By Yusuf Goje
The way Kaduna State government is handling the Covid-19 pandemic can be faulted on other grounds but not on the pro-activeness and decisiveness with which it is confronting the resultant public health crisis and its socio-economic consequences. Objectively speaking, the decisions, many of which are controversial, remain the most viable alternative for any serious government to take in emergencies like this. After all, unusual times require unusual measures.
The Governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-rufai, on various public platforms has disclosed his readiness to face any resultant consequences of such decisions. Now that the government is getting a hold on how to contain the spread of the pandemic, even though the numbers keep rising, it is time for citizens to begin to also ask the right questions. This is necessary because the global economy is contracting at an accelerated pace. Sub-nationals, like Kaduna state (in a mono-economy like Nigeria) who are not immune to the shocks, are bound to feel the pressure due to plummeting revenue base.
More attention now needs to be paid as to how the available lean resources are being expended by the State government especially on covd-19 interventions. Particular focus should be on whether: resources are being allocated to strategic priorities, is there value for money in the emergency service delivery, and adherence to the principles of transparency and accountability in the process. In this regard, public tracking and demand for accountability in the procurement/contracting and service delivery process remains paramount.
The State government has proactively disclosed information on the total amount of donations and allocations to palliatives since the outbreak; however, procurement information on covid-19 interventions is yet to be made public in line with the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS). This may not be unconnected with the provision of section 6, Emergency Procurement, of the Infectious Disease (Protection) Regulations 2020. It states that, “ the Governor shall have power to dispense with the strict compliance of all or any part of the Kaduna State Public Procurement Law of 2016 or any other Law for the procurement of any materials, items or services relating to Covid-19 pandemic during the period of lockdown” .
In simple terms, the Governor has been empowered to carry-out procurement without sufficient adherence to the due process and procedures. Even though it is good intentioned, it is more prone to abuse. Granted that emergency procurement is among the rapid decisions needed to effectively respond to the pandemic; however, it is still important that the abridged procedure adopted is made public, open and transparent.
The lockdown has now been substantially lifted; it is critical and expedient that residents of the state initiate an intensive advocacy campaign to demand for proper accountability of public spending. This will not only unravel wastages and corruption where they exist, but also build citizen’s trust, which is necessary if we are to win the fight against the ravaging pandemic. From our search and engagement with the Kaduna State Public Procurement Authority (KADPPA), it appears that information on the emergency procurements being carried-out is not readily available.
This is worrisome in the light of the administration’s global recognition and commendations for being reform-driven. Indeed, it is a true test of the administration’s commitment to ongoing reform initiatives like the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) program.
In view of the above, it is best practce that the government make public the details of the contingency budget being used to fund the emergency procurements, amendments made to the annual plan of public procurement due to Covid-19, information on pre-tender communication with suppliers (especially urgent procurement), details of the contractors/suppliers, items purchased (for instance, the prices and quantities of face masks, ventilators, respirators, medicines etc), information on the process of contract implementation, quarterly report on the procurement done and information on steps taken in order to prevent or respond to the cases of price-gouging.
As regards the palliative distribution, information on the items procured (outside those donated), cost of logistics, allowances paid and total list of beneficiaries should equally be subjected to public scrutiny. This will increase citizen’s approval rating of the administration if carried-out in line with the principles of transparency and accountability.
Goje is the Head of Leadership, Governance & Advocacy of the Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED)