Argentine CSO Demonstrates Power of Citizen Engagement in COVID-19 Response

Improving the transparency and effectiveness of Argentina’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Argentine CSO Poder Ciudadano has completed the first phase of a COVID-19 monitoring project, which began in July, 2020 as one of five rapid response projects to monitor government programs responding to COVID-19. They are currently in talks with PTF advisers to adapt the strategies implemented to a second phase of the project, extending their work to monitor vaccine distribution.

In July 2020, PTF began working with Poder Ciudadano to design a project to improve the transparency and effectiveness of Argentina’s response to the pandemic. This work arose from conversations with World Bank staff concerned that the speed of the global response and the short-cutting of normal procurement that presented serious risks of corruption.

Poder Ciudadano in Argentina worked with PTF to implement a wide-ranging response program which had two main components. Component 1 focused on developing a national monitoring mechanism to track all contracts for the purchase of medical supplies and equipment. Component 2 involved building the capacity of civil society organizations to monitor the procurement, storage, distribution, and delivery of medical equipment and supplies.

At the completion of phase one, this project has successfully created the country’s first comprehensive reporting on state purchases and distribution drawn from a dozen public sources and supplemented by fifty formal freedom-of-information requests. By December 2020, Poder Ciudadano had tracked more than seven hundred procurement activities valued at $200 million. The open-source tracking mechanism, called the Observatory, has been cited by more than twenty newspaper articles and multiple television and radio spots. Poder Ciudadano provided two analyses of results to the Supreme Audit organization which were reviewed and led to consultations. Civil society pressure also caused the Ministry of Health in Argentina to improve its pandemic website. Poder also sponsored a meeting in October 2020 on the challenges of the response with over two hundred participants, including representatives of the General Trustee of the Nation, Prosecutor of Administrative Investigations, and the General Audit Office of the Nation.

In Component 2, Poder created a seven-step methodology for citizen engagement in monitoring and reporting on the pandemic response. It has developed a network of CSOs at the regional, municipal, and local levels to carry out the next phase of the monitoring program, focusing on vaccine distribution and delivery. In December 2020, Poder also published a Regulatory Risk Map relating to the emergency response.

Thus far, Poder Ciudadano has shared its work with other regional civil society organizations (CSOs) and with the Transparency International Secretariat.

The project had co-funding from the Embassy of Canada in Argentina.

To learn more about the project and stay up to date on its progress, follow @PTFund and @poderciudadano on Twitter.