FG to punish officers involved in budget padding, illegal recruitment, others

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President Muhammadu Buhari

…Systemic corruption prevents govt from achieving its potentials — SGF

…As ICPC indicts Ministries, UTH Ibadan, others over recruitment fraud

…Unravels N20.138bn worth of project duplicates in 2021 Budget

The Federal government has expressed its commitment to mete out severe punishment on public officers involved in illegal recruitments, personnel payroll padding, those culpable of retaining ghost workers and other corrupt practices in the public service.

The President, Muhammadu Buhari made this known at the 3rd National Anti-Corruption Summit themed,  “Corruption and the Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency” which had in attendance, key government officials and Heads of Ministries.

The President stated that corruption across all levels of governance portend serious trouble for the nation’s economy.

According to him, “The rising cost of governance at the Federal, State and Local Government Levels is of serious concern. It has been attributed to many factors not the least of which is that, our federal system of government lays down the number of Ministers for the Federal cabinet.

“Reforms are needed but every reform has inherent costs and pains.

“Government will strike a balance to maintain social equilibrium, mitigate the pains of reforms and at the same time reduce the cost of governance.”

While giving a stern warning for corrupt officials, the President said, “those who illegally bring in personnel into the public workforce by illegal recruitment, those who pad their personnel payroll, those who retain ghost workers must be named and will be severely punished.”

Buhari, while explaining the federal government efforts in rendering critical social services to the public, said, “We reduced the cost of governance by maintaining our promise to complete abandoned or ongoing projects commenced by previous administrations and have ensured that MDAs do not put forward new capital projects at the expense of ongoing projects.”

Systemic corruption prevents govt from achieving its potentials — SGF

At the same event, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha maintained that systemic corruption has prevented government from achieving its full potentials, stressing Federal government commitment to eliminate the menace of corruption in Nigeria.

According to him, “Systemic corruption prevents government from maximizing its potential of providing good governance for the people with available little resources especially at this time of Covid-19 pandemic.

“Government is highly worried that about 60 per cent of Federal Government’s Overhead Expenditure in three years (2012 to 2014) was spent on travels, maintenance, local and international training, welfare, office stationery / consumables, honoraria etc.”

Recent data from the Budget Office indicates that “actual MDAs recurrent spending is still on the rise viz. from N3.61 trillion in 2015 to N5.26 trillion in 2018 and N7.91 trillion in 2020.”

He further expressed displeasure over the continued over-bloated overhead expenditure in the last nine years.

ICPC indicts Ministries, UTH Ibadan, others over recruitment fraud, says N20.138bn worth of project duplicated in 2021 Budget

On his part, the Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offices Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN revealed that investigation has fingered Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, headed by Dr Chris Ngige, University Teaching Hospital Ibadan and other Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) for illegal recruitment fraud.

The Anti-Corruption body disclosed that it has unraveled N20.138b worth of projects duplication in 2021 Budget.

ICPC further added that through its projects monitoring and enforcement initiative, contractors of federal government projects have returned to sites leading to the completion of 966 projects worth N310b across Nigeria.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman ICPC, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN said, “ICPC is committed to supporting the programs and projects of government one of which is restraining the spiraling cost of governance.

“Your Excellency sir, a major push factor on high cost of governance and rising personnel budget is illegal recruitment, illegal and unilateral increase in wages and remuneration by some MDAs, indiscriminate local and international travels, unreasonable demands by some political appointee board members of MDAs without regard for extant circulars on cost management; procurement fraud, budget padding, etc.”

He revealed that, “ICPC investigation of some cases of illegal recruitment forwarded to us by Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has so far implicated Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital Ibadan and a number of corrupt staff of other MDAs at a lower level. This abuse of power is consummated with complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS. These cases are currently under investigation.

“We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310b some of which were hitherto abandoned.

“ICPC review found that 257 projects amounting to N20.138billion were duplicated in the 2021.

“ICPC’s Ethics Compliance Scorecard of MDAs report for 2021 shows that only 34.6% of the 360 MDAs assessed scored above average in Management Culture and Structure. This poor finding is not unrelated to unstable Boards unable to effectively oversight the institutions.”

Owasanoye said ICPC is contributing to government’s efforts by its IFF focused project that has resulted in a major advisory to government with recommendations including prohibiting confidentiality clauses that facilitate fraud and money laundering, prevention of tax evasion, prohibition of illegal tax waivers and all practices that undermine government revenue projections.

He said Inter-Agency Committee has organized a number of capacity building programs for civil servant on how to avoid fraud and IFF prone agreements.

He advised that government should invest more in prevention and behaviour change strategies alongside law and order measures to fight corruption.

Major highlight of the event was when President Buhari recognized the winners of the 2021 ICPC Public Service Integrity Awards.

They are Mr. Muhammad Tukur Ahmad, Narcotics Officer of NDLEA and Mr. Nelson Orji Okoronkwo of Federal Ministry of Information.

Also, Mr. Ikenna Steve Nweke a Nigerian student in Japan who has been appointed pioneer ICPC Citizen Anti-Corruption Volunteer Group Icon for his exemplary act of integrity of finding and returning intact a wallet containing substantial sums of money despite his impecunious state as a student.