As part of measures of tracking
22 Billion disbursed to the COVID 19 Presidential Task force team(PTF) in combating the pandemic in Nigeria, Leading Civil Society Organizations; Connected Development and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have demanded that the Presidential Task Force provide details of disbursement.
In a letter received on the 2nd September while responding to CODE and SERAP’s call for the breakdown of N36 Billion received by the AGF, the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, had revealed that it disbursed N22 billion to the PTF ,and 7N 3billion to 36 States to support their COVID-19 initiatives in 4 months.
In another response letter to the CSOs dated 15th September ,2020 signed by the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Mr. T. E. Afolayan, on behalf of the Accountant – General of the Federation, the AGF noted that it is not involved in or supervises the spending by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) or organizations to which the COVID – 19 Eradication Support Funds were disbursed to.
“The AGF’s response read in part, “you may wish to redirect your request to these MDAs, Organizations and State Governments; many of which you had mentioned in your letter.”
The AGF, however, failed to provide details and breakdown of the N7bn given to 36 states, and the specific amount of money collected by each state, so that Nigerians can have sufficient information to follow COVID19 money received by their State Government.
The Chief Executive of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, stated that it is commendable that the PTF on COVID -19, gives a daily brief of how it is tackling the pandemic.
“It should, however, use the platform to brief Nigerians on how it spent N22 Billion allocated to it by the AGF and any other donations it may have received to fight COVID19.”
He further added that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouk, owe Nigerians an explanation.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Director-General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, and other Agencies and Organisations that are beneficiaries of donations and interventions to combat COVID19, must also be held to transparency standard. How much in naira were the palliatives that were distributed? How many beneficiaries?
The Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare said public officers are mere custodians of public funds.
” There is a general public interest in promoting transparency, accountability, public understanding and involvement in the democratic process. The citizenry is entitled to know how the common wealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society. ”
“This right to know will no doubt help in promoting a transparent democracy, good governance and public accountability”.
The Follow the Money team is on a close watch on how the AGF will disburse the balance of N5,808,775,385.40 of the COVID donations it received .
The office of the Accountant General of the Federation says it will make such information public once the decisions have been concluded on the issue.
Since recording early spates of donations in March 2020, Africa’s largest social accountability movement, Follow The Money, has deployed over 7,000 champions to track State donations and palliatives distribution in their localities. It is also building their capacity through radio, webinars, and providing citizens with tools to monitor government funds, drive conversation to spark actions and advocate for a transparent and inclusive approach, urging government stakeholders to make public all funds released for the fight against COVID-19 and its implementation plans.
Follow the Money is unrelenting in its mission to hold governments to account. “We must be alert and seek for government agencies and institutions to be transparent and provide civil society groups and the media, acting as watchdogs in this crucial time, with accurate and timely information.”
“Although poor access to information, secrecy in government and poor accountability has proven to be a major challenge”.