Estonian press: How Nortal helped find Nigeria’s missing seven billion euros

by Nortal HQ, November 29, 2017

Nortal employees, who were organizing and sorting out Nigeria’s public finances, discovered that the state budget was written down in books of graph paper and tens of thousands of non-existent phantom employees were being paid salaries, Estonian weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress reported.

Vitali Korniltsev, project manager at Nortal, recalls that the situation in the African country was inconceivable. The public accounts of the country, with a population of 186 million, were kept in A4 graph paper notebooks. Some officials had never even used a computer, never mind worked with sophisticated IT systems.

The Nigerian government had about 20,000 bank accounts from which payments were made. Simply put, Nigeria had no control whatsoever over its revenues and expenditures.

Nortal’s task was to get rid of the notebooks and create the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), part of which involved setting up a Treasury Single Account. All this was done to have a transparent overview of the state’s finances. Initially, Nortal faced some resistance in the government sector — not everybody in Nigeria was interested in the government being able to track all the financial information.

Tens of thousands ghost workers discovered

In the course of the migration to the digital system, Nortal discovered that Nigeria had 60,000 ghost workers who had been paid a salary for years. Besides paying phantom employees, the state also paid a number of ‘government agencies’ that did not actually exist in the state structure.

Nortal’s representatives do not say whether new means of public money misusage could be invented by the users of the implemented treasury management system. Andre Krull, Chief Operating Officer at Nortal, noted that the system is operational and the World Bank has confirmed that Nigeria is no longer the black hole it used to be.

A number of reputable international companies have recently announced that they are considering doing business in Nigeria. One such company is Transferwise, a company with an Estonian background, which resumed provision of their services to Nigerians this autumn. Transferwise’s manager Kristo Käärmann told Reuters that Transferwise has received 10,000 requests for foreign currency transfers to Nigeria.

According to the World Bank, foreign currency transfers are the second-most important source of foreign currency for Nigeria after oil revenues.

Korniltsev says that working in Nigeria was very interesting and broadened his perspective. African countries had previously all seemed similar to him, but now he no longer thinks so. And coming home confirmed for him that Estonia is an excellent place to live.

To find out more about how Nortal helped transform Nigeria, read our case study.

Nortal participated at the EU-Africa Business Forum this week to encourage contacts between Europe and Africa. Read more about Nortal’s work in Africa here.

Vitali Korniltsev

Vitali Korniltsev, Account Manager at Nortal, has in-depth experience on creating strategic change in difficult environments. Having worked on projects in Nigeria and Botswana, he knows how to go through a digital transformation from working on paper to having a fully electronic ecosystem. To see how he could help your organization take the next leap of digitalization, get in touch with him via email.