Corruption: I saved billions of dollars as finance minister, says Okonjo-Iweala

Corruption: I saved billions of dollars as finance minister,
says Okonjo-Iweala
Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has
advised governments across the world to be more
transparent and accountable amid the coronavirus
She observed that many countries are battling corruption in
the procurement of medical supplies including personal
protective equipment, stressing that governments should
“publish all tenders and all contracts” and “companies
receiving funds should not be anonymous”.
The ex-World Bank director stated this in a piece titled, ‘To
Beat Covid-19, Governments Need to Open Up’ published
on Bloomberg.
Okonjo-Iweala, who presently serves on the board of
Bloomberg Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health, recalled
her two tenures as Nigeria’s finance minister from 2003 to
2006 as well as between 2011 and 2015.
She said while serving with the President Olusegun
Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan’s
administrations, she worked hard to open up information
and tackle corruption, saving billions of dollars that were
channeled to other priorities.
The Nigerian candidate for the position of director-general
at the World Trade Organisation, wrote, “Getting medical
equipment, and eventually vaccines, to those that need
them most poses a major governance challenge. Already,
many countries are battling price gouging, collapsing supply
chains and even corruption in the procurement of supplies,
including personal protective equipment. Out of
desperation, governments have contracted with suppliers
who have no track record of delivering the equipment they
need. Too often those suppliers have failed.
“The only way to make emergency procurement fast and
efficient is to do it in the open by publishing all tenders and
all contracts.
“This openness should extend to the emergency budgets
that have been established to fund healthcare systems and
economic stimulus packages. Even in normal times, finance
ministries need to publish their budgets in a way that
encourages accountability and citizen engagement. Right
now, it is even more important to reassure taxpayers that
funds are being spent on the right priorities.
“Opening up procurement and budgets can only have the
desired effect if citizens and civil society are empowered to
follow the money.
“During my tenure as Nigerian finance minister, we worked
hard in a difficult governance environment to open up
information and tackle corruption. Though it was not easy,
we saved billions of dollars that were channeled to other
“At a time when many governments are rapidly mobilizing
financial resources from their own budgets, international
markets and donors, it is vital that funds are not wasted.
Working in an open way will build trust with citizens and
lenders, and it will ensure money reaches the neediest.
“When this pandemic is brought to an end, one legacy
should be an expectation for more open government that
makes better decisions, uses resources more wisely and
puts citizens first.”

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