ALAC: Ensuring Accountability in the Disbursement of Covid-19 Funds
A novel strain of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory disease. The common symptoms include fever, dry cough, and tiredness or even struggling for breath. The virus was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China.
The virus has now spread to over 200 countries and territories across the globe and has since been characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the 11th March, 2020.
The first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was announced on the 27th February, 2020. The patient was an Italian citizen, who had recently arrived in Lagos from Europe, and days later, he tested positive for the virus. In Ogun state, a neighbouring state to Lagos, another patient was identified and discovered to have been in contact with the first patient.
Since then, the situation has developed with more cases occurring daily regardless of the measures put in place by both the State and Federal Governments of Nigeria to combat the spread of the virus in Nigeria. So far, Nigeria has recorded over 21,371 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a death rate of over 533.
In order to successfully respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and shore up the country’s failing economy, the Federal Government of Nigeria applied for emergency support loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and on the 30th of April, 2020, got a repayable loan of $3.4 billion from (IMF), the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF), and Rapid Financial Instrument (RFI).
Back home, it is important to note that other private sectors and individuals have also shown support by making financial donations running into billions of naira to the Federal Government even before the IMF financial support.
The short-term focus on fiscal accommodation would allow for higher health spending and help alleviate the impact of the crisis on households and businesses in Nigeria.
The Federal Government of Nigeria, on the other hand, promised to introduce measures to ensure the RFI money and other COVID-19 related funds are used for its intended purposes.
The Government also committed to undertake an independent audit of crisis-mitigation spending and related procurement processes, to publish procurement plans and notices for all emergency-response activities, including the names of awarded companies and beneficial owners.
More also, special budget lines are to be created to record all crisis response measures which will be published daily on Nigeria’s treasury online portal. These measures are to ensure that every financial assistance received as part of COVID-19 response is used for its intended objective that will benefit Nigerians and not frivolous purposes or to line the pockets of corrupt individuals.
More importantly, the Federal Government’s financial effort to successfully combat the harsh economic condition and health challenges that emanates from the COVID-19 has not yielded any dividend due to lack of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the funds that were specifically donated to cushion the effect of the pandemic.
Already, there are citizens who feel the disbursement of palliatives by the Government to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the poor and vulnerable Nigerians in all parts of the country has been nothing short of chaos because most citizens in communities across the country are yet to receive this palliative.
Presently, there is a disconnect and information disparity between the governments and citizens on how well the government has successfully managed all the COVID-19 related funds considering how health workers who are efficient in this time embark on strike in June 2020 due to insufficient funding of the health sector in the country.
Moving forward, it remains to be seen whether the aggressive steps taken by the Federal Government is enough to successfully mitigate the effect of the pandemic even though some Nigerians are already saying that the lack of transparency and accountability mechanisms in the disbursement of funds may likely lead to corruption.
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (TI-Nigeria) is calling on the government to ensure that funds meant to cushion the effect of COVID-19 is used for its intended purpose and distributed equitably to vulnerable Nigerians.
Citizens who are witnesses or victims of any corrupt practices or abuse and violation relating to the COVID-19 in the country can reach out to our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) with their reports.
ALAC was established by CISLAC and is connected to over 100 Transparency International Chapters across the world.
The Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre is a free and confidential avenue offered to victims and witnesses of corruption of any form to report with facts and evidence of proof, and where free legal advice or counsel to citizens is offered.
These complaints and reports are collated, petitions are drafted where necessary and forwarded to the relevant institutions to investigate and take action. These complaints are duly followed up to ensure that victims receive redress.
The centre encourages citizens to speak out against corruption whether as a victim or witness.