COVID-19: SERAP writes World Bank, cautions against unguided disbursement of $114.28m credit for Nigeria

* Explains that concerns are justified by increasing reports of mismanagement of Covid funds by agents of government

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has cautioned the World Bank against dropping its guard in ensuring that the federal government and the 36 State governments commit to judicious and transparent disbursement of the $114.28m credit and grant for COVID-19, which its Board recently approved for Nigeria.

In the letter addressed to the President of the Bank, Mr. David Malpass, SERAP urged the World Bank President to use his “good offices” to ensure that Nigerian governments followed international best practices in spending the money, including publishing details on “a dedicated website.”

SERAP also urged Malpass to “put pressure on authorities and the 36 State Governors to accept voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society regarding the spending of the funds and use of the resources, including how they will spend the money to buy medical equipment and improve access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

The World Bank last Friday approved a $114.28 financing “to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on State level responses.”

According to the Bank, the $100 million credit with Project ID number P173980 is due to be paid back over 30 years, with an additional five-year grace period.

In the letter dated 8 August, 2020 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP argued that the World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that federal authorities and State governments are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved credit and grant, urging the bank to “tread carefully in the disbursement of funds or distribution of resources to States if it is to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

SERAP expressed “serious concerns that the money and resources may be stolen, diverted or mismanaged by State Governors without effective transparency and accountability mechanisms,” especially in the light of “increasing reports of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of COVID-19 funds by agencies of the Federal and State governments, and impunity of perpetrators.”

“Insisting on transparency and accountability would ensure repayment of the credit, and protect the project objectives and intended purposes for which the funds and resources are approved, disbursed and distributed,” SERAP further argued, reminding the World Bank that its power to provide credits and grants includes “a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that governments spending such funds meet international standards of transparency and accountability, including those entrenched in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

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