How COVID-19 Funds Were Looted, Shrouded In Secrecy – CSOs Report
Echoes of how COVID-19 funds were looted in Nigeria have reverberated in the civic space with a coalition of civil rights organisations, insisting that the resources did not pass through parliamentary budget and oversight.
The organisations also said that the looting became so pronounced because there was no sincere monitoring while they (CSOs) were not also carried along as government was receiving COVID-19 donations or spending it.
While faulting the management of COVID-19 funds, which, according to them, opened opportunities for large scale corruption due to lack of transparency and accountability, the CSOs also demanded that they should be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the funds under the COVID-19 emergency support packages for improved transparency and accountability.
The CSOs in a report and policy brief released to journalists in Abuja and signed on their behalf by the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said the COVID-19 funds and resources, especially donations and grants from multilateral and bilateral agencies, bypassed parliamentary budget oversight and government financial management controls and processes.
The report, which is product of a citizens-led survey, conducted in Lagos and Ogun states by WARDC, The Innovation for change, budgetIT and TIDES, specifically focused on COVID-19 funds and spending as well as data on the NCDC Covid-19 efforts.
Akiyode-Afolabi said that government’s poor financial management processes provided opportunities for corruption and lack of transparency and accountability of the funds.
The report said, “In tracking COVID-19 funds and donations in Nigeria, available evidence suggests that apart from donations and grants from multilateral and bilateral agencies, the Federal Government of Nigeria created special funds and mobilize donations for emergency response to Coronavirus pandemic in the country, to which corporate entities and private individuals contributed.
“It also shows that the funds and other resources were kept as a trust or managed through other similar arrangements, which largely remain unrecorded as they were not regarded as government revenues.
“As such, the funds and resources bypass parliamentary budget oversight and government financial management controls and processes.
“This opens opportunities for corruption and lack of transparency and accountability.
Hence, the need to design an objective model or framework for managing the large-scale funds established to help addressing the socio-economic impact of Covid-19; and also serve as a form of future preparedness to prevent and mitigate fraud and corruption risks related to public health crisis management and economic rescue measures.”
According to Akiyode-Afolabi, government did not also carry CSOs along while it was receiving COVID-19 donations or spending the funds.
“Hence, the anti-corruption protocol for the Presidential Task Force, in charge of monitoring procurements and financial transactions developed by ICPC for corruption in COVID-19 relief measures was not far-reaching.
“Essentially, there was poor involvement of CSOs/Local Authorities, traditional leaders by the government agencies/bodies responsible for oversight and accountability in the distribution of relief materials/monitoring of the implementation of the funds under the Covid-19 emergency support packages”, she said.
The CSOs stressed the need for them to be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the funds under the COVID-19 emergency support packages for improved transparency and accountability by making them members of ad- hoc committees responsible for oversight and accountability in the distribution of the relief provided.
The policy brief also called on government to improve public information on COVID-19 resources and funds received from international and domestic donors and publish the list of beneficiaries in the public.