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By Michael Eboh

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, OAuGF, Wednesday, signed a Letter of Understanding with the Federal Ministry of Finance Budget and National Planning for the commencement of the $750 million State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability, SFTAS, programme.

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In a statement in Abuja, the OAuGF said the SFTAS is a $750 million programme of the Federal Government to reward states for meeting any or all of nine indicators that demonstrate improvements in Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability.

The nine indicators, according to the OAuGF, are an offshoot of the previous Fiscal Sustainability Plan of the Federal Government where States were to be rewarded for meeting up to 22 targets.

It stated that the World Bank has supported the Federal Government to incentivize the states to properly achieve the 22 point Fiscal Sustainability Plan, FSP, now redesigned as the nine Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) under SFTAS.

The OAuGF said it is the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) for SFTAS and would conduct the annual performance assessments of the states, as well as deliver capacity building activities to state audit offices, while the Home Finance Department, HFD, in the Federal Ministry of Finance, FMOF, would house the Program Coordination Unit, PCU, of the programme.

In his brief remarks during the signing of the agreement, Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayine, urged all participating states to ensure that all the necessary information for the assessment are supplied on or before the first date of the team visit, in order to meet up with the timelines for the Annual Performance Appraisals, APA.

He said “We are mindful that the integrity of the SFTAS programme and of the IVA is paramount, and we appeal to all States to play fair. Our team members have been provided with all they need and are being well compensated. We urge all states not to offer any gifts, inducements or similar to any of our team members. They have been put on alert and instructed to reports any such offers.

“We also request that each state takes charge of the team security from the date of their arrival, all through their movements in the State, and until they have been safely received by the next State.”

Also speaking, the National Programme Coordinator for SFTAS at the Ministry, Bello Abdulmajeed, who was represented by his deputy, said the desire of the team is to see that the outcomes are in line with the objectives of this programme and expressed confidence that the OAuGF will deliver on its assigned responsibilities.

“We have a lot of confidence in the Supreme Audit Institution that we are going to achieve all our objectives. We have timelines and I would want all of us to strive to meet with those timelines which we have jointly agreed on,” he said.

Abdulmajeed also called for the prompt disbursement of funds to states who have met the criteria in the first year, as qualified states were already mounting pressure for the release of these monies.

To be eligible for this grant, the OAUGF said states would need to publish on a timely basis, their approved annual budgets and annual audited financial statements, for each year of the programme.

The states, he added, are further required to align with international best practices in the preparation of their annual budgets and also ensure that their audited financial statements are prepared in accordance with accepted standards.

It said, “This means that states were to publish on their websites, their audited financial statements for 2017 by the 31st of December 2018, as well as their 2019 budget by 28 February 2019, and 24 out of 36 States met both criteria and will be able to receive disbursements if they meet any of the DLIs. The remaining 12 states will also be assessed, but are not eligible for grants in this first year; however, their assessment reports will help them prepare better for subsequent years.

“The assessment of eligibility for the second year of SFTAS (2019) has commenced with 30 September 2019 being the deadline by which states were to publish online their financial statements for the year 2018. 33 States were found to have met that criteria. The exercise will be concluded early in 2020 going by the second deadline of 31 January 2020 for States to publish their 2020 Budgets online.

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“The SFTAS programme is part of efforts of the Federal Government to further enhance the transparency and accountability in the use of public resources through the implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which Nigeria signed to in July 2016, and will cover the fiscal performance of states between 2018-2021.”



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