BUDGIT, CISLAC commend FG as suspicious payments to personal accounts drop by 94%, call for more sanctions to prevent corruption
On December 9, 2019, the Federal Government launched the Open Treasury Portal to increase transparency and accountability in government spending. In June 2020, BudgIT, a civic advocacy society and accountability organisation on budget and public finance issues, released a detailed report titled “OpenTreasury.gov.ng: Nigeria’s Spending Platform: Review, Gaps & Recommendations” in which it analysed data uploaded on the portal from September 2018 to May 2020.
The report observed that between January and June 2019, over 2,900 payments were made into personal accounts while over 5000 payments worth N278bn did not have any description on the purpose of the payment. Subsequently, letters were sent to the OAGF on the problems and gaps identified by BudgIT on the platform.
On August 6 2020, the federal government set up the Transparency Portal and Quality Assurance and Compliance Committee to review these gaps and resolve the issues. BudgIT and CISLAC, two leading civil society organizations leading the advocacy for fiscal transparency and accountability were nominated as members of the Committee. This Committee also includes other MDAs, ICPC & EFCC. The two organisation’s participation is at no cost to the federal government.
Consequently, both BudgIT and CISLAC noticed some progress in fiscal accountability on the OpenTreasury portal since the Transparency Portal Quality Assurance Compliance Committee was set up by the federal government.
Since the committee’s intervention, payments without description have reduced by 50.98% from N794,954,335.07 in about 28 transactions in August 2020 to N389,718,618.47 with 24 transactions in January 2021.
Likewise, payments to personal accounts which amounted to N2,962,536,395.77 with 190 Occurrences in August 2020 rose by 98.40% to N5,877,687,578.87 with 336 occurrences in December 2020. However, these payments have reduced by 94.75% from December 2020 to N308,174,806.84 with 15 occurrences in January 2021.
Nevertheless, according to Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director of CISLAC, the payments made to personal accounts as observed by the committee during its first 2021 meeting increased from 277 in November 2020 to 336 in December 2020. This seems to adulterate the progress that was recorded in the months before December 2020.
Also, in October 2020, a list of 44 transactions from 16 MDAs was handed over to ICPC representative for further investigation for non-compliance. However, despite ICPC’s intervention, we observed some consistent trends emerging from the ministry of Niger Delta and Humanitarian affairs with both having the largest share of defaulters in the last quarter of 2020.
Whilst speaking about this misnomer, BudgIT’s Principal Lead, Gabriel Okeowo reiterated the importance of unveiling the list of those sanctioned to the public. This will serve as a deterrent to other civil servants and public office holders to be more accountable in the use of public funds.
He further noted that while the platform is innovative and commendable, much work is still needed to achieve its goal of enabling public transparency and accountability fully as there have been downtimes and platform unavailability due to technical issues from the Service provider Galaxy Backbone, that designed, and manages the portal.