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Open Treasury: BudgIT, CISLAC Laud FG On Drop In Suspicious Payments

BudgIT, a civic advocacy society and accountability organisation on budget and public finance issues and the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) have commended the Federal Government
for its commitment to curb frauds in the public finance payment system through the Open Treasury initiative.

Barely seven month after the government launched the Open Treasury Portal to increase transparency and accountability in government spending,, BudgITin June 2020 released a detailed report titled ‘OpenTreasury.gov.ng: Nigeria’s Spending Platform: Review, Gaps & Recommendations’ in which it analysed data uploaded on the portal from September 2018 to May 2020.

The report observed that between January and June 2019, over 2,900 payments were made into
personal accounts while over 5000 payments worth N278bn did not have any description on
the purpose of the payment.

Subsequently, letters were sent to the OAGF on the problems and gaps identified by BudgIT on the platform.

On August 6 2020, the Federal Government set up the Transparency Portal and Quality Assurance and Compliance Committee to review these gaps and resolve the issues.

BudgIT and CISLAC, two leading civil society organizations leading the advocacy for fiscal transparency
and accountability were nominated as members of the Committee. This Committee also includes other MDAs, ICPC and the EFCC.

Consequently, both BudgIT and CISLAC noticed some progress in fiscal accountability on the OpenTreasury portal since the Transparency Portal Quality Assurance Compliance Committee
was set up by the government.

Both CSO noted that since the committee’s intervention, payments without description have reduced by 50.98% from N794,954,335.07 in about 28 transactions in August 2020 to N389,718,618.47 with 24
transactions in January 2021.

Likewise, payments to personal accounts which amounted to N2,962,536,395.77 with 190 occurrences in August 2020 rose by 98.40% to N5,877,687,578.87 with 336 occurrences in December 2020. However, these payments have reduced by 94.75% from December 2020 to N308,174,806.84 with 15 occurrences in January 2021.

Commenting on the report’s findings, the Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, noted that the payments made to personal accounts as observed by the committee during its first 2021 meeting increased from 277 in November 2020 to 336 in December 2020, thereby rubbishing the progress recorded in the preceding months.

Also, in October 2020, a list of 44 transactions from 16 MDAs was handed over to ICPC representative for further investigation for non-compliance.

However, despite ICPC’s intervention, CISLAC observed some consistent trends emerging from the ministry of Niger Delta and Humanitarian Affairs with both having the largest share of defaulters in the last quarter of 2020.

Sharing his views about this misnomer, BudgIT’s Principal Lead, Gabriel Okeowo, reiterated the
importance of unveiling the list of those sanctioned to the public, adding that this will serve as a deterrent to other civil servants and public office holders to be more accountable in the use of public
funds.

He further noted that while the platform is innovative and commendable, much work is still needed to achieve its goal of enabling public transparency and accountability fully as there have been downtimes and platform unavailability due to technical issues from the Service provider Galaxy Backbone that designed, and manages the portal.

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