The federal government has mandated prompt response to Freedom of Information (FOI) request as one of the conditions for spending funds dedicated to fight coronavirus in Nigeria including mitigation of its social and economic effects on Nigerians.
This condition is among the eight contained in the guidelines issued on Tuesday by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation detailing the framework for the management of COVID-19 Funds in Nigeria.
Since February when the first coronavirus index case, an Italian, was discovered in Nigeria, funds from governments, individuals and corporate organisations have been donated to Nigeria. Some groups have demanded details of donations from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
In a Freedom of Information request sent to the CBN in April, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) said the apex bank has the moral and constitutional obligation to make known to the public the total funds received. It said without any prompting, the CBN should have been releasing to the public the figure of any fund received on behalf of the people of Nigeria.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) also asked the federal government to publish weekly details of the exact funds and other resources allocated by the authorities for the fight against coronavirus. It also requested for the ones received from the private sector.
Meanwhile, the government on Tuesday said in order to ensure transparency, all participating Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) must provide information on all COVID-19 fund transactions requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) within seven days of receiving the request.
It said so far, the country has got about N28 billion under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) Fund domiciled at the CBN and the five COVID-19 donor in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) sub-accounts domiciled in Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Guarantee Trust Bank, United Bank for Africa and First Bank.
The federal government said it only approved TSA sub-accounts in the commercial banks solely for the purpose of receiving COVID-19 donations.
The second major condition is that the funds will not be disbursed until after appropriation by the National Assembly. The Minister of Finance was told to promptly liaise with the lawmakers to pass a supplementary budget for the utilisation of the funds based on estimated total collection for the year and it must detail the needs submitted by the affected MDAs together with estimated costs, as the basis for allocation of funds, to enable post expenditure reporting and audit.
A third condition is that funds are to be appropriated directly to participating MDAs and spending units like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, etc., rather than to an intermediary agency like the Presidential Task Force (PTF), while administrative cost of the PTF shall be appropriated separately to the PTF Secretariat.
As a fourth condition, the federal government mandated that all collections into the commercial bank accounts to be swept into FGN Sub-Recurrent Account with the CBN as failure will attract sanctions.
Also, the Accountant-General of the Federation said only the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) system should be used to effect payment to necessary agencies in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations, including those relating to the Public Procurement Act (subject to the guidance of the Bureau for Public Procurement).
A sixth condition is that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation must publicise on a daily basis all inflows and outflows for the funds, and the statement must show the source of the outflow.
A seventh condition is that all MDAs should publish detailed reports of their activities relating to COVID-19 Fund on their websites at the end of every week, while a Monthly Budget Performance Report shall be published on the Open Treasury Portal not later than 14 days following the end of the month.
The eight and last condition is that two weeks after the end of the pandemic, a comprehensive report of all receipts and payments shall be published on the OAGF Transparency Portal as well as other government websites, including those of Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Secretary to the Government of the Federation and OAGF.
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