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As Buhari Unveils Treasury Secrets

In a country where a voodoo-like culture of secrecy, shadows the
handling of public funds by government officials, the recent directive by
President Muhamadu to the Treasury to make public, the daily transactions of
MDAs, could not have been more welcome. According to tweets by Mr Waziri Adio
the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency
International (NEITI), Buhari had directed the Accountant General of the
Federation (AGF) to publish on a daily basis, the expenditures of all MDAs on a
dedicated portal http://opentreasury.gov.ng.

The initiative which comes under the Open Treasury Portal, is intended
to make public the daily treasury statement on how monies that come into the
coffers of the federal government are spent. The specific details for
publication by all MDAs include payments in excess of N5 million, monthly
budget performance as well as quarterly and annual financial statements. Just
as well, the Accountant General of the Federation shall also publish on a daily
basis, the transactions of the treasury in excess of N10 million.

All of such transactions shall be presented in compliance with the
Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), and shall be delivered within
stipulated deadlines. 

Novel and rather unexpected by the Nigerian public as the initiative
is, the President may have through it scored a bull’s eye in his efforts at
rescuing an otherwise faltering anti-corruption crusade. Ordinarily, details of
financial transactions of any form in virtually all public offices in Nigeria,
are reserved for a select few who have direct dealings with such designated
matters of finance, and no one else.

In fact, it constitutes a mortal sin for any member of the select few
to divulge the details of financial transactions to anybody outside the
precincts of any particular office. Not surprisingly therefore, this situation
has been the primary cause of the wide spread syndrome of conspiratorial and
mindless looting as well as sharing of public funds without fear of reprisals,
in most cases. Hence the rash of stories of theft and loss of humongous sums of
money from the public till, by as many as find themselves close to it. In some
offices there is actually a contest among staffers over how much each of them
can or has successfully looted. It is as bad as that.

For many Nigerians, this development provides – even on a marginal
basis, an opportunity to heave a sigh of relief that at least one can foresee
the day when public finance management in Nigeria, shall enjoy a turn for the
better. In any case, it is not that Nigerians are largely unaware of the
questionable flows of public largesse into nefarious ends and purposes. Rather,
the conspiratorial airs that pervade the scenes of criminal looting of public
funds, easily deny the public of effective real time tracking of the flow and
quantum of the sleaze.

Indeed, it is courtesy of the efforts by several due-process minded
interests and organisations such as the NGOs, that a cross section of the
citizenry has been sensitized in respect of much of this messy situation.
Hence, the Presidential initiative on Open Treasury Portal qualifies as a major
and welcome turn in the anti-corruption campaign, as it offers the citizenry
some modicum of oversight powers. 

The foregoing notwithstanding, the problem area with the Open Treasury
Portal initiative remains that of implementation. As is easily recalled,
throughout the life of the Buhari presidency, several well intentioned
initiatives have been launched and have plodded on with less than satisfactory
runs in progress. At this juncture the mention of a few of such will suffice.
Take for instance the case of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) project which
was launched in 2015 by the federal government with provision for concurrent
participation by states and even local governments. It is remarkable that over
four years after its advent, the programme is still recording glaring
violations by several MDAs of the federal government, while not a few states
are yet to migrate unto it.

Coming to the Integrated Payroll Payment Information System (IPPIS) the
signals coming around it, especially as concern the country’s university
community, point to a compromised administrative measure which manifests issues
bordering on across-the-board implementation. Against whatever promise the
initiative offers the country, it remains a matter of concern that the
government is yet to work out an accommodation with some sections of the
country including the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU),
leading to fears of another looming industrial action by the members.

Moving over to the National Identity Card project executed by the
National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC), the situation remains an
inchoate one with official red-tapism holding sway. This is in spite of its
strategic significance to the critical issue of national security and other
matters associated with citizen profiling. As at present the question of when
all Nigerians will be captured in the ID card data base, not to talk of being
issued with the cards, has its answer blowing in the wind.

As for electric power sector reforms under the Buhari presidency, the
situation remains as static as a non-starter. As always the President will
proclaim highly inspiring intentions with his lieutenants following up with
assurances of performance; many of which in the end, turn out to be hollow. In
spite of the serial official excoriation of past administrations of Olusegun
Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan over their failures in
providing steady and uninterrupted electricity for Nigerians, the present
administration has yet to deliver a better package.

However, in no other area has public misgiving over the relative
incontinence of the Buhari administration been more pronounced than in the
anti-corruption fight which the present Open Treasury initiative is intended to
address. To say the campaign is running according to plan is to misread the
situation and Buhari is hopefully aware of that. The drastic provisions of the
Open Treasury Portal qualify to be seen as inspired by  Buhari’s fight-back mindset, and testify to
his concern over shoring up the  fight
against corruption.

Yet, as it is with the other instances of poor follow-through by his
lieutenants, how far they will help to make the Open Treasury Portal succeed
must remain a burden to President Muhamadu Buhari. Drawing from lessons of the
past however, he needs to change tactics with respect to dealing with his
lieutenants this time around, to ensure the intentions of the Open Treasury
Portal are realized, no matter the circumstances. That will place him on the
same page with the wider cross section of Nigerians.

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