The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has advised countries to ensure they keep proper records of the over $1 trillion support from the Fund to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
IMF set aside more than $9 trillion in fiscal support for governments across the world out of which over $1 trillion has already been disbursed to countries as COVID-19 relief funds.
IMF in a blog on “Corruption and COVID-19” yesterday noted that as governments around the world play bigger role in the economy to combat the pandemic and provide economic lifelines to people and firms, the expanded role also increases opportunities for corruption.
“To help ensure the money and measures are helping the people who need it most, governments need timely and transparent reporting, ex-post audits and accountability procedures, and close cooperation with civil society and the private sector,” IMF said.
Several allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the COVID-19 funds have been rife in recent times in Nigeria as some Nigerians still hold the belief that the rising number of cases reported by some states are meant to divert more funds to them.
IMF in the blog while noting that corruption, which had been a problem before the crisis erodes the social contract and corrodes the government’s ability to help grow the economy in a way that benefits all citizens, said “the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of stronger governance.”
It further said that crises test people’s trust in government and institutions, and ethical behavior becomes more salient when medical services are in such high demand.
It however noted that it will demand accountability from countries which it had supported with emergency funding to combat the pandemic stating that “our message to all governments has been clear: spend whatever you need but keep the receipts, because we don’t want accountability to be lost in the process.”
Nigeria is one of the over 100 countries that had gotten emergency support from the Fund. The IMF board in April, had approved $3.4 billion in emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument to support Nigeria’s efforts in addressing the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 shock and the sharp fall in oil prices.
“In our lending work, we have provided quick disbursements to meet urgent needs. At the same time, enhanced governance measures to track COVID-19 related spending have been part of the emergency financing for countries to fight the pandemic.
“Borrowing countries have committed to undertake and publish independent ex-post audits of crisis-related spending and publish crisis-related procurement contracts on the government’s website, including identifying the companies awarded the contract and their beneficial owners. The IMF also ensured that emergency resources are subject to the IMF’s Safeguards Assessment policy.
“Curbing corruption requires government ownership of reforms, international cooperation, and a joint effort with civil society and the private sector. It also involves political will and the assiduous implementation of reforms over months and years.”