Uche Usim, Juliana Taiwo, Abuja and Chinwendu Obienyi
Ahead of consideration and approval of Nigeria’s $3.4 billion request under the Rapid Financing Instrument facility by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to strengthen fight against the COVID-19 pestilence, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has urged the Fund, the World Bank and other offshore donors to press it upon the Nigerian government to spend the funds judiciously and transparently.
Executive Director of CISLAC/Transparency International in Nigeria, Mr Auwal Ibrahim Musa,(Rafsanjani) who made the plea in a statement at the weekend appreciated the scale, speed and flexibility of the IMF and World Bank’s response to the crisis.
According to him, with increased influx of money comes increased risks of corruption.
He noted that Nigeria could not afford the wastage arising from its opaque disbursements while millions of the citizens under the poverty threshold are locked down and unable to feed themselves and their wards.
He said: “Three global civil society organizations – Transparency International, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness – have recently proposed key transparency and anti-corruption measures in the IMF’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We join this call and appeal to the IMF, the World Bank and other development partners and the private sector to highlight the importance of transparency and integrity in their engagement with the government of Nigeria. We underscore that the crisis cannot weaken its prior commitments to anti-corruption.
“With this letter, we respectfully ask that you complement these joint efforts with essential anti-corruption measures in decision-making as well as the subsequent disbursement of funds. Commit to full transparency in emergency expenditures and assistance
“We welcome that information regarding financial and technical assistance is regularly published on the IMF and the World Bank websites. We urge all development partners and the government to publish details of the provided assistance so that the intended results can be independently verified and evaluated”, Musa noted.
He urged all economic and healthcare programmes undertaken in Nigeria be published detailing the full list of financial, technical and in-kind assistance, source and targeted beneficiaries.
The CISLAC Director reckoned that public procurement remains a corruption ‘hot-spot’ in Nigeria, advising that to mitigate risks such as hidden contracts, overpricing, collusion and bribery in Nigeria’s COVID-19 response, it was essential that transparency, openness, and integrity are preserved and that anti-corruption safeguards in government contracting are reinforced.
“Information on government purchases and service contracts financed through the recently established COVID-19 Basket Fund must be published in a timely manner, in an open data format and, wherever possible, on a single platform.
“Further, companies that bid and/or are awarded with a public contract and published beneficial ownership information in order to help authorities, media and civil society identify potential conflicts of interest, reduce the opportunities for collusion between linked companies, create fair competition for companies and ensure full knowledge of who is ultimately benefitting from public funds.
“Fair and open competition among bidders, including both state owned enterprises and private companies must be upheld; where non-competitive bidding takes place for emergency reasons, the use of this approach is strictly limited in both time and scope. The Nigerian anti-corruption agencies and other relevant institutions must be empowered to prevent corruption and monitor market developments in critical sectors in order to eliminate collusion between economic actors or practices that result in price speculation.
Ensure audits by internal audit bodies and third parties. Competent anti-corruption and audit institutions must be given unreserved access to monitor all emergency funding provided by the government, international lenders, private corporations and non-governmental organisations.