Making Nigeria’s Social Investment Programme Accountable, By Onyinye Ough
The Federal Government of Nigeria is implementing a N500 billion social investment programme that is aimed at improving the lives of the poorest Nigerians. The programme has five key areas and they are:
• Home grown school feeding programme that aims to provide free school meals for 5.5 million poor children;
• Conditional cash transfer programme which will provide N5000 monthly payments to targeted poor households;
• Growth enterprise and empowerment programme that aims to provide access to credit for market women, youth and artisans;
• N-power programme which will provide jobs for graduates and non-graduates. 500,000 graduates’ and 100,000 graduates are being targeted.
• STEM Bursary will give financial support to tertiary students studying engineering, maths, science and technology.
These five programme areas aim to address issues of youth unemployment, school enrolment, economic hardship, lack of access to finance by small and medium scale enterprises which will ultimately reduce the poverty levels.
A huge amount of resources has been allocated to this programme. It is essential that anti-corruption measures are in place to ensure that services are adequately delivered and monies not lost to corrupt practices. These measures will ensure that the right beneficiaries are selected and the programmes are not used as jobs for the ‘boys’. Mainstreaming anti-corruption in this area will require improving citizens’ engagement in the planning and implementation of the programme, empowering citizens to report corruption, as well as encouraging government to establish transparent and accountable systems. Examples of some of these measures include:
Role of government
• Publish annual reports on the progress of the programme;
• Establish a national anti-corruption hotline in the office of the Special Adviser to the President on social protection to enable citizens report corrupt practices;
• Create a simple SMS feedback system where citizens and beneficiaries can report corrupt practices;
• Conduct public audits of these programmes and make the audit reports available to citizens;
• Monitor and evaluate the programme;
• Develop service charters which should be made publicly available and can be sued by citizens to hold government to account
• Facilitate beneficiary and community monitoring of these schemes;
• Manage anti-corruption hotlines for this programme and send reports to relevant anti-corruption agencies or government departments;
• Establish or strengthen existing community associations in targeted areas to hold public hearings on the delivery of the programme. In those hearings, beneficiaries can share their experiences and observations of corruption. The findings can then be passed on to the relevant government department or agency for action;
• Facilitate the development of citizen report cards and publishing those reports;
• Investigate the implementation of the programme and make known public any discrepancies or corrupt practices.
However, it is important to note that genuine political will to improve the delivery of services under this programme is critical for the successful mainstreaming of the anti-corruption component.
Nigeria has accepted to be a member of the Open Government Partnership. These anti-corruption measures mentioned above are in line with the key principles of the Open Government Partnership. CSOs will need to continue the demand for improved citizen engagement and effective service delivery in this area and remind government of their commitment to the OGP principles.
Onyinye Ough is a development practitioner and has studied and worked on issues of good governance within Nigeria for over a decade. She runs the Step Up blog.