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UNDP Demonstrates that Transparency Comes Cheap

November 30, 2012

By EJ Fagan

EJ Fagan was New Media Coordinator for the FTC from 2011-2013. He is now Deputy Communications Director for Global Financial Integrity. You can follow him on Twitter @ejfagan.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),has a budget of roughly $5 billion, and operates about 6,000 foreign aid projects throughout the world. This year, UNDP decided that it wanted to be more transparent in reporting what it does to the world. It got a $225,000 grant (Hat tip: Corruption Currents) to create a cool new web app:

And that’s not all. The customizable embed (available at open.undp.org) allows you to embed any combination of statistics, graphs, charts, and this map to share online. Want to know what share of UNDP’s budget gets spent on Afghanistan? That gets donated by the government of Denmark? That goes to supporting poverty reduction? Its all simple, easy, and shareable. If you believe that UNDP is misappropriating its budget, the tools are available for you to act.

This demonstrates a larger point: transparency gives you a great bang for your buck. Any multinational company could recreate this system without any difficulty and post their sales, profits, number of employees and taxes paid–country-by-country reporting, which the Task Force advocates for–online, for everyone to see. This would allow tax authorities, citizens, and investors to see exactly where companies are saying their revenues and costs are, and discourage gaming the system.

That way, people in Zambia can see it if mining companies are avoiding $2 billion in tax in one of the world’s poorest places. People in Ghana will be able to see if one of the world’s largest brewing companies is legally pretending that it made no real profit their country. Or the United States can see how many billions of dollars Apple is claiming it made in the British Virgin Islands.

The usual response from multinations on country-by-country reporting and similar policies is that compliance costs would be too high. But UNDP just showed everyone how inexpensive this really is. They built a wonderfully convenient web application froms scratch for very little money. Transparency is not only the right way to hold governments, institutions, and corporations accountable, but its also dirt cheap.


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Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated to be the views of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely the opinions of the individual blogger and are not necessarily those of the Financial Transparency Coalition.

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