COVID-19 Funds: BudgIT decries FG’s lack of accountability, transparency


By Chimezie Godfrey

A Civil Society Organizations, BugIT has decried the lack of accountability and transparency in the management and spending of COVID-19 funds by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The Chief Executive Officer, BudgIT, Gabriel Okeowo made the assertion at the Audit Coalition Meeting with Special Focus on COVID-19 Spending, held on Wednesday in Abuja.

Okeowo who expressed profound gratitude to partners for the strategic collaboration towards scaling up transparency in domestic resource utilization of the COVID-19 funds in Nigeria, lamented that accountability on COVID-19 spending was undermined by the Nigerian government.

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He pointed out that according to the International Budget Partnership (IBP) May 2021 report titled Managing COVID funds: The Accountability Gap, Nigeria was placed side by side with countries like South Africa, United Kingdom and United States of America on the levels of accountability in early COVID fiscal policy responses. Though the level of accountability was ranked at “SOME” and not adequate, the reality on ground is that the audit report on COVID funds is yet to be made available to citizens.

He noted that with the latest news report by PUNCH, the Federal Government through the Health Minister received a total of N141.1bn from donors in seven categories. From the United Nations basket fund, it was highlighted that Nigeria received N22.6bn in donations; CACOVID donated N43.2bn, oil and gas industry, N21.4bn; development partners group on health, N42.9bn; and GAVI, N4.5bn.

The Federal Government also noted that it received private donations to its accounts to the tune of N2.0bn while other donations worth N4.04bn were received, making a total of N141.1bn in 2020.

“On how it spent the funds, the Federal Government explained, “In December 2020, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 reported on the resources the country received from donors, private sector and the government’s contributions.

“These donations, which included technical support, were largely used for the supply of consumables, tests, equipment, logistics management, case management, risk communication, and information management systems for the national response to COVID-19.

“The contributions from the government also supported social support, health infrastructure, hazard allowance, and training of health workers.

“Accountability was further undermined by the lack of adequate information on the amount of money spent, and also on the actual impact that this is having on more disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, such as women and those living in poverty,” Okeowo said.

Okeowo expressed hope that the engagement will encourage the demand for an audited report on the use of COVID-19 funds.

He said,”It is our hope that this engagement presents a veritable opportunity to demand for an audited report on the use of COVID funds in Nigeria and also identify transformative actions and solutions for National and subnational governments, parliamentarians and other key stakeholders responsible for the publishing of an audit report.”

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