Ensuring Open Government on World Bank’s $500 million Health Credit to the Nigerian Government for SOML PforR

[Follow The Money Team, ONE Campaign Africa Country Director and The World Bank SOML PforR Departmental Personnel]

 

In 2012, the Nigerian Federal Government initiated the Saving One Million Lives Program For Results (SOML PforR). It was a program to rollback child and maternal mortality in the country and save an estimate of 900,000 women and children that die each year through preventable causes. The program was also intended to improve immunization and nutritional outcomes across the country and train birth attendants etc. Subsequently in 2015, the World Bank approved $500 million credit for the program. To ensure transparency and accountability in the fund’s implementation, on 2 February of the same year, the Bretton Woods institution invited Civil Society Organizations for a consultative meeting to get their feedback, suggestions and inputs on the program.

Between 2015 and 2016, there was no other such of civil society engagement by the World Bank on the credit, occasioning speculations about what could be happening to the fund. However, around September 2016, the World Bank provided $55.5 million as part of the credit to the Federal Ministry of Health who then gave $1.5 million to each of the 36 states and the FCT. At the receipt of this development, we started tracking the implementation of the one and half million dollars at Primary Healthcare Centres across rural communities in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe States. But this been back-breaking following information crisis, confusion, secrecy and anomalous reporting on the fund. As at December 2016, many of the states were saying that they have not received the fund. In addition, it was only Yobe State that gave us their Work Plan for the fund, while other states did not even acknowledge our Freedom of Information (FOI) requests on that.

Several FOI requests to the Ministry of Health and its SOML PforR Department for details on states that have received the fund were never acknowledged. Consequently, on 8 December, 2016, we wrote the World Bank Country Office asking for audience to share our experience with respect to tracking the fund and getting several key details on the fund release dynamics from them. They did not acknowledge or reply our request too. In January 2017, we overheard President Buhari making a pronouncement that the $1.5 million has been released to all the states.

Following these developments, we wrote again to the World Bank on 27 February seeking an audience on the SOML PforR and we were invited for a meeting on 8 March, 2017. In the meeting with the institution’s SOML Program Lead, Dr Benjamim Loevinsohn was impressed that a CSO is genuinely interested in ensuring open government in the implementation of the fund. He briefed us of several developments around the $55.5 million and the SOML PforR itself. He promised collaborations and information sharing with Follow The Money Team to ensure the fund would be clinically implemented to save thousands of lives across the country.

He also used the occasion to comment on Nigeria’s immunization outcome, which was surprisingly lower than that of Afghanistan. The latter has been into political instability for more than a decade. Similarly, Cameroon and Ghana all have better immunization outcome than Nigeria. “The problem in Nigeria has been vaccines supply issue,” said Dr Benjamin. On the $1.5 million, he also stated, “the fund has been released to each of the states and the FCT. I am certain that as at last 3 weeks, about 30 states have gotten access to the fund. The remaining few states have not accessed the fund because they have not met up with some of the fund access regime elements.”

Dr Benjamin promised to discuss with the Ministry of Health over quarterly engagements with the civil society and the media on the SOML PforR implementation.