Nigeria: do donors know what they’re spending? (update x2)

You see plenty of reports from development agencies castigating development countries for one reason or another, but the boot is much less often on the other foot.

Interesting then to see this 2008 review (huge pdf download) from Nigeria’s National Planning Commission, which sets out to analyse ‘the volume and quality of Official Development Assistance to Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.’

During this time, $6bn of aid has been spent in Nigeria, almost all of it spent by donors themselves, rather than being rooted through the government’s budget. The Planning Commission’s first job, therefore, was to try and work out who had spent what.

So it sent a template to donors asking for information on what they’d spent and where:

Of all the agencies, USAID was the only agency able to provide almost all the requested information with a little delay. EU was also able to meet most of our requirement, only after about three months delay…

CIDA’s [Canada] claimed disbursement did not tally with what they had actually spent…[It] refused to supply more information when asked [to]…

DFID is another donor that could not account for all its activities. When asked to provide information on the sectors and states DFID is operating in, it simply wrote saying ‘we do not require our programme managers to collect expenditure on a state-by-state basis.’…

JICA [Japan]…did not cooperate at all despite our many efforts to get JICA to collaborate with us.

The UN system was also only ‘partially cooperative’. UNICEF did not provide a breakdown of its health spending, for example (nor did DFID or CIDA). “We do not know exactly what [this] money was spent on,” the report notes. The Chinese government was also asked for data – but the review does not tell us what its response was (read into that what you will).

Donors should be much more transparent accountable for their activities, the Planning Commission concludes, while the Nigerian government “needs to offer clearer and more effective leadership to her development partners both in terms of how and where to operate.”

It lauds the example of Kano and Ondo states. They are robust in their response to ‘intruder donors’ who operate outside a framework established by the state government. That allows leaders to set, and be accountable for, their own development priorities.

Update: Of course, Nigeria’s own statistics are often woefully inadequate, whether at national or at state level. Recently, for example, Kano state has just been counting its schools:

An additional 88 senior secondary schools and 174 private  schools had been ‘discovered’, while in some areas schools had disappeared: the Kano municipality had 10 less junior secondary schools than first thought.

Update II: Worth pointing out, too, that the World Bank, DFID, USAID and African Development Bank recently agreed a joint strategy for Nigeria – bringing 80% of Nigeria’s development assistance under a single strategic umbrella. Somewhat oddly though, it cannot easily be found on any of the donors’ websites. There’s a copy here though.

I wonder if the donors will now move towards a single online platform to show what they’re spending, where, and what results it’s achieving… and, also, how effectively their joint approach is proving (the Bank and DFID have had a joint strategy for some years now) at reducing overhead for Nigerian government and non-government partners.