Group photo after the meeting
Following our continued quest and un-relentless efforts to ensure Transparency and Accountability in the management of public finance in tertiary education institutions, Basic Rights Watch (BRW) in partnership with Connected Development (CODE), paid a courtesy call on the Executive Secretary (ES) of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) on Wednesday the 2nd of August, 2017.
The meeting was for the management of TETFUND to share information on the ongoing implementation of the NGN 213 billion 2016 Annual Intervention to tertiary institutions. The 2016 intervention is being disbursed in 2017, of which each Federal University will receive NGN 1.009 billion. On the flip side, the meeting was for BRW to share its experiences so far in tracking the fund’s usage. Since we learnt of the presidential approval in February of this year for the disbursement, we have been interacting with around 10 Federal Universities over a receipt of their project proposals for implementation and update on when they have gotten the first tranche of the intervention. The back-breaking to and fro in accessing the project proposals from these universities resulted in we paying a visit to TETFUND. In furtherance, the meeting was for us to get perspicacity over the regime of the disbursement and release details.
The meeting started at about 1:15 pm with a brief introduction of all present including the ES of TETFUND, Dr. Abdullahi Baffa Bichi; Mr. Austin Ekwujuru,BRW CEO; Hamzat B. Lawal, CODE CEO Mrs. Oganya E. Simon, General Manager NTA Channel 5 Abuja; Okeoghene E. Oghenekaro, News Agency Of Nigeria Correspondent; Ibrahim Mohammed, Assistant Manager Marketing, NTA Channel 5 Abuja;Chidinma Elendu, volunteer of Basic Rights Watch etc.
In our opening remarks, our lead, Austin commended Dr. Abdullahi Baffa Bichi on his achievements since assumption of office. H e also briefly stated the objectives of the organization in line with the open financial government. Austin requested for information sharing collaboration and partnership between TETFUND and Basic Rights Watch. He went further to request for the project proposals submitted to TETFUND by federal universities to access the aforementioned intervention. In addition, he asked after the challenges associated with the 2016 intervention access and how the universities are coming along with meeting up with the requirements, as well as if any university has accessed the first trench of the fund.
Similarly, Hamzat B. Lawal of Connected Development, briefly stated that his organization explores partnership with agencies like TETFUND and the media to enhance open government policies and ensure that information gets to the public. Still, in the same vein, the General Manager of NTA Channels 5 stated that the media partner with, CSOs and Government Agencies to enhance information sharing.
The ES of Tetfund appreciated the courtesy visit while stating that the biggest TETFUND allocation was that of 2016. Dr. Abdullahi Baffa Bichi said that most universities are yet to access these funds because there are criteria required before each institution can access. He said one of the important criteria is that the universities have to complete the execution of projects funded by previous interventions. Upon, that, TETFUND would have to inspect and be satisfied with the project carried out and retirements should be made before finances from new intervention could be given.
in addition, the Executive Secretary explained that he will not be able to release the project proposals submitted by tertiary institutions as it compromises the bidding process of contracting. He said, for now, such information is highly confidential. However, he said that when the projects have been contracted out and all the necessary things have been done, then it can become a public document.
He further stated that a lot of work and thousands of man hours have been put in to ensure that the proper things are done concerning the allocations and disbursement of funds. He said that access clinics have been provided to enable TETFUND understand each institution’s challenges in accessing their funds. He revealed that some institutions are not even aware they have allocations at TETFUND And that in some cases, some institutions lack the proper manpower and desk officers to effectively handle the work while others have problems due to the contractors in charge of their projects. He also stated that another mechanism employed by TETFUND is budget proposal defense by each institution to clearly state what they want to do with the fund which must be in compliance with TETFUND mandate and the institution’s needs. To combat the deficit of information among the beneficiaries, the Executive Secretary stated that Tetfund is carrying out awareness seminars in institutions to raise awareness about the allocation, TETFUND and other things the institutions need to know. He stated that 2 universities have been visited and that they would be going to 6 more universities next week and others subsequently.
A major outcome of the meeting was that the ES intimated the team of the TETFUND monthly digest whose publication would be starting next month. According to him, this monthly digest will contain all the disbursements made, all the approvals given, all the retirements returned, conferences held and all other important information. He stated that it will be disbursed to all tertiary institutions, all stakeholders and be open to the public. He appreciated the group once again for the courtesy visit.
The meeting came to a close at about 1:50 pm with a group photograph of all present at the meeting.
Chidnma Elendu is a volunteer at Basic Rights Watch. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org