From the right, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN; Representative of the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning and Permanent Secretary, Special Duties in the Ministry, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi, and Director-General of Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, during a one-day forum organised by the Budget Office of the Federation and ICPC, held at the Auditorium of Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on Wednesday, 17th February, 2021.

…Says students’ feeding expenses posted during lockdown

By Emma Ujah

Corruption has continued across federal government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), despite several measures to curb financial infractions in public offices, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC ), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, has said.

He spoke at a one-day forum titled, “transparency and fiscal discipline in implementation of federal government’s budget” organized for Directors of Finance and Audit, in Abuja, yesterday.

His words, “In general, our findings showed that there was budget manipulation by most MDAs which resulted in MDAs receiving both appropriation and releases beyond their actual needs. While these surpluses were open to the risk of being misappropriated as is tradition.

“Sometimes, at the end of the year, the funds tied down for non-existent personnel deprived government and indeed needy MDAs of much needed funds to apply to other critical but underfunded areas, especially overhead and capital development.”

The ICPC boss added that a review of budget implementation across MDAs, showed various forms of financial manipulations and frauds perpetuated by the civil servants.

According to him, ” In 2019 ICPC reviewed 208 agencies of government that are funded from the Federal Treasury and came up with outstanding results which included discovery of N31.8bn personnel cost surpluses for 2017 and 2018, and misapplication of N19.8bn and N9.2bn from Personnel Cost and Capital Fund respectively.

“Consequent on these findings N42bn unspent surplus allocations for personnel cost for 2019 alone was blocked from possible abuse and pilfering mostly from health and some educational institutions. This implies that if we had covered the entire civil service structure of all MDAs the figures would be staggering”, he said.

“In 2020 we extended the review with more focus on health and education sectors which touch the lives of ordinary citizens and are critical to meeting any of the internationally recognized development goals but is a major headache to budget execution.

“In addition, we commenced a review of educational institutions indicted in the 2017 Auditor-General’s annual audit report for a wider range of financial infractions. A number of investigations are on-going on this as we have instituted a mechanism for continuous review of current and subsequent annual audit reports”.

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Prof. Owasanoye stated federal government’s launch of the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) in December 2019, to curb corruption in MDAs was yet to change the tide.

“In December 2019 the federal government launched the Open Treasury Portal (OTP) onto which all payments from N5m and above by MDAs are uploaded for the purpose of transparency and public scrutiny.

“We immediately began studying payment data on the portal again with focus on educational and health institutions. While at it, the issue of payments of feeding allowance to federal unity secondary schools was thrown up and we had to carry out further investigations on expenditure on meal subsidy releases that remained constant despite the lockdown during which schools were closed and students away at home.

“ In response to our findings, government set up the Transparency Portal Quality Assurance and Compliance Committee with ICPC as a member. The Committee now scrutinizes payments on the portal and periodically sends lists of agencies with serious infraction for further review and sometimes investigation and enforcement action.

“In the spirit of collaboration, we report back our findings on cases of fraud or unaccounted for funds a number of which investigations are ongoing.

“The review is carried out on month-by-month transactions and is, therefore, an ongoing exercise and despite confronting erring ministries and MDAs with federal circulars prohibiting these activities, the infractions continue thus stronger measures on the part of government and anti-corruption agencies are inevitable”.

The ICPC boss said that despite the introduction of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), personnel budget was still being used by government officials to steal from the treasury.

Personnel funds, he said were usually expended on, “expenditure types including DTA (Duty Tour Allowance) and estacode, electricity, water and sewage bills, procurement of diesel and stationery, payment of transport allowance and flight fares, payment of wages for outsourced services and ad hoc (locum, visiting and at times illegal employees), as well as illegal allowances.”

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