability has evolved through grants (primarily international) and donations. The Tony Elumelu Foundation and Co-Creation Hub supported BudgIT’s project execution in the first six months of its establishment. In 2013, BudgIT’s total revenue from grants, consulting, and competitions were 34.9 million Naira (US$96,600). In 2014, BudgIT received up to $400,000 in grants from Omidyar Network, while MacArthur Foundation awarded $550,000 between 2018 and 2019. Other financial partners include The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Oxfam, The Indigo, Luminate, Ford Foundation, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), and United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). Also, BudgIT seeks donations through its “Donate” option on its official website- https://yourbudgit.com/. To maintain its non-partisan position, BudgIT has avoided local funding opportunities from individuals and organizations.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
BudgIT implements community-driven development and community monitoring methods in achieving its vision. On the one hand, community-driven development “empowers participating citizens and communities to control the development process, resources, and decision-making to address their self-identified needs. On the other hand, community monitoring features local population as a check on the implementation of government projects through oversight and reporting of service quality, efficiency, and efficacy. Following its vision: “to see a community of active citizens that relentlessly make effective use of public information to demand accountability, geared for institutional improvement, efficient services delivery, and an equitable society” BudgIT has adopted tools that endeavors to simplify Nigerian budgets and public data to aid understanding and accessibility across every literacy span. These tools include citizen reporting, monitoring platforms, town halls, direct advocacy, infographics, public rallies, data sourcing, and analysis carried out at Federal, State, and local levels. BudgIT makes use of Traka, a project-tracking tool for investigating the implementation and execution of government projects. It allows individuals to register complaints about abandoned or dysfunctional infrastructure projects in and around their communities. Tracka is visible in thirty-two states in Nigeria, excluding Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, and Zamfara due to their poor audit process. According to Oluseun Onigbinde, “tech tools have enabled us to scrutinize the budget and, melded with boots on the ground, curate the status of projects.”
Also, BudgIT collaborates with startups, civic organizations, encouraging civic responsibility and tackling injustice using technology tools. There is also the collaboration with the National Assembly Budget and Research Office; and the Budget Office of the Federation. In 2013, BudgIT worked with 28 civil society organizations and presented the Nigerian budget at 32 civil society sessions. In 2017, the organization had 55 civil society partners and implemented new public communications tools, including e-tools, SMS, a regular radio program, and social media. In summary, its services are carried out through community outreach, technological initiatives, digital organizing, workshops, citizens engagement, mentorship programs, and policy advocacy.
Major Projects and Events
BudgIT activities are implemented in five stages: data mining, data verification, creative display, sharing and feedback through fiscal analyses, civic technology, and data representation. Citizen reporting allows Nigerians to submit a report on government projects within their communities. To ensure the accuracy of data provided to citizens, BudgIT collaborates with relevant government agencies such as the National Bureau of Statistics, Debt Management Office, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. The project execution begins with project selection, which starts with internal conversations, data analysis by state, and available funds. The project is assigned to a full-time staff to serve as a team lead and deployment of service delivery trackers to state(s) involved in the project. The service delivery trackers carry out offline and online engagements such as town-hall meetings, engagement in schools/universities, and collaboration with stakeholders. The BudgIT team investigates stories submitted, and its reports are published on its social media platforms and reported to government agencies to ensure that contractors involved are held accountable. After investigation, BudgIT provides government agencies and the populace with its report through Tracka and social media platforms. In each report, loopholes in the project are identified, and solutions are proffered to ensure project completion as stated in the budget.
Perhaps, the most effective tool deployed by BudgIT is Tracka, a community-based tool with active citizens tracking the implementation of government projects in their community to ensure service delivery. Tracka can be used in two ways- to track existing projects and to uphold investigative reports on government projects. To track existing projects, BudgIT created a website with a database of government projects which can be searched by sector (education, health, transport) or category (Federal government budgets, State budgets). The status of each project is updated based on “not stated,” “in progress,” “abandoned,” and “completed.” Tracka provides a platform for Nigerians to post pictures of developmental projects in their communities. BudgIT’s project officers aid citizens offline to communicate with their elected representatives and demand completion of the government projects in their neighborhoods. Tracka’s Project Tracking Officers (PTOs) and Community Champions are assigned to their various communities to investigate government projects and present reports.
In November 2020, Tracka, with support from Ford Foundation, kickstarted the community-based civic advocacy project in 24 selected communities across six oil-producing states in the Niger-Delta region. Among other objectives, the project promoted citizen engagement for the beneficiation of natural resources and service delivery. The project team has tracked one hundred and fifty-four (154) projects in the 2020 states’ budget, the Niger Delta Development Commission Budget (NDDC), 2020 Consolidated Capital Projects, and 2020 Zonal Intervention Projects. Of the 154 projects, 60 have been completed, 36 are currently ongoing, 27 have not begun, and 15 are abandoned due to respective agencies’ late release of funds due to the pandemic.
The Covid’19 pandemic affected Nigerians economically due to the loss of jobs and the inability to meet basic needs. BudgIT initiated CovidFundTraka to track Covid-19 donations received by Nigeria’s federal and state governments; and 2020 allocations tagged for “COVID-19 response” in each state’s 2020 revised budget. These include allocations for a direct response within and outside the health sector that categorized budget allocations based on state recipient, amount, item, expenditure, type (recurrent or capital), and the specific agency that receives the money. In 2021, using six states (Niger, Lagos, Kano, Ogun, Enugu, and River) and government agencies as case studies, BudgIt released a report titled “COVID-19 Fund: Fiscal Support, Palliative Analysis & Institutional Response” that reviewed Nigeria’s current fiscal support and institutional response to COVID-19.
In 2013, BudgIT supported Enough Is Enough (a prominent civic society organization in Nigeria) in the #OpenNass campaign, pushing the National Assembly to create and release a budget of its expenditures. Town halls and public rallies were organized, and citizen petitions were collected and sent to the National Assembly to demonstrate support for transparency. In 2017, the government yielded to the campaign in greater detail than in the past by releasing its past budgets. In 2017, BudgIT’s Fix Our Oil campaign altering the lines of authority in issuing petroleum licenses coincided with the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill’s hearings. Along with various “tweet meets” and social media engagements, the organization produced a series of infographics about the bill’s benefits, limitations, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company budget. This led to the passage of the bill in May 2017 by the Senate.
In 2018, the BudgIT-led conference explored innovative avenues to leverage new media tools towards a progressive democratic society and an electoral system devoid of corrupt practices. The expected outcome was an improved understanding of how new media can advance governance and accountability. In Sierra Leone, BudgIT began ‘BudgIT Hour,’ a bi-weekly civic engagement radio show. The one-hour show airs on the community radio station, Lion Mountain. It plans to host another program on Victory Radio (with a wider national audience) to engage local councils on governance. Trackaplus, a program produced by BudgIT in collaboration with a popular Nigerian television station, Channels Television, has been able to successfully find and report on abandoned projects in many communities, particularly on infrastructure projects that have been abandoned.
Upon analysis of the 2020 budget, BudgIT successfully ensured the reduction of bloated budget and unnecessary expenses channeled to the provision of basic amenities for the Nigerian population. In 2021, BudgIT made recommendations regarding the wasteful and frivolous items in the National Budget, which successfully removed over 200 items of about 35 billion Naira. For example, BudgIT exposed a 41 million naira (US$113,575) investment that claimed to be funding a non-existent youth center in Kebbi State. BudgIT mobilized civil outcry on public pay levels by encouraging careful public review of the budget, resulting in a public servant salary cap. In some cases, BudgIT experienced hostility from government officials, especially those indicted due to reports by BudgIT. There is also a threat to the life and safety of staff who are more cautious in their activities. Some staff are arrested, beaten, or captured by the Department of State Services (a security agency in Nigeria), victims of accidents, and kidnapping in remote areas where projects are located. This explains the absence of pictorial representation of staff members on the BudgIT website.
BudgIT ensures simplification of Nigeria’s budgetary information to ease understanding by its citizens. Others include promoting accessibility, accountability, ensuring the provision of basic amenities, promoting compliance with budgetary stipulations, and ensuring the prosecution of corrupt individuals. In July 2021, BudgIT’s visibility included twenty-six states, 586 local government areas where it has held 7,612 town hall meetings, reached 4,850,000 Nigerians via digital and physical spaces, tracked 15,859 projects, and impacted 9,006 communities.
BudgIT can be described as a “pioneer in the field of social advocacy melded with technology” As a Civicus Alliance and Open Alliance member, BudgIT is also leading Nigeria’s global Open Government Partnership membership. BudgIT played a crucial part in convincing the Nigerian government to join the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative to promote transparency and stamp out corruption. BudgIT seeks to encourage states and local governments to become more transparent with their budgets. It believes that specific legislation, such as the Fiscal Responsibility Act, anchors public finance, must be improved to ensure greater transparency and accountability. BudgIT has begun to engage the National Assembly committees on the sections of the law that inhibit transparency.
To tackle apathy among citizens, BudgIT collaborates with local civil society organizations (CSOs) in extensive training on budget comprehension. Augmented with printed graphics in local languages and town-hall meetings, BudgIT has successfully distributed over 150,000 copies of simplified budget documents in 16 states. Tracka directly led to the completion of over 80 community projects. BudgIT intends to create a database for primary health care centers in Nigeria to coordinate funding (personnel, equipment, and organization) for effective management and operations.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Standard Innovation Review describes BudgIT as “a civic organization driven to make the Nigerian budget and public data more understandable and accessible across every literacy span. BudgIT indeed provided several supports to scale our work in the last one year.” BudgIT is recognized for its efforts in tracking government expenditure by identifying fiscal irregularities and the mismanagement of funds” in public office. The United States Institute of Peace described BudgIT’s activities as an “investigative or exposé-style research into budgets, spending, and other state policies that shock [people] with what the facts are.” However, in 2019, the appointment of Seun Onigbinde, co-founder of BudgIT as Technical Adviser at the Ministry of Budget and National Planning generated missed reactions and negative press for BudgIT with some critics describing his appointment a contradiction to the non-partisan stance of BudgIT.
While BudgIT’s technological approach is commendable, a significant hurdle in BudgIT’s activities is the extent of visibility in Nigeria due to the high level of illiteracy in areas concentrated by the voting population and limited access to digital amenities. However, BudgIT’s activities led Forbes to recognize it as one of the top five African startups to watch in 2013. As a community leader on Twitter commented in 2018: “Thank you, Tracka, these are the kinds of things we would not have known without you, and now you have brought all of us together to fight this corruption.”
 Oluseun Olugbinde, “Destination Democracy via Tech: BudgIT as A Case Study,” Africa Policy Review, April 2020, http://digital.africapolicyreview.com/destination-democracy-via-technology-budgit-as-a-case-study/.
 “Nigeria’s Inept National Assembly, Most Expensive In The World,” The Nigerian Voice, June 2 2010, https://www.thenigerianvoice.com/news/25769/nigerias-inept-national-assembly-most-expensive-in-the-wor.html.
 Interview with Abel Akeni, Head, Research and Advocacy, BudgIT, Lagos, Nigeria, on 7th July, 2021.
 BudgIT, States of States 2020 Revised Edition, 5.
 Interview with Abel Akeni, Head, Research and Advocacy, BudgIT, Lagos, Nigeria, on 28th August, 2021.
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 Oluseun Olugbinde, “Destination Democracy via Tech: BudgIT as A Case Study,” Africa Policy Review, April 2020, http://digital.africapolicyreview.com/destination-democracy-via-technology-budgit-as-a-case-study/
 Iyanuoluwa Fatoba, “Tracka Empowers 24 Community-Based Groups In the Oil-producing States on Budget Advocacy, Project Tracking and Service Delivery,” May 14, 2021, Medium https://medium.com/@BudgITng/tracka-empthe-owers-24-community-based-groups-in-oil-producing-states-on-budget-advocacy-project-d8ab9830beae
 “Budgeted Spending,” CovidTrackaFund, accessed July 24, 2021, https://civichive.org/covidtracka/#/spending/budgetedspending
 Omolabake Fasogbon “BudgIT Reviews COVID-19 Fund Management in New Report,” April 24, 2021, This Day, https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2021/04/24/budgit-reviews-covid-19-fund-management-in-new-report/
 Samuel Itodo and David O’Regan, “Nigeria’s Movement for Transparency and Accountability,” USIP Special Report 433, October 2018, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/2018-10/sr433-nigerias-movement-for-transparency-and-accountability-bringing-the-pieces-together.pdf, ISBN: 978-1-60127-743-5, 10.
 “Analysis of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill,” BudgIT, May 2017, www.yourbudgit.com/wp-content /uploads/2017/05/Petroleum-Industry-Governance-Bill-INFOGRAPHICS.pdf
 Abiola Afolabi, “Going forward, Looking Beyond: A Reflection on BudgIT’s Expansion II,” Medium @BudgITNg November 20, 2020, https://medium.com/@BudgITng/going-forward-looking-beyond-a-reflection-on-budgits-expansion-ii-c593668df1f4
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 Jennifer Guay, “Nigeria Holds Public Servants Accountable With Budget Watchdog,” Apolitical, March 6, 2017, https://apolitical.co/solution-articles/en/nigeria-holds-public-servants-accountable-budget-watchdog
 Interview, Abel Akeni.
 “About PLSI,” PLSI Annual Report 2016/17:Agitation, Innovation and Orchestration, 3.
 Samuel Itodo and David O’Regan, “Nigeria’s Movement for Transparency and Accountability,” 6.
 Wale Odunsi, “Seun Onigbinde: Reactions as BudgIT Co-founder Joins Buhari’s Government, Deactivates Twitter Account,” Daily Post Nigeria, September 13, 2019,
 Tolu Olarewaju, Ibrahim Rufai and Samanthika Gallage, “E-transparency And Government Budgetary Corruption: A Social Marketing And Transformation Case From Nigeria” Wiley, December 15, 2020, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/isd2.12167, 10.