• Monday, March 04, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

NSIP failure exposes gaps in govt accounting

National Social Investment Programmes

Financial impropriety and the poor implementation of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) has exposed the gaps in the nation’s accounting and financial framework, analysts have said.

Those who spoke to BusinessDay on the implementation of the programme said it failed to meet the expectations of addressing poverty in the country despite the huge amount spent, as being exposed by a series of ongoing investigations on the project.

Jide Ojo, a public affairs analyst, said the programme lacked proper monitoring and evaluation framework, adding that this encouraged mismanagement of funds.

Established by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in 2016, the NSIP was expected to tackle poverty and hunger across the country through programmes that focused on ensuring a more equitable distribution of resources to vulnerable populations, including children, youth and women. These programmes include: N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP) and the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), which are implemented through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

According to Ojo, the Buhari administration failed to carry out a pilot programme to ascertain the best implementation plan. “The government failed to carry out proper assessment at the beginning to know if this programme was what was needed to lift Nigerians out of poverty but many Nigerians have been plunged into poverty in recent years.”

He said: “Why will the government decide to dole out cash to people in the 21st century where you have access to technology? We even saw Vice President Osibanjo going to the market to distribute money to traders, which shows poor accounting framework in the government.

“Today, we cannot trace the impact of the programme; we do not even have the complete database of the beneficiaries. So how do we account for the funds that have been spent?”

Ojo said the increase in school enrollment, which was occasioned by the school feeding programme, could not be sustained as the schools lacked the needed infrastructure to keep the children.

He described this as a failure, saying the government failed to provide infrastructure needed for learning which was the main goal of the programme.

He said: “It increased school enrollment at the beginning, but there was no adequate infrastructure in those schools to keep them. So they came for the food but could not stay educated.

“The school feeding programme was supposed to be carried out by both the state and federal government but the state governments were not carried along. The programme is full of controversies.”

BusinessDay findings showed that the ministry of humanitarian affairs, being the implementing ministry for the programmes, received a total allocation of N2.3 trillion from 2020 to 2024.

According the federal government, the NHGSFP aims to deliver school feeding to young children with a specific focus on increasing school enrollment, reducing the incidence of malnutrition (especially among the poor and those ordinarily unable to eat a meal a day), empowering community women as cooks and by supporting small farmers that help stimulate economic growth.

The N-Power programme was designed to assist young Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills for becoming change-makers in their communities and players in the domestic and global markets and they were given a stipend of N30,000 monthly.

The CCT programme directly supports those within the lowest poverty bracket by improving nutrition, increasing household consumption and supporting the development of human capital through cash benefits to various categories of the poor and vulnerable. The support is conditioned on fulfilling soft and hard co-responsibilities that enable recipients to improve their standard of living.

The GEEP is a micro-lending intervention that targets traders, artisans, enterprising youth, farmers and women by providing loans between 10,000 and 100,000 at no monthly cost to beneficiaries.

Sadiya Farouq, the then minister of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development, said in February 2023 that the federal government invested the sum of N1.3 trillion to improve the lives of vulnerable Nigerians through its NSIP from 2016 to 2022.

According to her, the sum of N890.7 billion was spent on N-Power with N246 billion on CCT, N17.6 billion on GEEP, N2.7 million on independent monitors, while the school feeding programme gulped N200.9 billion in the period.

Okoh John, a public affairs analyst, said that the programme had little or no impact on beneficiaries, adding that the support given to beneficiaries was not substantial enough.

According to John, the implementation of the programmes, especially the GEEP, lacked transparency, accountability and proper structure from the onset.

He said: “I was at one of the programmes here in Abuja where the ‘tradermoni’ were being disbursed to traders and I was wondering what impact this amount will have on these businesses. Right there one of the beneficiaries used the money to pay for something else and the government will think that they have empowered a business. Things are not done like that.

“This is a programme that is aimed to boost businesses, but the implementation was faulty. Even look at the N-Power programme where graduates are engaged to teach, and some sent to the agriculture establishment, who is monitoring them. I know of some beneficiaries that are being paid the stipend but they are doing something else instead of going to their place of assignment but the government is not aware.”

He said that instead of randomly giving financial support to citizens, the government should build structures and develop frameworks that ensure that the basic needs of citizens are met.

“Instead of sharing money, why not provide free or affordable healthcare, schools and roads. If people can access these services conveniently, it would have solved half of the poverty menace we see today. Not giving people money that cannot be accounted for,” he said.

A beneficiary of the N-Power who pleaded anonymity told BusinessDay that the stipend she received from the programme was her share of the ‘national cake’.

According to her, the programme did not have a strong structure to drive accountability from beneficiaries.

She said: “I was among the beneficiaries for the N-Power in 2019. All of us posted to a school in warri were given gadgets and of course we were being paid N30,000. But we were not doing the work, I can count how many times I attended class to teach. But that was because I was working elsewhere, so the N-power was just a side hustle for me even though I was not doing anything.

“The management of the school didn’t really care whether we came or not, the school had enough teachers that were doing the work, so we were just attaché and no one was monitoring us either. I joined the scheme because it is government money, it is our country’s money.”

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, said the programmes, even though well designed, were hijacked by corruption.

“Unfortunately, corruption was the major problem that undermined the purpose why they were created. Instead of dealing with poverty and inequality, the programme gave room for more corruption and increased poverty,” he said.

“We have mentioned in the past that some agencies are not doing what they are supposed to do. Everything is marred with corruption and I see this contributing to more poverty and diversion of public assets.”