Nigeria will redeem its pledge to fund ACBF’s New Strategy (2017-2021) when a backlog of disbursements from the country’s 2018 National Budget, whose approval was delayed by Parliament, begin to clear. Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance confirmed this during interactions with an ACBF Mission to Nigeria in mid-July 2018, headed by Executive Secretary Prof Emmanuel Nnadozie.
The Ministry explained that it had taken long to redeem its pledge because of a delay by Parliament to approve the 2018 National Budget, which was only done in May, leading to a backlog of disbursements.
By mid-July (when the ACBF Mission attended Afreximbank’s 25th Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in Abuja), the Ministry of Finance had not yet started making disbursements from the Budget.
The Ministry, however, promised to redeem its pledge once disbursements begin as a provision for the redemption had been made in the Budget.
In another development, ACBF will support the capacity building activities of the Nigeria Ministry of Finance (MoF) following a request for grant support by the Ministry.
The $200,000 project forms part of efforts by ACBF to enhance capacities in the MoF by equipping senior and middle level management, and other technical staff with skills to enable them to effectively perform their duties.
Therefore, one of the objectives of the ACBF Mission to Abuja was to support the MoF to adequately prepare for the implementation of the project so it achieves the intended goals.
As a result, the Missionworked with the MoF’s Project Management Team (PMT), which was drawn from three departments of the Ministry – namely, the International Economic Relations Department, the Finance Office, and the Legal Department.
Being a first time direct recipient of an ACBF grant, the Ministry needed an orientation course by ACBF, and the Mission to Abuja was at hand to provide the required processes and policies relating to grant management and project implementation.
The orientation exercise covered how to prepare a work plan and budget in line with ACBF formats, among other things. This will help the PMT to conduct comparative analysis of costs in determining the choice of training locations.
The Mission therefore took the PMT through the grant agreement (otherwise known as the “Letter of Agreement”) and used the listed activities as basis to prepare a draft work plan, which was to be finalized after further consultations with the Director of Department.
Once the final draft work plan is produced, it will be shared with ACBF’s M&E expert who will assist the PMT to develop a Results Measurement Framework, and a Monitoring & Evaluation Plan.
At the time of the mission, the MoF had started a process to open a Special Account for the project. But the Mission explained that although the opening of a direct account was a good one, it was equally important for the Ministry to consider the option of receiving the funds through a third party, in this case the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), especially if the Ministry encounters difficulties in setting up the Special Account.
But after further consultations, the PMT informed the Mission that the Ministry preferred to directly receive the project funds. Therefore the account opening process continued with the relevant institutions, including the Central Bank of Nigeria.
However, contrary to the stipulation of the Letter of Agreement that the grant be used in accordance with ACBF policies, including the Foundation’s travel policy, the PMT expressed its desire to apply local financial regulations approved by the Federal Government to the use of the grant, especially in relation to travel.
The Mission explained that for the Ministry to use its own rules, it would have to formally apply for exemption from the ACBF, and it would be only when a waiver had been granted that the Ministry could use local financial regulations.
Upon further reflection, the PMT decided to apply the ACBF policies, and both sides agreed that the Mission would share a copy of the Foundation’s travel policy and the World Bank’s per diem rates with the PMT.
Generally, ACBF procedures require that grant proceeds be subjected to an external audit. However, for small grants this has not always been the case. Therefore, the Mission informed the PMT that a good option would be to allow Federal auditors who audit Ministries to audit the project, subject to the inclusion of ACBF’s terms of reference (TORs) for audits.
The Mission also explained to the PMT that there would be two additional levels of auditing to be done during the life of the project. These would be done by missions sent by the ACBF Internal Audit Department, and a scrutiny of application for disbursements to be done by the ACBF Finance Department.
On the whole, the Mission to Abuja achieved its objectives, which included the finalization of the signing of the grant agreement with the MoF, and the orientation course for the MoF’s staff.
Also, the direct engagement with country partners enabled the resolution of issues by ACBF and the Ministry. Until then the Ministry had different expectations in terms of how the project would be managed. However, when the Mission engaged the Ministry directly, it (the MoF) accepted to comply with the ACBF procedures.