By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE
A key recommendation for improving the LFTAS Programme performance, as captured in the independent verification report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), was for the timely disbursement of recommended performance incentives. This, according to the report, would serve as motivation to the local government councils and contribute to improved performance and ownership of the LFTAS programme across all the 23 local governments.
In March 2021, the Kaduna State Government approved the disbursement of N152.4 million performance grant to the 23 local government councils. The assessment of 2018 performance showed that Zaria local government scored the highest with N9.94 million; while Kubau scored the lowest with N3.4 million. Unfortunately, almost five months after the approval, contrary to the recommendation of PWC, the local government councils are yet to receive the performance based grants.
This is despite the fact that since 2019 up until 2021, the LFTAS program has consistently gotten budgetary allocations. Interestingly, the 2019 and 2020 Kaduna State Auditor-General reports showed actual expenditure under the Planning & Budget Commission, even when there was no cash-backing.
The prolonged delay by the state government to cash-back the release meant for disbursement to the 23 local government councils is worrisome – as it has constituted huge blockage to the consolidation and sustainability of the programme. As a result, the assessment for 2019 and 2020 are yet to be conducted, not to ignore the effect on the morale of the local government councils and staff.
For the sake of those who do not know, the LFTAS program is an innovative replica of the World Bank’s State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability & Sustainability (SFTAS) programme for results initiated by the Kaduna state Planning & Budget Commission in collaboration with the Ministry for Local Government Affairs and supported by the Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (FCDO/PERL). The incentive based programme was introduced in 2018 as part of ongoing reforms to strengthen local government capacity for effective service delivery and enable policy alignment with State and Federal government.
It focuses on five reform areas of budget preparation process, adherence to policy documents, strengthen Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), improved public procurement system and reduced payroll fraud using biometrics, and tackling absenteeism and nonchalant attitude of primary school teachers and health personnel. For each of the areas there is performance based disbursement linked indicators (DLIs) with the incentives totaling overall N20 million. The 23 local government Councils submitted their letter of intent and have signed into the programme.
The initiative was welcomed enthusiastically by the local government councils, civil society partners and other stakeholders. Consequently, in the spirit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the civil society and media partners were invited to be part of the first assessment carried out by the Planning & Budget Commission and Ministry for Local Government Affairs. After which, the state government again contracted PWC to conduct another independent verification assessment and the report approved.
It is worrisome that the progress made as a result of the LFTAS programme has been slowed down due to the inability of the state to honor its commitment. The programme had motivated the Councils to organize budget town-hall meetings, improved adherence to Local Government Reform Law (2018), increased budget linkage with development plans, some held quarterly budget performance town-hall meeting, a few developed websites and opened official social media handles, made budget documents accessible to citizens, set up procurement units, among others. In summary it promoted transparency, citizens engagement and accountability at the local government level.
Though some of the reform initiatives introduced by LFTAS have continued due to the interventions of the Ministry for Local Government Affairs, many others have become comatose. The motivation showed by the state government as a result of the SFTAS performance grant, is the same the local government councils are eagerly needing to consolidate on the progress made. The disbursement is urgent because of the revenue crisis facing many local governments, and will also enable many of them to sustain some of the reform initiatives.
In view of this, it is only timely and strategic for the Executive Governor to give the needed directive for disbursement to be made to the local governments base on performance. The LFTAS is one of the legacies of the present administration that should not be led to untimely death.