Sunday, November 1, 2020

Nigeria identifies loopholes in government corruption

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In its determination to fight corruption in the polity, the Nigerian Federal Government has identified at least 23 means through which politicians and other government officials divert public funds.

This is even as government may soon consider the possibility of “exporting” the whistle-blowing policy to the United States, United Kingdom and other countries where former governors and other Nigerians are suspected to have diverted public funds.

The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), made the disclosures, yesterday, in Abuja, at a two-day roundtable workshop on “entrenching whistle blowing in regulatory and revenue generating agencies.”

The roundtable was organised by the PACAC, in conjunction with civil society organisations (CSOs).

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According to Sagay, the analysis by the Federal Ministry of Finance of the types of infractions reported in 781 cases was revealing.

Some of the alleged infractions, as listed in the “analysis of actionable tips”, include: contract inflation and conversion of government assets to personal use, ghost workers, payment of unapproved funds, embezzlement of salaries of terminated personnel, diversion of excess crude oil funds, improper reduction of financial penalties, diversion of funds meant for distribution to a particular group of people (farmers), and diversion of funds to personal commercial bank account to earn interest.

Others are: Failure to implement projects for which funds have been provided, embezzlement of funds meant for payment of personal (personnel) emoluments, violation of TSA regulations by keeping funds in commercial banks, violation of FIRS (VAT) regulation by adjusting Value Added Tax payment, non-procurement of equipment required for aviation safety, money laundering and diversion of funds meant for approved projects, as well as illegal sale of government assets.

Further violations, according to the actionable tips, include: Diversion of revenue, (IGR), financial misappropriation (embezzlement), concealed bailout funds, mismanagement of microfinance banks, illegal recruitments, and violation of procurement act.

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In his welcome address, Sagay maintained that the whistle-blowing policy of government, which was introduced in December 2016, had been largely successful.

To buttress this position, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), reiterated the point that, as at November 2019, the Federal Government had recovered a total of N594.09 billion from the implementation of the policy.

It was against the backdrop of the said feat, that the professor of law advocated a legislative framework, with a view to giving the initiative legal teeth.

“The (whistle-blowing) policy has been very successful, not only in terms of assets actually recovered through information provided by whistle blowers, but also by revelation of the infinite variety of scams used by fraudulent Nigerians in swindling the government and people of Nigeria,” Sagay said.

He added that the policy created a reward system for informants who led to recovery of funds as they received between 2.5 and 5.0 per cent of the total amount recovered.

“The policy has been very successful, not only in terms of assets actually recovered through information provided by whistle blowers, but also by revelation of the infinite variety of scams used by fraudulent Nigerians in swindling government and people of Nigeria.

“The Ministry of Finance’s analysis of the type of infractions reported in 791 cases was most revealing with the highest being 148 cases from embezzlement of funds meant for payment personnel emoluments with 113 cases completed.




“Non-remittance of pension and NHIS deductions amounted to 137 cases, out of which 102 cases has been completed while financial misappropriations amounted to 86 cases out of which 76 cases had been completed.

“Embezzlement of salaries of terminated personnel amounted to 62 completed cases while failure to implement projects for which funds have provided amounted to 61 ongoing cases.

“Violation of TSA regulations by keeping funds in commercial banks amounted to 58 completed cases, diversion of revenue totalled 54 cases. Others are illegal recruitment, 33 cases, violation of procurement Act, 36, among others,” he said.

Sagay also seized the moment to disclose requests by Nigerians living abroad for the government to “export” the whistle-blowing policy as, according to them, it will help expose property owned by former governors and others, through fronts.

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“I believe this is a worthwhile process deserving consideration by our anti-corruption agencies and the Federal Ministry of Justice, particularly under the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements we already have with many developed countries,” he stated.

In his remarks, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba, underscored the importance role whistle-blowing plays in the fight against corruption.

Represented by his aide, Dr. Philip Ugbodaga, the minister said: “The important dimension of fighting corruption, including the whistle-blowing policy of government, has emerged as an important step forward to bringing development to the people.

“Despite the advancements that have been made, legal frameworks are often not comprehensive enough, enforcement may be weak while internal procedures may also not be well applied.

“If adequately implemented, whistleblowers’ entrenchment in regulatory and revenue-generating agencies can be one of the primary instruments to eliminate all forms of unethical behaviour, opaqueness and institutional corruption, while bringing about progress and development across sectors.”

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