James Emejo in Abuja
The Senior Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Mrs. Mariam Uwais, Thursday inaugurated third party monitors for the National Social Safety Nets Project (NSSNP). The monitors were drawn from the civil society organisations to bring sanity and transparency to the scheme.
They are expected to monitor disbursements funds and give their assessment of the level of implementation of the project across the country.
The introduction of third party agents came against recent reports of alleged under dealings by some unscrupulous people who shortchanged the poor the scheme was meant to serve.
Uwais said the agency had been working with security agencies to prosecute anyone implicated in underhand dealings, which would serve as a deterrent.
Essentially, Uwais said: “We want to get the report and we want to be able to respond swiftly so that those that are actually committing these malpractices don’t feel they have impunity that they will do it and get away with it. We need to have examples out there of what happens to those who steal from poor people.”
She said the monitors should see their tasks as a collective effort to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are not shortchanged.
She said: “We have seen and heard a number of issues that have arisen and we have been trying to ensure that a lot of these malpractices are curbed.
“A lot of our poor people are happy that they are being given this money and they are even afraid to talk because they believe they will be taken off the programme. It is very important that we let them know that nobody can remove them.
She noted the agency was also collaborating with the Department of State Security (DSS) and ICPC to uncover sharp practices.
Uwais said: “That because these people are poor and vulnerable, there are some attempts at trying to extort or bully them and it comes from random quarters, sometimes the youths in the community, sometimes community leaders and sometimes traditional rulers that levy them.
“So, what we are trying to do is to get as much feedback so that we can address them timely. This country is so large and it’s really important that we don’t allow people to steal from the poor people.
“So this is the challenge that we have and this is the challenge we threw out to the civil society monitors that it is never enough.
“We need people to go to them and protect them because people want to dupe them because they are not versatile. They don’t know much about financial transactions and so need people to support them at that end. And this is why I am so thankful that this is going to happen.”
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator, National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), Mr. Iorwa Apera, said the third party monitors would ensure transparency and accountability in the cash transfer programme.
According to him: “We believe this process will encourage transparency and accountable behavior from service providers. The third-party monitoring is designed to have state-based civil society organisations with experience and technical capacity, to monitor the cash transfer programme in the states we operate.
“It will also serve as a mechanism through which beneficiaries and their communities can gain confidence in their ability to get quality service.”