By Makinde Oluwarotimi, Abuja
Transparency Organisations; Follow the Money and BudgIT, have launched the COVID-19 Transparency
and Accountability Project (CTAP), in an effort to promote proper accountability and transparency in governance.
The main reason behind the establishment of CTAP is to track COVID-19 intervention funds across seven African countries.
Follow the Money, founded by Hamzat Lawal, is an initiative of Connected Development (CODE), a civil society organisation, and is focused on amplifying voices of marginalised grassroots communities in promoting accountability as regards utilisation of public funds, focusing on specific communities across Africa.
According to a press statement made available to LEADERSHIP Newspaper and signed by the Communications Associate of CODE, Adaora Okoye, a growing group of young Africans, Nigerians especially, are demanding that the government accounts for the billions of dollars donated/loaned by international agencies, corporate
organisations and individuals to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic and secure the country’s failing healthcare and economic infrastructure.
“Over 60 per cent of Africans distrust the government—given a history of inherent corruption and financial leakages, coupled with widening inequality gap and its poor economic performance.
“Governance has also been marked by a lack of transparency, poor accountability, careless leadership, opaque budget systems and lack of civic involvement.”
A summary of the CTAP Research in Nigeria identified some discrepancies in the federal government’s distribution of COVID-19 palliative such as: gaps in the School Feeding Program; shortfall in Conditional Cash Transfer; vagueness of procurement processes; corruption in the NDDC that involved allocation of funds for COVID-19 before
COVID-19 even happened.
“A clear Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) in response to challenges posed by the pandemic and provision of a fiscal/monetary stimulus package, including support to businesses, would go a long way to make a significant difference.”
According to the statement, during CTAP’s COVID Tracking in some African countries, a lot of findings were made and solutions were proffered. Some of the findings made and solutions proffered include:
In Cameroon, 180 billion FCFA granted to the National Solidarity Fund and additional contributions, donations and financial gifts received by government are clouded by a hail of corruption allegations, as the health sector is struggling to keep its workers
motivated and secure, and to grant access to COVID 19 related services to the public;
“It is crucial for the government to reverse course in its communication and deploy additional means in order to better serve its population in general and the vulnerable communities in particular.”
In Malawi, delayed responses were construed as deliberate measures to buy time or devise ways of misappropriating funds as later revealed by lack of supporting documents to the reports
that were submitted.
“Lack of preparedness by the department of disaster management affairs in the way they
disbursed funds without proper orientation of controlling officers. Poor structures and systems that observe transparency and accountability principles, manned by the people of integrity and values, that have the sole purpose of serving and
making a difference.
“Poor citizens’ participation in planning and tracking of projects by the local masses makes it easier for officials to abuse or misallocate the public funds because the intended beneficiaries are mostly not aware and sometimes not even interested.”
In Kenya, COVID tracking revealed that the government employed tax relief policies (Tax laws amendment) bill 2020, established emergency response fund kits and economic stimulus package programmes.
“However, despite rising cases of COVID infection, the management and utilisation of COVID-19 funds have been compounded by alleged
corruption allegations, mismanagement, embezzlement, and procurement irregularities of COVID supplies and equipment.
“The aforementioned audit and analysis further, revealed that, the following procurement procedures and processes were violated:
Utilisation of unbudgeted funds- according to the special report, Ksh.4.66
billion was allocated for Universal Health coverage (UHC) when actual cost
should have been Ksh.2.9 billion; the ministry of Health (MoH) allocated KEMSA Ksh. 13.04 billion and the
actual expenditure amounted to Ksh.8.52 billion.
“However, the special audit report notes conflicting information as National treasury notes that Ksh.4.82
billion was allocated to MoH for Covid-19 related expenditure at KEMSA.
“Violation of procurement processes and methods. As a result, COVID-19
items worth Ksh.8.39 billion were irregularly procured through retrospective direct method.”
In Nigeria, there were discrepancies in distribution of some funds where some people were collecting N20, 000
and others were collecting N30,000. During the COVID-19 lockdown, 4,200 food rations were given to parents in some communities.
“Corruption in the NDDC that involved allocation of funds for COVID-19 before COVID-19 even happened.
“The greatest obstacle to Covid-19 transparency and accountability is corruption, especially in the case of Nigeria. It is common knowledge that Nigeria’s political space is
beleaguered by corruption, particularly in the procurement sector.”