Report of the One-Day Civil Society Round Table towards Improving Public Oversight In Defence Spending
As part of the activities of the project “Strengthening Accountability in the Nigeria Defence Sector (SANDS),” Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in collaboration with Transparency International-(DSP), with support from United Kingdom CSSF of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, organized a One-Day Civil Society Roundtable towards Improving Public Oversight on Defence Spending at Sandralia Hotel, Abuja, on the 29th of June, 2017.
The meeting had in attendance key players in the security sector to address issues regarding indiscriminate spending in the Nigerian defence sector. Amongst participants at the meeting were SERDEC, BudgIT, PPDC, Zero Corruption Coalition (ZCC), CISLAC, Transparency International-DSP, a representative of the UK CSSF of the Foreign and Commonwealth office, ICIR and CLEEN.
The aim of the meeting is outlined as follows;
• To discuss common work on accountability for defence and security spending
• To define problem statements in each area
• To examine ways to mutually reinforce work
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), represented by CISLAC’s Senior Programme Officer, Kolawole Banwo, opened the meeting with a welcome remark. In his remarks, he welcomed every participant and commended the efforts of civil society in demanding accountability and transparency in the procurement process in the Nigerian defence sector. Acknowledging the fact that the demand for openness is increasing, he mentioned that taxpayers are becoming increasingly inquisitive over the spending in the Nigeria defence sector. Civil society, as the voice of the people, would continue to create awareness and ask questions of the sector as to how defence procurement is being done.
In his welcome remark, the project manager at Transparency International Defence and Security, Gavin Raymond, explained that Transparency International is working with the Nigerian military and various government agencies to improve oversight of defence spending. He expressed appreciation of the efforts of the CSOs represented in this area and their common desire to understand the problem, having in mind the sensitivity of the subject matter. This collaboration would enable civil society to produce a greater collective effect. He expressed his encouragement that from the work already being done and from the engagement with the government and the Ministry of Defence on this topic, it is clear there is real desire to put changes into effect. Concluding his remark, he stated that this would be the first of two roundtables exploring defence accountability, with a follow up meeting on 12th July, 2017 to examine the issue of access to information.
On the same note, Napoleon Enayaba of the UK CSSF of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office expressed concern over the level of corruption in the Nigeria defence sector, as he lamented that defence has become an excuse to execute unimaginable impunities. He mentioned that if these challenges are not correctively responded to, it would be difficult to implement changes. He therefore urged participants to take advantage of the meeting to see how a lasting impact can be made.
Technical Session I: Introduction to Public Oversight on Defence Spending- BudgIT/PPDC
CISLAC’s programme officer, Salaudeen Hashim, led participants through this session. He introduced the concept of Strengthening Accountability in the Nigeria Defence Sector (SANDS) by giving a general overview of the situation in Nigeria, and the project’s goals to drastically reduce defence corruption risks in Nigeria and strengthen accountability in the defence sector.
He then explored the objectives of SANDS, which are as follows:
(1) To have a clear understanding of corruption risk areas in the defence sector, and steps taken to address them; and
(2) An increased public capacity to influence and monitor defence reforms.
In furtherance to the discussions, the PPDC representative gave details on the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) and the extent to which the security sector is closed to that effect. She highlighted experiences found through their own work and the concern that sufficient information is not given to CSOs/citizens on the specific aspect of procurement in the Nigeria security/defence sector.
However she expressed hope that the civil society would use their respective platforms to work towards demanding accountability and transparency in the Nigeria defence spending, as not all information is disseminated.
Comments/Contributions on the Presentation
1. Difficulty in obtaining information on procurement from the defence sector and government agencies, despite the Public Procurement Act (PPA) – SERDEC
2. A lot has been done and is still on-going in the aspect of investigating reports of the military in the aspect of procurement – ICIR
3. Engagements in dialogues and launch of the civil/military relations project to see how relationship between security agencies and civil societies can improve – CLEEN
Technical Session II: Defence Corruption Risk
This session outlined two areas that are central to the issue of corruption in Nigeria defence and security spending. These are the Defence Budget and Security Vote. In the defence budget, it was said to lack transparency as they are only released retrospectively, with superficial information that are difficult to verify, and no accountability for improper expenditure. Regarding security votes, it was also stated that it lacks transparency as on-budget allocations to GON and NDF are not open to further scrutiny, and oil-derived income is likely to be funnelled off-budget to governors and agencies.
Questions and Responses on the Presentation
· Why is the Navy left out in the probes, despite on-going activities?
Response: It is difficult to scrutinize the Navy, as they are not directly involved in the North-East because most of the looting had to do with the Army and Airforce. However, we are aware of their involvement in oil theft in the Niger Delta region.
· What sharing formula is adopted in disbursing money among states?
Response: No specific formula is used, as the governors pay themselves as they wish.
· Does the Ministry of Finance decide on the amount of money, or is it at the governor’s discretion?
Response: The governor is the chief security officer, therefore, he decides what poses as a security threat and amount to be spent.
The group work to brainstorm on the defence budget and security vote gave rise to the plenary, where participants put ideas together to come up with recommendations that would respond to the issues concerning defence procurement.
In the area of security votes, the following questions were asked, all of which had corresponding responses.
1. Where do security votes come from?
Federal allocation (Statutory allocation, Derivation, Paris club refund, Ecological funds etc), and Internally Generated Revenue (IGR)
2. How are security votes spent?
Support to security agents in the states, and nourishing the culture of loyalty/patronage from the informal groups
Having answered the questions, recommendations were made on how to know the amount of money being allocated for security votes, and these recommendations include;
· Capacity building of local CSOs at states’ level on fiscal integrity in public funds
· Enhancing capacity of the media on investigative journalism
· Public awareness towards promoting active citizenship
· Concept of peer review among governors and the federal government in knowing the amount that comes in as security votes; open budget (Open Government Partnership) etc.,
· Transparency and proper monitoring of the procurement process in Nigeria
· Government of various states should include security votes into the appropriation bill
It was noted that inadequate transparency in defence spending creates a high level of vulnerability for corruption in arms/defence procurement. Key issues identified in defence budget transparency are stated thus;
1. Lack of effective policy that promotes transparency, as our defence policy doesn’t create opportunity for citizen engagement
2. Weak citizen engagement: weak oversight and lack of capacity of parliamentarians
3. Sensitivity, security concern: special treatment of national security matter and the issue of secrecy, thereby resulting to insufficient transparency in defence budget
4. Monitoring, control and auditing: weak monitoring system, reluctant public account committee to investigate military spending.
Having identified the above-stated key issues, the two thematic areas which can be used to tackle these issues are the area of Advocacy and Citizen Engagement. The following recommendations were made based on the thematic areas, and if adopted, would increase the level of transparency in the Defence Budget;
· Advocacy to relevant stakeholders such as Ministry of Finance, Budget & Planning, Defence, and Office of the National Security Advisor for the review of the National Defence Policy, to determine which information is classified and which is unclassified, and to ensure uniformity in the release of security information
· CSOs such as CISLAC, PLAC to lead the advocacy team on the ongoing review of the Public Procurement Act
· Mobilize citizens to use valuable tools to demand for transparency in the defence budget
· Educate citizens to demand for accountability and participation in the procurement process
Way Forward/Next Steps/Commitments
· ZCC, PPDC and BudgIT committed to having a brief meeting for defence budget pull-out and to monitor the procurement process of the 2017 defence budget
· Tracking of spending on projects in defence budget – SERDEC
· Engage/ educate citizens on defence procurement processes – SERDEC
· Creation of a list serve to disseminate information on issues relating to defence sector spending- CISLAC
Delivering the closing remark, Salaudeen Hashim stressed on the consequences of not knowing budget processes of defence procurement and urged every participant to use their respective platforms to demand transparency and accountability in defence spending. He also thanked participants for attending and wished them safe journey back to their respective destinations.