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Enthroning accountability through Fintech: The Remita model

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By Isaac Gbaka

Corruption is a threat globally. In Nigeria, it is endemic. That is why beginning from the first republic, attempts have been made to stop it.

In the current dispensation, it has been said of Nigeria that “it is impossible to build an economy where corruption is the working capital.” In line with this asserting, the federal government as well as many states are turning to technology to decimate corruption. One of such technologies is SystemSpecs’ Remita.

So far, a total of six states including Kano, Zamfara, and Benue have adopted Remita in their payroll management strategy. The results have been commendable. Ghost workers have been identified and expunged, documentation has become easier, and exact payroll information is available real-time.

In Benue for instance, 500 ghost workers have been busted, same occurred in other states where Remita was adopted. At the federal level, the smooth running of the Treasury Singly Account (TSA) is facilitated by the Remita platform which allows the linkage of almost 50 financial institutions to the Central Bank of Nigeria real-time.

Indeed, the use of technology as a tool for fighting corruption is fast becoming a global practice. Like Nigeria, governments around the world have launched several egovernment initiatives to enhance the efficiency and transparency of public administration and improve interaction with citizens. Information and communications technology (ICTs) are increasingly seen by governments as well as activists and civil society as important tools to promote transparency and accountability as well as to identify and reduce corruption.

In this regard, Transparency International states that there is a broad consensus that ICTs have the potential to make a significant contribution to the fight against corruption. By facilitating the flow of information between government institutions, between government and citizens, as well as among citizens, new technologies can promote transparency, accountability and civic participation. This has been true for Nigeria.

But like any other new development, there have been challenges. For instance, there was serious controversy when salaries paid to some workers in January 2018 did not tally with their actual remunerations. As of now, the case has been put to rest and the anomalies have been corrected.

Several hearings on the matter at the Benue State House of Assembly were able to find out that the payroll list given to Remita was faulty and that was the source of the discrepancies. While this has been sorted two powerful figures within the government, Governor Samuel Ortom and his deputy have lauded Remita and have also thrown their weight behind the introduction of the system into Benue state.

On the part of the Federal government, TSA has significantly reduced the level of fraud and government’s debt servicing costs in Nigeria. It has blocked leakages and freed up funds for development. It has given government a broad spectrum of auditory powers as it makes the process of cracking down on the slightest trace of corruption easier, while providing a tamperproof view of who paid what to whom and at what time.

The adoption of Remita, as gateway to the nation’s treasury, has entrenched transparency in the management and flow of cash resources within government parastatals. Up until the full adoption of TSA, with the e-payment platform.

According to Fintech Africa, Remita’s leadership position in Africa’s FinTech landscape which was confirmed by its “adoption as the sole gateway by the Federal Government of Nigeria (Africa’s largest biller) for the facilitation of its Treasury Single Account project” is the largest and most impactful use of fintech on the continent.

Recently, the Federal Government, announced that it has continued to save up to N24.7 billion monthly because of TSA.

As at the end of March 2017, the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed Idris said that the TSA account had net over N7tn of government revenue. Also, over 20,000 accounts in commercial banks where public fund was stashed to generate profit for individuals were closed. These successes continue to indicate that there is a massive potential for disruptive fintech software on the African continent. But there is more to it.

These technologies can also be used by the private sector to fulfile the same role they play in the public sector. For instance, Remita caters for big shots in the private sector such as Accenture, Akintola Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Meristem Securities, Guinness, Main One, Seplat, Swift and Olashore International Schools.

Indeed, there are huge prospects for fintech products in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. There is still a long way to go in ensuring accountability at all levels as a nation that has gained global recognition for being fantastically corrupt.

Gbaka, a public commentator, writes from Gboko in Benue state

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