Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

Constituency Project to #FurnishTongo Dilemma: How a House of Assembly member tried Stopping Follow The Money

“the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly”.

Community Town Hall meetings are a veritable forum the largest grassroots movement on accountability –  Follow the Money employ  to engage all stakeholders in leading conversation around specific project(s) – This time, the project was about N20m that was budgeted by the Ministry of Education for the provision and furnishing of two blocks of classrooms in Tongo 2 primary school. Present at this meeting held on February 16th at the Tongo community town hall meeting were; the representative of the district head, the representative of the Funa Kaye Local government chairman and the education ministry representative, group of APC supporters, the representation of the Nigerian Police force, the school headmasters and his teachers and some other numerous countless stakeholders in Gombe state.

30 minutes into Muazu Modu of Connected Development introduction of the project, it was clear that the community members were not aware that such funds had been allocated. According to the councilor, Ahmed Bello Tongo who represented the chairman of the Local government, “CODE and it’s FOLLOW THE MONEY team are the first to give Funakaye local Government and Tongo community information on N20 million earmarked for the construction of 2 blocks of classrooms and equipping of Tongo 2 Primary School 2016 appropriation”

It was further revealed to us by the Special Assistant to Honourable Yaya Bauchi, representing Gombe in Federal House of Assembly that the project is the constituency project of Honorable Yaya Bauchi and the said fund is not N20m but N18m. He further threatened that if Follow the Money should have such a town hall meeting in Gombe Central, the life of our representative(s) will be greatly endangered. His entourage, who largely occupied the town hall meeting also claimed that Follow The Money was sponsored by the PDP. 

Likewise, one of the participants, named Madaki, warned the Follow The Money team to make this town hall meeting the first and the last as he would not condone us bringing together the elders to discuss such a baseless information.

While the meeting was about to be distracted by the claims of the honorable stooges, a representative of the Nigeria Police had to douse the tension in the room by his words“I have been in this community for a very long time I know all your personal and political differences. Please put your personal and political differences aside. From my point of view and details explanation and evidence presented by the Project Assistant, this organization has no political motive and this is a developmental and welcome idea” said the  Police Officer

At the end of the meeting,  Yahaya Umar who is the district head and the community stated that  “the coming of Follow the Money is more important to the community than sending Hon Yaya Bauchi to the Federal house of Assembly, and that with the information gotten, they will make sure the school is renovated, and that their children enjoys the teaching aids that comes with it.”.

A day after the meeting,  another SA of Hon Yaya Bauchi called our community team and  asked if it is a must to complete all the projects appropriated in the budget, citing the example that in 2015 appropriation there is a contract of 145 million in that community and it was not executed up to date… He further explained that the project is not yet awarded, explaining that Hon Yaya Bauchi himself wrote a letter himself to Minister of Budget and National Planning and that he was surprised that they responded that 50% of the project has been funded,  “I’m advising you, people, that you should find the project that will be funded from the source which is the Ministry of finance to the office of Accountant General before you organize  any townhall meeting” he further says.

Abubakar Muhammed, headmaster of the school later called to report that the Local Education Authority directed him to write a report and send it across to the State Universal Primary Education Board, so they can follow up on the project.

The legislative arm of the government is very important in a democratic system, as they are meant to represent their citizens, and enact laws that liberate citizens, but it can be depressing when the “representative of the people” would not inform their citizens on decisions they make on behalf of them, after all, it’s their constituency!

Read more about the campaign here

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

Addressing Citizenry Extensive Concerns on the 2017 Budget Proposal

On 23 February 2017, the Director-General (DG) of the Budget Office of the Federation choreographed a media briefing on several issues surrounding the 2017 Budget Proposal. The DG also used the briefing to make certain clarifications on public outcries over several budget items on the proposal. Most of these outcries were on many frivolous items (especially on electricity and utility bills of MDAs; several humongous expenses on the state house budget on utensils and feeding, electricity bills, travel expenses etc.); repetitions of budget items; budget cycle crisis; the budget preparation expenses; lack of details on some of the items; budget padding etc.

In attendance at the briefing were the media and Civil Society Organizations (CSO). In responding to some of these concerns, the DG took his time to counter some of the claims:

1). He stated that there was no sort of budget padding on the 2017 budget proposal.

2). That there were no frivolous items. That most of the extensive increments such as state house proposed expenditure on utensils and utility bills; electricity bills, security and cleaning services payments in MDAs etc. were either as a result of arrears of such bills/expenses or because funds were not later provided for them on the 2016 budget (meaning they were not implemented.)

3). He stated that there were no repetitions on the proposal, unless the repetitions being referred to were budget items on the 2016 one that re-reflected on the 2017 proposal, which was as a result of the fact that funds were not provided for such items on the former.

4). He reassured the audience of his liaison with the National Assembly to ensure that budget cycle would be from January – December of every year, which was clearly stated on the constitution, as against the culture of having a previous budget being implemented in another fiscal year.

5). He also explained that the details-deficit on some of the budget items were as a result of the perspective to keep the budget simple, for public consumption. That however that his agency would ensure further details on budget items when preparing subsequent budgets.

Representing Connected Development (CODE) at the event, I further engaged the DG and raised concerns over the NGN305/$ calculation on the budget proposal (while $1 is valued at NGN 520 at the contemporaneous market); if there are extensive plans for enhanced transparency and accountability in the 2017 budget implementation; our expectancy to lay hands on the 3rd and 4th quarters’ reports of 2016 budget implementation; his plans to ensure that revenue realization deficit would not frustrate the 2017 budget implementation drawing on the country’s experience with the 2016 one; and getting access to an extensive version of the budget that had further details on some of the line items. For the latter, I mentioned the ‘Talking Sanitation’, as well as ‘Afforestation’ and ‘Tree Planting’ budget items on the proposal, under the Ministry of Environment, which all lacked details such as where and how. Lack of such specific details has frustrated the works of CSOs that are into governmental capital expenditure tracking.

In addressing my concerns, the DG made commitments that were all in line with Nigeria’s commitments on the Open Government Partnership. He stated that the 3rd quarter 2016 budget implementation report would soon be in public domain while the 4th quarter’s would soon be out too. He further stated that there would be increased transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in the 2017 budget implementation. On this, he cited plans to have a digital platform for 24/7 citizen engagement on the budget. He also mentioned that there would be a breakdown on project basis subsequently when funds are released to MDAs. In addition, he promised a quarterly media briefing on the 2017 budget implementation. These were all good news and great outcomes for nonprofits that are into Open Governance advocacy. He mentioned categorically that the revenue realization plan on the proposal is quite realizable and that the FOREX regime crisis would not affect the budget implementation.

This media engagement is a step in the right direction as bringing all stakeholders involved and addressing public concerns on the budget proposal have boosted citizen participation in governance and also provided a platform for clarifications on several portions of the budget, as well as for stakeholders to make suggestions. It is hoped that the Director keeps to all the new commitments he made at the briefing and ensuring extensive open financial governance in the budget implementation. From our part, we are sending an FOI request for an extensive version of the budget, which he promised CODE would be provided with. And before I forget, he commented that he likes our name, ‘Follow The Money.’

 

Chambers Umezulike is a Program Officer at Connected Development and a Development Expert. He spends most of his time writing and choreographing researches on good and economic governance. He tweets via @Prof_Umezulike.

REVIEW OF CONSTITUENCIES DEVELOPMENT CATALYST FUND BILL

REVIEW OF CONSTITUENCIES DEVELOPMENT CATALYST FUND BILL

A one day public hearing on Constituencies Development Catalyst Fund  Bill, which was sponsored by Senator Buhari Abdulfatai  was organized by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in collaboration with the Senate Committee on Poverty Alleviation. The objective of the public hearing was to provide a platform for public discussions on Constituency Development Funds (CDFs) through a proposition of  a legal framework that seeks to address concerns that the CDF is a tool for the embezzlement of funds rather than an intended vehicle for development. The Bill attempts to address the democratic-deficit in citizen participation in governance by encouraging economic development and participation at the grassroots and also create a legal framework for Constituencies Development Funds.

In the public hearing, Senator Buhari, remarked that there was an urgent need for the bill to be adopted as it will help bring about transparency and accountability thereby ensuring that the constituents get a feeling of the commonwealth. He stated that Zambia has been operating it since 1995 while it is also being implemented in Ghana.

The CDF bill tends to apply to all Federal Constituencies in Nigeria. The Clause 4 establishes a Constituency Project Development Board to administer the funds allocated for Constituencies. Charges and expenditure from the fund shall be made in accordance with financial regulations, the Public Procurement Act as well as other provision in the bill. The Minister of Finance –Under clause 17(1) of the bill, the Council Planning Officer is to submit annual returns to the minister of Finance no later than 60 days after the end of every financial year. Allowable projects under the bill were not specifically indicated or listed, but the bill provides that they should be community based development projects with benefits that would be available to a wide section of inhabitants of the area in question.

It was such a rich and engaging deliberation as  fundamental observation and questions were raised which includes that the objectives of the Bill does not explicitly state the percentage of the annual budget that will be allocated to the Constituency Development Catalyst  Fund and merely refers to a portion of the Federal Annual Budget.  Also the composition of the Constituency Development Catalyst Committee in clause 10(c ) mandates that one of the councilors in the committee should be a woman. What happens where no woman has been elected as a counselor in the relevant Constituency? There is also no indication in the Bill on how all of the bureaucracy created by it will be funded. Lastly the currency for the fine in clause 28 (1) should be changed from shillings to Naira.

It is also imperative  to know that there is a similar Constituency Projects (Budgetary) Provisions Bill, 2016 sponsored by Sen. Stella Oduah that passed second reading on 8th December, 2016 and also a Constituency Development Fund Bill Sponsored by Sen. Ali Ndume that has passed first reading on 9th November, 2016. Similarly, in the House of Representatives such Bill exists which has apparently passed second reading and I ask “can’t these Bills be consolidated to have one Bill”?
I sincerely hope that the questions and recommendations made during the public hearing would be considered, as the Bill if enforced, its mechanism is likely to enhance citizen participation in the administration, management, monitoring and evaluation of funds that could bring about socio-economic development, empowerment, transparency and accountability in the constituencies.

Ijeoma Oforka is a Program Officer at Connected Development, with a background in Public Health. She is passionate about advocating for the plights and issues surrounding women and girls health and education. She tweets via @ijoforka

 

What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

What Next After Remediation of Shikira and the Minister Visitation?

On 22nd of January 2017 our team was informed of the expected visitation of the Minister of Environment to Shikira community to access the work done so far. To us, it was a surprised at first because it was on a Sunday, but also we think this is how the government should work which the Amina Mohammed Administration showed to us that the government could follow the money themselves too rather than doling millions out on a project without clear monitoring and evaluation criteria to assess the situation of the project.

Indeed between our last visit in August 2016 and 22nd of January, we have seen some changes in Shikira Community as the first phase of the remediation is finished and the second phase which was the last stage would be kickstarted in a matter of weeks.

The first phase includes the removing of contaminated top soils and spreading of clean soils to restore the soil to the way it was before the lead poisoning saga. The removed top soil was dumped in a temporary dumping site which will then be buried with clay soil coating in a low water level soil.

Observation on Phase One

  • The lead-contaminated soil is in the dumping site for now and it will soon be buried at a site which will be identified in few weeks time after a deep geological test by the approved personnel.
  • The compounds and soils that were once tested lead positive have been remediated with 400 – 405ppm lead level which the US EPA standard is 400.
  • The children are already undergoing treatment by the MSF (Doctors Without Borders Team) and they have started playing around again; though the treatment is still ongoing.
  • The only medical facility in the community has been renovated and it now has toilets, water, and medical personnel though none was found on the job when we visited.
  • The MSF team and the State Ministry of Environment have started a safer mining training for the artisanal miners in the community.
  • The community engagement is ongoing so as to avoid reoccurrence of such event and how to take precautionary steps towards lead poisoning.

What the challenge of the community is 

They need water as they are presently fetching water in more than 20 miles away from their community and the water is not safer as it might likely be contaminated with lead too. Simba Tirima of the MSF said we cannot say we are remediating this community without providing them water as that was part of what cause the contamination in the first instance. If we are to be done finally with this remediation, we must provide water for them so they won’t have to go back to the water that was contaminated.

Lead Contaminated soil Waiting to be Buried

What is left to be done

  • The community with the state Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Solid Minerals & Mining is to provide a plot (50×100) of land with low water level for the team to bury the contaminated soils.
  • The site would be fenced with a restricted area inscription so that the people in the community won’t dug it up later after the contaminated soils have been buried.
  • The community would be provided with water source/s
  • There will be a geological test to identify a low water levelled soil to bury the contaminated excavated soils.

Our reaction

We are calling on the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed to consider handling the project to the hand of trusted officials as she will soon be leaving office so that the monies earmarked for the second phase which is as important as the first phase won’t go missing as there have been some cases of likely misappropriation of the fund by some cabals within the Ministry.

Also, the Follow The Money team is thanking the minister for her due diligence, professionalism and vigilance on the #SaveShikira Campaign, her actions gives us more hope that the government can be transparent and responsible when called on by the people. And we also congratulate her on her new position in the UN.

Taming the Monster in the #Nigeria Budget System

Taming the Monster in the #Nigeria Budget System

The most important factor for economic development is not capital, but appropriate policies and institutions

If Nigeria’s population is the 7th largest in the world, and we really, want to grow, then we must not be doing 7.29 trillion Naira, as our budget (Just before you say, it’s only the federal budget, even if you average what the state, and local government present, as budget, it is still not worth it). That’s a paltry 23.9 billion dollars, see below, what the top 10 countries with the highest population, budget for their citizens, at the “federal” level. Coming down home to Africa, Angola with a population of  25 million, has a budget of 38.53 billion dollars. I will advise we start thinking about reducing our population growth – 2 per woman will be most reasonable, at this time, if we “really” want to grow! Japan has done it before, and I am saying, there is no reason why we cannot grow within this top 10 populated countries, it will take time, but we must be decisive, and serious!

2015 budget estimates for other countries are from the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. The Nigeria Budget estimate is the 2017 proposed figure in the appropriation bill

2015 budget estimates for other countries are from the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. The Nigeria Budget estimate is the 2017 proposed figure in the appropriation bill.

In the breakdown of the Nigeria 2017 budget, it is expected that only 30.7% will be available for the provision of basic amenities and infrastructures – health facilities, schools, roads, water, while about 40% will be provided for overhead expenses – salaries, travels, office expenses et al. The success of any business in the world lies in its people, and I also mean PEOPLE working in the various government institutions – executive, legislature and judiciary. Ideally, their business is to implement government agenda, policies, projects and programme, but in Nigeria, their performance is appalling. Although this sector employs a larger percentage of employed people, the numbers cannot account for the value it can create. Just as the numbers of ministries were reduced by the Buhari led government, can it also “significantly” reduce the number of people in the public sector, so as to reduce overhead expenses to 20% of the government budget. All Joe Abbah, and the bureau of public service reforms need do, to perform effectively, is to embrace technology and uphold strict staff performance management (and just before you will say, where should the retrenched go – read my blog, on the rice economy or get to the last paragraph). In Nigeria, most people in the public service which comprise of the executive, legislative, and judiciary in federal, state and local government, got to the position, in the spirit of “clientelism”. “They have just finished recruiting in the Nigeria Police, but leave story, they only chose senators, house of reps families and you know the oga at the tops people” affirmed my friend in the Nigeria Police. This needs to stop if we really want to grow!

Many developed and developing countries are still working towards linking performance to public expenditures framework or strategy. If these linkages are not made, there will be no way to determine if the budgetary allocations that the support programs are ultimately supporting are successful. On a lighter mood, I must thank the Budget Office for publishing actual money received by government agencies for capital expenditures (actually there is an open data version of it here), but we should not be thankful for seeing that except, we want to stay like Angola, if we want to grow like Malaysia, we should be publishing tangible outcomes the expenditures in the agencies are achieving. In essence, we should stop the line – item kind of budgeting, and adopt the result-based budgeting system. For instance, if Nigeria needs to produce the 4,700,000 million tonnes of rice, that china imports every year, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning can have an overhead budget from the Ministry of Agriculture for only the number of people that will implement that through a policy paper, coordination and regulation, as they will not be the one to work on the farm. Simple as ABC right? yes! but do you have the political will – (To be continued) in my other story on Nigeria and its National Planning.

 

 

 

Nigeria’s Economic Recession, The 2017 Budget As The Magic Wand

Nigeria’s Economic Recession, The 2017 Budget As The Magic Wand

Following our works in ensuring transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governmental spending, I represented Connected Development (CODE) in the public presentation and breakdown of the 2017 budget. This was held on the 19th of December, 2016 at the Conference Hall of the State House, Abuja. The invitation was from the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma. The event was a postscript of the 2017 budget presentation to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the event, in which relevant governmental/non-governmental stakeholders were in attendance, Sen. Udoma took about 90 minutes to breakdown/present the lustrated ”Budget of Recovery and Growth.” He stated, “the budget reflects the government’s commitment to restore the economy on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth.” He started with a brief analysis of the performance of the 2016 budget. Highlights from the analysis showed that as at the Q3 of 2016, oil production was at 1.81 mbpd as against the predicted 2.2mbpd on the 2016 budget. The exchange rate was at N305/US$ as against the predicted N197/USD. In addition, GDP growth rate which was predicted at 4.3% was at -2.24%. Inflation which was predicted at 9.81% was at 17.85%. And ultimately, the government has only realized 75% of the 2016 budget revenue. A take home from his analysis is that poor performance of the 2016 budget, hugely contributed to the country’s economic recession and worsening macro-economic indicators.

In the breakdown of the 2017 budget, the Minister commented, ”the budget was designed to expand partnership between public and private sectors, including development capital to leverage and springboard resources for growth.” In sum, the budget intends to focus on infrastructural expansion, establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), expansion of agriculture, encouraging the growth of small & medium industries, and providing a social safety net for poor Nigerians. The N7.298 trillion budget has key assumptions such as: oil production at 2.2mbpd, benchmark oil price at US$42.5/b, exchange rate at N305/US$, GDP Growth Rate at 2.5%. The 2017 budget envisages a total revenue of N4.94 trillion, exceeding that of 2016 by 28%. The projected revenue realisation from oil was N1.985 trillion and Non-oil, N1.373 trillion.

The capital expenditure was at N2.24 trillion (30.7%) with ”Ministries” such as Power, Works & Housing, Transportation, Special Intervention Programmes, Defence, Water Resources etc. taking N529 billion, N262 billion, N150 billion, N140 billion, N85 billion respectively.

While there in several initiatives on the 2017 budget, such as the recapitalization of the Banks of Industry and Agriculture by N15 billion, N50 billion for the establishment of SEZs and the benchmark oil price at US$42.5/b (if OPEC keeps on its esplanade of cutting down oil production), there are several key concerns that quickly comes to mind:

1). The problem has always been implementation crisis as well as lack of transparency, accountability and citizen engagement in governmental spending. We call for increased transparency and accountability in the budget’s implementation.

2). Participatory budgetary process in the preparation of the 2017 budget was very poorly implemented especially with respect to involving CSOs and leaders of local communities.

3). The performance of the 2016 budget still remains poor, most of its capital items are still at the contracting stage.

4). No. 3 leads to a key concern about how the government intends to manage the whole kerfuffle of the 2016 spill-over in 2017, with the weak coordination chain we are seeing now.

5). Planning the 2017 Fiscal Year on N305/US$ is quite unrealistic with several FOREX rates out there. The Central Bank should find a way to address the worsening FOREX crisis and harmonize the rates.

6). The 2.2mbpd oil production estimate might not be realized, following the continuing oil pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta which the government has not found a sustainable means to address.

7). The N2.2 trillion budgeted capital expenditure is still so nanoscopic to what is needed to stimulate the economy. The government must find a way of reversing the trend of having recurrent expenditure taking over almost 80% of the budget of several sectors.

8). While the government is preaching financial prudence, it’s quite paradoxical that several overhead items of the State House have increments on the average of 250% from their 2016 appropriations.

9). #FollowTheMoney team of CODE urgently await a part release of the performance of the 2016 budget performance, while we continue tracking the implementation of its capital items in rural communities.