It appears that the purpose of the open treasury portal, launched by the Federal Government in December 2019 to boost transparency in government spending, has been defeated.
The portal is supposed to “provide a comprehensive space for the collation of data by all ministries, departments and agencies on budget implementation, financial records, as well as transactions above certain thresholds,” a report said.
But investigations indicate that the portal presents accountability issues. In June, for instance, a non-governmental organisation, BudgIT, was reported saying that between January and July 2019, “it discovered that large sums were paid into personal accounts including several records with vague descriptions and other discrepancies on the portal.”
According to the group, “A few examples include ?2.04bn and ?1bn paid into personal accounts on the 21st of June, 2019 without any payment description along with another ?68m payment for “Ogunsuyi” and ?15.8m for “international” on other dates. In the same 2019, we also discovered payment records without descriptions or beneficiary information.”
It is shocking that about 5,000 payment records valued at ?278bn were said to be without descriptions and 275 payment records with a value of ?43bn were said to be without beneficiary name.
“These inconspicuous payments cannot be assessed or traced by citizens and interested parties, thereby defeating the purpose of the platform to foster transparency,” the group observed.
Apart from the NGO’s investigation and the results, another investigation by PREMIUM TIMES showed that between September and December 2019 ?4.6bn was illegally paid into the private accounts of some directors and employees of the then Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
The online medium found out that N4.6bn was paid in 654 tranches into 21 private individual accounts. It obtained some of the information from the open treasury portal.
In a striking instance, one Mr Pascal was said to have been paid ?1.6bn in 306 tranches. Information published on the open treasury portal on October 26, 2019 indicated that Mr Pascal was paid ?159m for “zonal revenue tour,” “disbursement of funds for right of way,” “verification exercise,” “quarterly budget implementation,” “2019 senior staff promotion exercise,” and “junior staff promotion in the housing sector.”
Curiously, there were no clues regarding Mr Pascal’s identity. The newspaper said the Ministry of Power, now a separate ministry, claimed he was not a member of its staff; and the Ministry of Works and Housing did not respond to its request for clarification.
These investigations expose how ministries are breaking the law against making payments into the private accounts of their employees and other private individuals.
It is clear that the open treasury portal is not so open. There is no point describing it as open when it isn’t.