Why I Joined PTF: Improving Everyday Life for the Poor

By Jeff Kass, PTF Member & Adviser

After reviewing the day’s lively email correspondence from East Africa civil society organizations ranging from progress on tracking anti malaria drug distribution, to the match up of school construction project expenditures with the resulting bricks and mortar, to the status of cases before a national anti-corruption court, and reviewing a stack of potential new projects, I thought about how different this was from my former career and how this had all started.

Two years ago my wife and I moved to Washington, DC after a stint in Memphis, TN where I was a vice president of International Paper, at that time the world’s largest forest products company. At International Paper, I had run the Hammermill Paper Business – 2500 employees, five paper mills and the industry’s preeminent brand, and been a VP of Strategic Planning for a large sector of the company. Now, as an adviser with PTF, I was working at the grassroots level with small CSOs in Africa with annual operating budgets often times well under $100,000, and at most a handful of employees on hand; everyone passionate about increasing transparency and reducing corruption.

It began when we moved to DC and I reconnected with an old school friend, a World Banker, who introduced me to PTF. It was time for PTF to update its strategic plan and I offered to guide the process. Several months later, after helping to set a new course that would grow the organization, increase its impact, and build its internal capacity, I was hooked on the work PTF was doing. I was invited to join PTF’s Africa program and began my work guiding CSOs focused on improving the lives of the poor by working to reduce corruption. The work is stimulating; we do good things, get to work with passionate people all over the world and make a difference in the quality of life for the poor, and have the support of an outstanding group of associates.

One of the really exciting things about PTF is the potential to take grass roots projects that are effective and scale them up. I am particularly interested in a projects that reduce corruption in the health sector. Medicines targeted for free clinics are commonly stolen from the supply chain and end up in the private market. Poor patients show up at the clinics, find that the drugs are not available, and are either asked to purchase the “free” drugs from private clinics, or do without. We are tracking anti malaria medicines, working with Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) at the grass roots level and with Uganda Law Society (ULS) for those situations that merit attention by the Uganda Anti-Corruption Court. If the project achieves its goals we hope to replicate it broadly and use the results to influence health care policy.