By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
The new guidelines for the disbursement of COVID-19 funds is capable of checkmating corruption, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) said at the weekend.
The group said it was delighted that the Office of Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) has come up with the guidelines following ceaseless advocacy led by HEDA that the administrators of the funds should ensure transparency and openness. HEDA however called for the involvement of anti-corruption agencies in the monitoring and evaluation of compliance with best anti-corruption global practices.
Last week the OAGF said the disbursement will be after appropriation by the National Assembly. It also stipulated that all accounts be linked to the Treasury Single Account, (TSA).
‘We are delighted about the new guideline. This will help promote accountability and due process. At this critical moment, the best the country can do is to prevent the virus of corruption to eat into the funds. It is important that the funds are utilized in the most prudent manner for the sake of beneficiaries and to ensure Nigeria effectively bring an end to the spread of the pandemic”, HEDA said in a statement signed by its Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju. He said the OAGF effort will not be complete without the involvement of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The HEDA Chairman said the civil society will continue to monitor and evaluate compliance with the OAGF directives. “We are going to monitor and evaluate the entire process from design, conception and implementation of projects associated with the funds. We are interested to see due process employed in the entire process”, HEDA said.
He described COVID-19 as a pandemic that even after its exit will leave behind several scars on the economy and wealth of individuals, communities and nations adding that only a judicious management of all related funds will assist Nigeria to deal with all short and long term consequences of the pandemic.
HEDA has launched a barrage of local and international campaigns calling for transparency in the management of the COVID-19 funds. The group also wrote to the CBN invoking the Freedom of Information Act compelling the apex bank to ensure full disclosure. Failure to publish timely reports of COVID-19 activities in the prescribed format and at the stipulated intervals or to respond to FOI requests will constitute early warning signs of mismanagement and shall be deemed as a contravention of the guideline, the guideline said.
Under the new guideline, funds are to be appropriated directly to participating MDAs and spending units like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, etc., rather than to an intermediary agency like the Presidential Task Force (PTF), while administrative cost of the PTF shall be appropriated separately to the PTF Secretariat,” the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had said. The funds cover donations by the Federal Government, the N28 billion from the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) and other funds domiciled in Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, United Bank for Africa and First Bank. Under the new guideline, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning is to oversee the management of the funds on behalf of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDA) who must within seven days provide all relevant information about the funds including their sources.