Category: Corruption

CONDITIONAL CASH TRANSFERS: ENSURING THAT RECOVERED LOOTS ARE NOT PLUNDERED

Ani Nwachukwu Agwu June 25, 2018 0

It has often been said that corruption is the bane of any progressive society as it stifles development, good governance, professionalism, as well as entrepreneurship. Corruption erodes the values of hard work and honesty. Prior to the 2015 general elections, Nigerians perceived President Buhari and Prof Osibanjo as incorruptible leaders whom the country desperately needed. Three years after winning a popular election, to what extent has this reputation been sustained?

Image: President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo [Photo Credit: Novo Isioro]

Upon assumption of office, the President declared that the tripod upon which his mandate was secured in 2015 was: anti-corruption, security and economy.  Most Nigerians in euphoria of the peaceful transition of democratic leadership at the federal level looked forward to a surgical strike against pervasive corruption; endemic insecurity and a hemorrhaging economy.

To attack poverty and reduce the growing number of unemployed people, one obvious scheme or intervention the government has announced is Nigeria Social Investment Programme (NSIP). NSIP has four components: National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP); Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT); Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and N-power scheme. At the end of this year (2018), a total of NGR 1.5 trillion (One trillion, five hundred billion naira) would have been appropriated for NSIP according to the senate committee on appropriation. Between 2016 and 2017, NGR 1 trillion (one trillion naira only) was approved for NSIP. While N500 billion was appropriated for the NSIP in 2017, N100 billion was deducted from source for the Social Housing Scheme under the Federal Ministry of Finance. Having said that, N500 billion has survived as the yearly budget of the presidency for her ambitious social safety net programme as supported by development partners, notably the World Bank Group.

Available data suggests that the federal government has expressed unusual interest, at least budgetary wise, in taking millions of Nigerians out of poverty and vulnerability. How has social safety programmes worked in other climes? Any attempt to provide answers, sharply divides opinions along retentionists and abolitionists. Undoubtedly, this is not without heated-debates and controversies. A recent one being the government’s revelation that $322.5 million (N116.1 billion) recovered from Abacha’s Loot would be spent on the poor as conditional cash transfers under NSIP.

In a country with heavy burden of infrastructural deficit and majority of her population engulfed or stuck in poverty and lack, experts and public analysts have continued to provide  alternative opinions on how this N116 billion could be best deployed. One of such genuine concerns among stakeholders is the absence of a national social registry. “Nigeria has no valid social register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians upon which selection of beneficiaries could be based” Seun has continued to contest. This is true. There is no comprehensive social register detailing the poor or vulnerable across the 774 Local Government Areas in the federation.

In the event that a whopping sum of N116 billion is deployed as CCT to poor Nigerians who usually reside in thick rural villages, how can this money be managed without corruption or abuse? Popular opinions suggest that a participatory, open and transparent targeting system and register would need to be agreed upon by stakeholders, of which the methodology must be stripped of partisanship, religion and ethnicity. This is even so as poverty has no respect for a victim’s social characteristics.

The Nigerian health sector is an area that government can either intervene or risk further decay and shame. The mistrust in our health sector is such that it is impossible for even the President to submit to Nigerian doctors for medical treatment. On occasions, the President had sought the attention of foreign doctors abroad even on mundane issues like ear infections. As a matter of fact, the President has spent time and resources overseas, seeking medical attention, in a manner unparalleled in Nigerian history. Clearly, our healthcare system, especially Primary Health Care (PHC), must be fixed for the benefit of every Nigerian. Who says that our PHCs cannot work again?

Talking about educational crisis, annually, uncountable Nigerians are forced out of the country in pursuit of secondary and tertiary education in foreign soils, particularly Europe. In terms of educational tourism, Nigeria’s profile is the highest in volume in the whole world. This is a discrepancy, a departure from the normal. How long shall we continue in this diseased trajectory? Education is the engine of any progressive economy. Can any leader neglect it and still deliver on substantive benefits of democracy? I doubt.

Worrisomely, Nigeria is beginning to manifest symptoms and signs on possible untenability of Vision2030 – #SDGS. Consider for example, a report by Mr. Suleiman Adamu – Minister of Water Resources, more Nigerians had access to potable water in 1990 than 2017. In medicine, it is believed that the daily water requirement for an adult human is about 5 litres of clean water. In the open market, a 75cl of bottle water (Eva) costs about N100. Therefore, to satisfy the 5 litres daily requirement of water, about 7 bottles of water are required. This amounts to about N700 daily. With simple addition or multiplication, a Nigerian would need about N21, 000 per month if he or she is interested in potable water – Eva in this case.  Recall that the minimum wage in Nigeria is N18, 000 (eighteen thousand naira only). Graphically, potable water is a luxury in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the SDGs (Goal 6) aim to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for ALL by 2030. With budgetary shortfalls and inconsistency in implementation, is there hope that #WaterForAll can be achieved in Nigeria?

In all sincerity, we believe that a large part of the recovered Abacha’s loot should be used for special intervention in our sickly health and education sectors; supporting the attainment of #SDGs, and financing technological startups. In the circumstances of scarce resources with competing needs, we beseech the Federal Government to ensure that recovered loots are not plundered. Deploying N116 billion without a comprehensive, valid and transparent social register of the poor and vulnerable class would amount to a damaging blow against the government’s anti-corruption posture or body language, in the case that anything goes wrong. For now, the anti-corruption efforts must succeed. The President has my support. There is no other way!

Would the President listen and realign his spending tendencies to synchronize with his government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP)? This is one thing Nigerians would be happy and celebrate the President for. Nigeria’s national and sub-national spending, for common good, must be retooled to reflect creative and deliberate investments in human capital development. On a daily basis, many households are confronted and brutalized by poverty. They cannot guarantee their daily bread. Governments must respond to these needs as a matter of obligation and responsibility. Social safety programmes are commendable but not at the detriment of investments in human capital and macroeconomic stabilization.

 

Authors: Oluseun Onigbinde is the co-founder of BudgIT while Ani, Nwachukwu Agwu works for Connected Development. For correspondence, please contact Nwachukwu via nwachukwu@connecteddevelopment.org

Mainstreaming Social Accountability in the New Gambia

Chambers Umezulike January 31, 2018 0

Corruption is more predominant in Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly because, weak institutions cannot implement the required checks and balances required for effective democratic and accountable governance. Connected Development [CODE] through its initiative, Follow The Money (FTM), since 2012, has been at the frontline of initiatives that seek to address these aforementioned open government challenges in Nigeria through the civil society perspective of a grassroot movement. This, the organization is now extending to the New Gambia.

CODE Chief Executive, Hamzat Lawal, during an opening remarks at the NACEET

Follow The Money Gambia is a project under a Gambian non-profit, Gambia Participates, led by the young activist and youth leader Marr Nyang. The project aims to leverage on Gambia’s current political climate to entrench functioning democratic governance, effective public oversight, open government and improve the lives of communities in the country. Having mobilized young volunteers across the country, committed to following the money in their various communities, FTM Gambia flagged off the National Anti-Corruption, Citizen Education and Engagement Training (NACEET) Series 1.0. The training which took place on 17 January 2018, was to build the capacity of these volunteers on the FTM processes which they will step down in their communities, while they start running a campaign.

While facilitating a session in the training

As part of this, we were in the Gambia for a week, 16 – 20 January  2018, over a set of activities, all geared toward creating a favourable environment for citizenry driven accountability work and building the capacity of FTM Gambia. The team, which I was part of, facilitated sessions on the NACEET where participants were taken through the Follow The Money process.

The team with the Executive Director of National Youth Council, the Gambia

Furthermore, there was a press release about our visit, the NACEET and FTM Gambia operations. This was followed by radio and tv programme. Through these, we further sensitized the Gambian citizens on their rights, roles in the society and the essence of fulfilling their society-demanding responsibility of holding the government to account. Furthermore, these media activities were geared toward calling on the Gambian government to implement an FOI law in the country, so that citizens’ will have the right to request public financial information. Recognizing this to be an obstacle in the accountability work, fiscal transparency and the ambition of FTM Gambia, we paid a courtesy on the Lamin Darboe, Executive Director of the Gambia National Youth Council for a collaboration toward having such a law implemented. Such visit was also paid to the Director of International Republican Institute country office in the Gambia.

The team getting ferried across the Atlantic to access Touba Angellah Community

Obviously, we would not have gone to The Gambia without a visiting a rural community. As such, the team was at Touba Angellah in Nuimi, North Bank Region of the country, 45 kilometers away from Banjul. For a community engagement programme. The dilapidated health and educational facilities in the community were assessed for coherent advocacy for them to be fixed. This also afforded us the opportunity of conducting citizen education at the community with a focus on anti-corruption, budget tracking, active citizenry and social accountability.

The trip was a beautiful one, regardless strengthening the capacity of FTM Gambia in running campaigns, including having a well structured internal system and processes for improvement in performance of its activities for phenomenal outcomes and results, it was a great opportunity to meet our colleagues there. Also, we enjoyed good Gambian meals, met several friends and enjoyed the beautiful coastal scenery of the country. In addition, the NACEET afforded me the opportunity to meet vibrant and passionate Gambians who were ready to make sure their country works through being active citizens.

By the end of the year, FTM Gambia would have carried campaigns in 20 constituencies of the country, while being at the frontline of strategic and multi-dimensional advocacy for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Bill in the New Gambia.

Solving Nigeria’s Basic Education Crisis Through Open Government Strategies

Chambers Umezulike October 13, 2017 1

Kufana Primary School, one of the PS’ to be rehabilitated with NGN 38 m by Kad SUBEB

In 2015, the UNESCO estimated that over 65 million Nigerians were illiterates, with adult literacy rate at 57.9% (National Bureau of Statistics, 2010). One of the major factors responsible for this has remained the continual rise in the number of out-of-schoolchildren in the country. Since many adults could not access basic education at childhood, the possibility of acquiring such while grown is exceedingly contracted. In the light of this, the UNICEF’s 2014 estimate of Nigeria having 10.5 million of the cumulative global 20 million out-of-school children, should be of great concern to the country, requiring a high-level sense of national urgency.

As part of the strategies to rollback the rising number of out-of-schoolchildren in Nigeria, in 2004, the Universal Basic Education Act was signed into law establishing the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The Commission’s mandate is to improve the enrollment of school children and reduce the current dropout rates. As a step-down measure, states created their own Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB). In furtherance, the Commission provides basic education funding to SUBEB, mainly through annual interventions. Despite this, many of the basic education challenges in the country have not been addressed. In the midst of these difficulties has been contracted open government in the management of UBEC funds by SUBEBs, which has occasioned an enabling environment for corruption to thrive. Such corruption has jeopardized a conducive learning atmosphere for Nigerian children.

Following the foregoing, and as a countermeasure toward the open government deficit, with support from MacArthur Foundation, Connected Development [CODE] kicked-off a project in Kaduna State (as a pilot in the country) to mobilize the public for effective oversight on the implementation of UBEC funds in the state through enhanced citizen’s participation. Starting with four focal LGAs in the state, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of School Monitoring Teams (SMTs) which comprises of Community Based Associations/Organizations (CBA/O), Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) and the School Based Monitoring Committees (SBMC) to conduct high quality tracking of the UBEC spending in 70 schools within a span of 3 years. The project was launched on 14 September 2017 in Kaduna through a stakeholders meeting with over 80 participants in attendance.

A group photo after the stakeholders meeting

Furthermore, from 3 – 5 October 2017, Follow The Money team was in Kaduna over the next activity of the project, which were trainings for the SMTs on tracking UBEC spending strategies (for two days), and Kaduna SUBEB (Kad-SUBEB) on data collection and analysis (for one day). With all the participants wholly in attendance, the SMTs’ training went on smoothly and was hands-on following our level of preparedness which manifested through critical documents we made available to the participants. They included report templates to provide feedback after visiting project sites; list of projects, amounts and contractors to monitor; bills of quantities (BoQs) etc. It was the first time the SMTs saw such documents.

Group photo at the end of SMTs training

In a similar manner, first, during the Focused Group Discussion with the SMTs, it was clear that they have not been carried along on needs assessment across schools to feed the UBE action plan of the state, that is sent to UBEC annually, for intervention access. Secondly, the SMTs have not been useful in project monitoring across schools because they lack key project and financial data. While we noted these issues, the SMTs were taken through the set of projects they would track. The training for Kad-SUBEB officials took place on the last day, featuring knowledge transfer on data collection tools and methods, routine monitoring data and data process management, using MS. Excel for data analysis etc.

Lessons learnt from the trainings encompass, first, the SUBEB training should have been for two days. This will be corrected in the second round of training in the second year of the project. Secondly, the session which featured a group work for SMTs to examine the BoQs should have been facilitated by an engineer that understands the technical terms used on the documents. This was partly addressed by the re-iteration that the tracking should be a collaborative effort. So while SMTs are stepping down the training in their communities, trips to project sites for monitoring should include a community-based engineer for effective tracking using the BoQs.

Thanks to Kaduna SUBEB for all the data earlier provided to us which lubricated the project and most especially the SMTs training. The data encompass the list of successful bidders for the state’s 2014 UBE action plan which is currently being implemented, as well as the BoQs of selected projects. Tune In for other approaching activities of the project, which include town hall meetings across the selected LGAs on the school projects’ implementation. By the end of this month, Follow The Money radio will be live in Kaduna, detailing the progress of the project and enhancing citizen engagement in UBEC spending implementation.. Ultimately, join us here, https://ifollowthemoney.mn.co for conversations and development on the progress of the project.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Senior Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Governance Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Essentialism of Community in Transparency and Accountability in Nigeria

Hamzat Lawal September 11, 2017 0

Today is exactly nine months since we have been experimenting the iFollowTheMoney community and this is a perfect time to write about this community;  what led the Follow the Money Team to the community, why the need for it and what exactly is the future we see to have invested in such a platform.

What is a Community?

Merriam Webster defined community as an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location.

With the definition, there are some key elements of a community which are “interacting population” and “in a common place”.

As such, we cannot have an interacting population without a common place.

While reading Babajide Durosaye post on medium about community, I cannot but agree with his definition of a community which he defines as “Communities are networks with shared ideals or demographics, people concentrate on building valuable relationships rather than using each other”.

At Follow the Money, we have community champions in various states and communities in the country and outside of it, we cannot afford to have the kind of community which Babajide defined. Hence, there is a need for us to improvise and find a better way to bring people together in a common place (ifollowthemoney).

 

The Journey to Follow the Money Community

In the past, Follow the Money Community Reporters (as they are fondly called then) uses WhatsApp as a common place to interact, the WhatsApp group has grown to the point that we had to group them according to geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

We had six groups on WhatsApp and sometimes while waking up (even though I am always on the group at midnight communicating with the night owls amongst the Community Reporters) the user’s end up meeting more than 100 messages on the group which eventually led to us having to losing some of our community reporters. Hence, the need for a better community (common place) to bring people together to interact.

At a point, due to the staff strength of Connected Development as we have only two persons managing the 6 WhatsApp groups, the users and also the social media accounts, so we started missing out relevant contents coming from the community champions on the WhatsApp.

Also, on boarding new users on the platform (WhatsApp) started becoming a problem as we keep on repeating the same on boarding message over and over again.

 

Was That The Only Reason Why we Have to Switch to Have a Universal Community?

NO, we have a big vision of expanding across Africa as we started receiving an overwhelming request for expansion and we also plan on making Follow the Money a household name by having a movement in all the states in Nigeria while having community champions in all 774 local governments in Nigeria.

Also, we need to have a knowledge sharing platform where anyone who is interested in our work could learn from, connect and collaborate on Follow the Money activities while taking some factors into cognizance – like, where we can have people learning from one other, a platform where we can have a community (movement kind of thing). A place we can have people with a shared interest (Transparency and Accountability in Government in Africa and beyond) and a place people can be motivated to act by learning from the actions of others.

We are more aware that it was because people are not asking questions from our political office holders on how our collective monies have been spent, and that was why we keep on having same corruption narratives.

Alas, we had seen in the past and present when people in government reacted to our request knowing we follow the money (no one wants to be labeled someone who embezzled community project money).

 

Is That All?

With close to a thousand members,  the community is gradually translating into the largest movement of community champions working on transparency and accountability in their various community., These inspiring members are the intermediaries that are taking the Follow The Money work to local communities, mobilizing them, to engage their various government on basic infrastructure issues.

Do we Have a Requirement for Community Champions?

I still do not know how to answer this question but the most important thing is, a Follow the Money Community Champion is a fire starter. He is someone who thinks something must be done about the gross corruption in governance and he is ready to make an impact in his community by Following The Money. Thus enabling the community to have access to good governance,  improved infrastructures and in the proper sense, an empowered community who can speak for themselves and ask government questions about how their monies are spent.

Just as my friend, Babajide Durosaye (never met or know him o) categorized the community ecosystem in his article, I understand that there are movers of a community and such structure is also expected of a Transparent and Accountability community like ifollowthemoney, but for now – the conversation is just getting started and we hope to grow the community to that level someday soon.

We are in need of more enablers, and you may want to become one too by joining the conversation on Transparency and Accountability on ifollowthemoney which we created for change makers like you!

Have a contribution or clarification? Do not hesitate to leave a comment on the box below.

Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash

Broadening Impacts through Strategic Accountability Approaches

Chambers Umezulike April 28, 2017 0

[During one of our townhall meetings at Uratta Umuoha Community, Abia State – a key social accountability strategy through which we have enabled communities organize stakeholder engagements to facilitate the implementation of projects intended for them]

On the 11th of April 2017, the boardroom of MacArthur Foundation Nigeria was filled with several civil society actors on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. In attendance were over 30 representatives from domestic non-profits who are MacArthur grantees. They were there for a conversation with two accountability scholars, John Gaventa, and Walter Flores. An event in which staffers of MacArthur Foundation Headquarters joined virtually from the United States, the aim was to share ideas and have grantees move from tactical accountability approaches to more strategic approaches. As one of the representatives of Connected Development [CODE], I went in with several expectations which were met.

The conversation started with a presentation, Dancing the TAP Dance: Linking Transparency, Accountability and Participation, by Prof John Ganveta who teaches at the Institute of Development Studies, United Kingdom. He started with sharing key governance issues that led to the rise of accountability and transparency movement globally. Most of them encompass accountability deficit, democratic deficit and impecunious active citizen participation in governance. He then went on explaining how several tools such as ensuring service delivery, improving budgetary processes, ensuring open government, aid transparency and NGO accountability can be utilitarian in addressing these challenges. Addressing these challenges would consequently lead to better services through monitoring, improved democracy, reduced public service corruption, empowerment, human rights, greater access to information and challenging inequality.

Another presentation, Citizen-led Accountability: Power, Politics and Strategies, was by Dr Walter Flores of Center for the Study of Equity and Governance in Health Systems (CEGSS) who took time to share his organization’s works on accountability and challenging inequalities in Guatemala. He emphasised that the roles of transparency and accountability in curbing inequalities include turning citizens from passive to active users of services who can demand accountability from the government. According to him, when they started, they first of all started collecting data on how a particular faction of the society was being marginalized in getting services in drug stores and hospitals. The data was collected through sms, audio/visual evidence and they embarked on advocacy and engaged the government with such evidence for appropriate response. They also created channels of engagement for such citizens to discuss problems and implement solutions.

At a time, politics came into play and they were challenged by governmental authorities for not having the legitimacy to advocate for the communities. They then were forced to decentralize their operations to let citizens and communities lead it through their building capacities. Communities were then organized for monitoring. In a presentation in which he shared most of their successes, he finalized by stating that social accountability is crucial for accountability to work. And that in such work, it’s better to start with community organizing and rights literacy, while collective and participatory interventions, strategies and results are imperative.

After the phenomenal presentations were questions, comments and commitments from organizations present. In line with Dr Flores presentation, I made a remark on the effectiveness of his social accountability strategy which we use at CODE. At CODE, in tracking governmental expenditure in rural communities for service delivery, we start with rights literacy in the concerned communities and co-organize town hall meetings with their community leaders for conversation around the particular projects with implementing governmental agencies and contractors. The town hall meetings have helped to embed community ownership in our works and within the chain of our participatory strategies, communities are empowered to ensure these projects are implemented long after we have pulled out. Also in the same line, for sustainability, decentralization of our strategies and community ownership, we activated ifollowthemoney.org to mobilize young people in these communities to ensure governmental accountability themselves.

The conversation was quintessential and more of it are crucial with respect to capacity building of the civil society and sharing of ideas.

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Programme Manager at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

Chambers Umezulike February 24, 2017 0

On 23 February 2017, the Director-General (DG) of the Budget Office of the Federation choreographed a media briefing on several issues surrounding the 2017 Budget Proposal. The DG also used the briefing to make certain clarifications on public outcries over several budget items on the proposal. Most of these outcries were on many frivolous items (especially on electricity and utility bills of MDAs; several humongous expenses on the state house budget on utensils and feeding, electricity bills, travel expenses etc.); repetitions of budget items; budget cycle crisis; the budget preparation expenses; lack of details on some of the items; budget padding etc.

In attendance at the briefing were the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSO). In responding to some of these concerns, the DG took his time to counter some of the claims:

1). He stated that there was no sort of budget padding on the 2017 budget proposal.

2). That there were no frivolous items. That most of the extensive increments such as state house proposed expenditure on utensils and utility bills; electricity bills, security and cleaning services payments in MDAs etc. were either as a result of arrears of such bills/expenses or because funds were not later provided for them on the 2016 budget (meaning they were not implemented.)

3). He stated that there were no repetitions on the proposal, unless the repetitions being referred to were budget items on the 2016 one that re-reflected on the 2017 proposal, which was as a result of the fact that funds were not provided for such items on the former.

4). He reassured the audience of his liaison with the National Assembly to ensure that budget cycle would be from January – December of every year, which was clearly stated on the constitution, as against the culture of having a previous budget being implemented in another fiscal year.

5). He also explained that the details-deficit on some of the budget items were as a result of the perspective to keep the budget simple, for public consumption. That however that his agency would ensure further details on budget items when preparing subsequent budgets.

Representing Connected Development (CODE) at the event, I further engaged the DG and raised concerns over the NGN305/$ calculation on the budget proposal (while $1 is valued at NGN 520 at the contemporaneous market); if there are extensive plans for enhanced transparency and accountability in the 2017 budget implementation; our expectancy to lay hands on the 3rd and 4th quarters’ reports of 2016 budget implementation; his plans to ensure that revenue realization deficit would not frustrate the 2017 budget implementation drawing on the country’s experience with the 2016 one; and getting access to an extensive version of the budget that had further details on some of the line items. For the latter, I mentioned the ‘Talking Sanitation’, as well as ‘Afforestation’ and ‘Tree Planting’ budget items on the proposal, under the Ministry of Environment, which all lacked details such as where and how. Lack of such specific details has frustrated the works of CSOs that are into governmental capital expenditure tracking.

In addressing my concerns, the DG made commitments that were all in line with Nigeria’s commitments on the Open Government Partnership. He stated that the 3rd quarter 2016 budget implementation report would soon be in public domain while the 4th quarter’s would soon be out too. He further stated that there would be increased transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in the 2017 budget implementation. On this, he cited plans to have a digital platform for 24/7 citizen engagement on the budget. He also mentioned that there would be a breakdown on project basis subsequently when funds are released to MDAs. In addition, he promised a quarterly media briefing on the 2017 budget implementation. These were all good news and great outcomes for nonprofits that are into Open Governance advocacy. He mentioned categorically that the revenue realization plan on the proposal is quite realizable and that the FOREX regime crisis would not affect the budget implementation.

This media engagement is a step in the right direction as bringing all stakeholders involved and addressing public concerns on the budget proposal have boosted citizen participation in governance and also provided a platform for clarifications on several portions of the budget, as well as for stakeholders to make suggestions. It is hoped that the Director keeps to all the new commitments he made at the briefing and ensuring extensive open financial governance in the budget implementation. From our part, we are sending an FOI request for an extensive version of the budget, which he promised CODE would be provided with. And before I forget, he commented that he likes our name, ‘Follow The Money.’

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

Ensuring and Implementing Conflict Prevention and Management Strategies in Nigeria

Chambers Umezulike December 1, 2016 0

The North Eastern, Niger Delta and Middle Belt regions of Nigeria have been witnessing several conflicts and fatalities in recent times. These include terrorism, militancy and the crisis between herdsmen & their host, respectively. In the light of this, on Monday, 28 November, CODE participated in the Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) Meeting hosted by the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme (NSRP). The PSWG is a platform for peace and security analysis, advocacy, coordination and capacity building. The platform is made up of several Civil Society Actors, international donors/agencies, and foreign embassies.

During the meeting, organizations such as Centre for Democracy & Development, NSRP,  Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta etc. gave updates on their current activities in ensuring peace and security in the country. CODE on its part intimated the participants of its peace and security works in two areas: 1). Comparative electoral processes research and activities, so as to promote the use of information technology in electioneering in order to reduce violence during elections. CODE observed the United States Presidential Election and was able to draw lessons from the exercise which could be employed in Nigeria to ensure improved electoral processes and violence reduction. CODE was also asked to make a presentation in the next PSWG meeting in January, 2017 on the observation and experiences regarding this. 2). CODE has a campaign on ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation of humanitarian funds in the North Eastern (NE) part of the country. In this light, CODE is tracking the governmental implementation of N53 billion provided by international donors for the rehabilitation of the NE zone.

During the meeting, a new name, Peace and Security Network (PSN) was also recommended for PSWG. This is for perfect representation of the mandate of the coordination group. PSN is indeed an important platform for stakeholderial coordination on peace and security activities and strategies to prevent & manage conflicts around the country. Its’ our hope that the platform implements its strategies to ensure political stability in the country so as for a favorable environment for economic activities and Foreign Direct Investment attraction.

Proposed Online Budget Portal for Nigerian Citizens

Chambers Umezulike December 1, 2016 0

Nigeria still has deep challenges in ensuring transparency and accountability in governmental activities and expenditure. Citizen engagement in governance has remained pretty poor. Participatory budgetary practices have remained poor and governmental data are still limitedly open to the public. Currently, the country has signed the Open Government Partnership with several commitments from Abuja to ensure and promote transparency and accountability in governance. Following this, on 15 November 2016, the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) organized a roundtable discussion with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the Media on the proposed online budget portal for citizens. This was in partnership with the country’s Budget Office or Ministry of Budget and National Planning (MBNP). In attendance were CSOs with core in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governance.

PERL is currently supporting the MBNP in developing an online portal for citizens to access budget information. The roundtable was then for relevant civil society groups to make inputs and suggestions on what information government should put on the online citizens’ portal. This was to ensure that that the online portal is reflective of citizens needs on the budget.

The portal encompasses features such as: Citizen Guide to the ‘2017’ Budget, Sectoral budget information, Geopolitical allocation of funds, Planning and key policy documents to be included on the portal, ‘2017’ Budget facts, Budget monitoring reports, FAQs, Budget Calendar and A feedback platform.

CODE made some inputs and suggestions on other features of the portal such as. 1). A mechanism for citizens to be able to sort/filter the budget sectorally, by states, LGAs, communities, quoted amounts etc. 2). A mechanism for one to be able to click on a budget item and have further details. 3). A mobile application component. 4). A Live chat. 5). And ultimately, for the portal to have information on budget implementation such as implementation stage, procurement processes, contractors etc. Other CSOs also made suggestions such as for the online portal to be in different languages, for the use of infographics and information of policies guiding the budget.

We are expecting that further collaboration between DFID PERL and the Budget Office while carrying other stakeholders along would see to the successful implementation of this platform. This we also expect would go a long way to ensure transparency, accountability and civic engagement in Nigeria’s governance.

Press Release: Government Should Scale-Up Primary Health Care Service Delivery Nationwide

Hamzat Lawal November 16, 2016 0

A leading NGO Connected development [CODE] has called on government at all level to take up one of its responsibilities by ensuring proper facilities are put in place in various primary health care centers in Nigeria.

Following the release of $1.5million dollars from World Bank to the 36 states respectively including the Federal Capital Territory as part of the World Bank supported “Save One million Lives” the Follow the Money team of CODE visited 6 states respectively to assess the state of the PHCs to track the implementation of these funds. These states are Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Kano, Kogi, Osun and Yobe.

Findings from the field visit to each of the states are appalling as most of the Primary Health Centres are facing several reprehensible and elementary challenges. Generically, most of them have no improved water supply, electricity, security, quarters for hospital staffers; there is no stationed doctor, and the toilet facilities are in a mess. Furthermore, because of these challenges, the PHCs do not operate 24/7, cannot admit or treat sick people and lack sufficient tables & chairs.

Some key Findings:

In Kano

Follow The money team visited Kantudu in Makoda LGA of Kano State. They found out that the PHC serves 2,500 people, all coming from 13 surrounding villages. The PHC was built 5-6 years ago as a senatorial project in Makoda LGA. The PHC has one male and female ward, which are not presently functioning. There are only three staffers with one community health worker who are not certified health professionals.

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During the interactive section with the head of community Alhaji Muhammad Musa, and the community association said that they have reached out to the government of Kano twice on the state of the health centre in Kantudu, but there was no response. “We hope this campaign with ONE and CODE will make the government of Kano look at the plight of our health center so that our people can start using it” says Malam Ali, the medical head at the PHC.

In Yobe State

We were in Lantenwa, Yobe where a Primary Health Care is in a messy situation. The PHC in Lantenwa is in Lantewa village, Lantewa ward, Tarmuwa LGA. It serves a population of 13,400 under 5 yrs; 10-15 patients daily, 70-105 weekly. Speaking to the head community ,AuduLantewa, mentioned that the dispensary has been dilapidated for more than 7 years, he added that dispensary situation is critical and he personally reported the issue to local authorities several times. He further lamented that “Lantewa is the gathering centre of four neighbouring with approximately 7,000 registered voters, as such, we should get better things from the government” he said

In Kogi State

We went to the PHC to find out if the implementation of the fund is ongoing as well as to track the implementation of the N10.5 million earmarked by the National Primary Health care Development Agency for the rehabilitation of the PHC. On reaching there, there was no such intervention taking place. The Officer in Charge (OIC) said it was the first time she was hearing of such. The village head whom we paid a courtesy visit to also said he has never heard of such. We then went to the Operational Base of the NsitIbom LGA’s Health Centres and the Director of the base told us that she has never heard of such fund for the PHC’s rehabilitation30817372226_364e4ee1b1_n

In Osun State

Our team went on ground to track the $1.5m earmarked by the World Bank and the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Saving One Million Lives Initiative and all we could see while on the field is nothing to write home about. From our findings, the facility is meant to serve 11 villages which are: Gboore, Alajue-Logun, Asunmo, Ayegbami, Agbopa, Jagun-Odomu, Olodan, Aladie, Amosun, Seesa, Akiribiti amongst others. In total, the target population which the facility is meant to serve is 12,498. 498 of the population are children less than one year, the Primary Health Care Centre has a monthly target of 42 patients, but it ends up serving more than 400 on an average.

Consequently, a Freedom of Information letters was sent to the concerned government institutions and offices for a breakdown of the funds usage, implementation window and respective contractors, especially the governmental institutions concerned, to instantaneously start the implementation of these funds, ensure transparency & accountability in the funds’ implementation, and make government data open in line with the Open Government Partnership.

Follow The Money is a growing movement currently in 32 states of the country, held community outreaches to 10 primary health facilities in Kano, Yobe, Osun, and found out that all were in a state of dysfunction, even with the funds that have been released to the states to upgrade the primary health care “Most of the Clinic at the PHC in the 5 states that our community reporters visited were in an abandoned state, lacks basic healthcare amenities and needs urgent attention to serve people at local communities.” affirmed Hamzat Lawal, CODE’s Chief Executive & Co-Founder, Follow The Money.   

He stressed that annually, over 70,000 children below age 5 in Nigeria die due to poor access to healthcare and sanitation-related illnesses (UNICEF). Lawal urged government actions to serve the people by improving better service delivery while ensuring transparency and accountability.

More pictures can be found here https://flic.kr/s/aHskNiNznP

 

The Future We See Through the Open Government Partnership in #Nigeria

Oludotun Babayemi October 25, 2016 0

“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria

Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting,  transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data.  I quite  understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.

I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.

Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!

My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.