Monday 19 May 2008

Nigeria: Ministries banned from funding National Assembly

Don’t give
Once again, one does not see tectonic shifts in reform but the small steps one sees are significant.
The Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG) has sent letters to Ministries, Departments and Agents (MDAs), advising them that every arm of government has its own budgetary allocations to fund their activities and so they should not be sponsoring activities for other organs of government especially those of the National Assembly.
This came about after the illegal disbursement of funds from the Ministry of Health to both the House of Representatives Health Committee and the Senate Committee on Health.
Bad gifts
These funds were part of the N300 million excess that the President had ordered the Ministry of Health to return to the treasury but lead to an elaborate scheme to embezzle the funds disguised as Christmas bonuses, this lead to the resignation of the Ministers and the indictment of administrators of the Ministry.
Offering N10 million each to the committees in the National Assembly would have compromised the oversight and lawmaking functions they have over the Ministry of Health; the House of Representatives committee returned their share whilst the Senate committee went on a jaunt in Ghana.
Obvious conflicts of interest
Though, the Senate did not see anything untoward in accepting funds and cleared the chairman of the committee of wrong-doing, better sense has prevailed upon others in the Executive that there is a clear and attributable conflict of interest in that kind of transaction.
The letter of the SFG clearly addresses the responsibility of chief executives of government organs in the stewardship of their resources and conformance to existing financial laws whilst warning that their prudence should ensure they are not caught in criminal conduct.
It also seeks to address avenues of patronage that might lead to corrupt practices.
Clear separation of powers
In general, a clear separation of powers is being advocated by removing inducements; without saying it in words; whilst hoping to promote a transparent and professional relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
The fallout from the Ministry of Health embezzlement is no all bad; I think it strengthens democratic structures in a progressive and positive manner.
Once again – Good Job, Yardy!

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