By Our Reporter
“We call it the No Cheating Machine!”
Bridget Iyaji Odeh is a market trader in Cross River State, Nigeria. She’s referring to an innovative new use of technology to stop corruption by local tax collectors.
Traders like Bridget used to pay in cash only and receive a hand written receipt. This made it easy for tax officials to keep a lot of what they collected off the books – and that led to traders being overcharged and money going missing.
The new technology – introduced with the help of UK aid and Adam Smith International – re-purposes the bank card readers you would usually find in a shop.
The hand-held machines let traders pay by card or cash and the transaction is automatically logged centrally and a receipt printed as proof – meaning there’s no chance for the collectors to skim some hidden cash off the top.
Thanks to the project, over 20 local governments in Nigeria have adopted the new system. By June 2015, a total of £1.9 million had been saved by traders – many of them women – as a result of reduced bribery.
For Bridget and her fellow traders, it’s made a big difference: now they pay 20 Naira in tax each week – instead of up to 100 Naira a day. And it’s had a wider knock-on effect: the market is busier now and, because they’re paying the set flat rate rather than per item, they feel free to display all their goods without fear of the tax collector exploiting them.
Tax is just one arena where UK aid is helping Nigeria to beat unfair practices. With British backing, Nigeria is cracking down on corruption – recovering $6.2 billion of cash over the last 4 years and charging 338 people with corruption offences.