The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has said it has the discovered 257 duplicated projects in the 2021 budget amounting to N20.138 billion.
ICPC chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed this at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, with the theme: “Corruption and Coat of Government New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency”, organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and the ICPC.
According to him, the commission also uncovered a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service who corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enroll them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work.
He said ICPC was already prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whose custody was retrieved several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission and other high-ranking Nigerians.
Owasanoye said ICPC’s tracking covered 1,083 projects across the country with the exception of Borno and Zamfara States due to security challenges.
He said the exercise verified the implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators.
He added that, so far, action has been initiated against 67 contractors and forced them back to sites and ensured the completion of 966 projects worth N310 billion some of which were hitherto abandoned.
The ICPC boss added that there is a mini-civil war going on between some boards and management and, sometimes, within the board.
He said these squabbles are as a result of abuse of power prohibited by ICPC Act and unreasonable demands by some Board members for privileges contrary to extant circulars and laws and government’s resolve to minimise cost of governance.
“ICPC is committed to supporting the programmes and projects of government one of which is restraining the spiraling cost of governance.
“This is why the theme of this summit is Corruption and the Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency.
“Your Excellency has publicly acknowledged a number of times that your government inherited a number of challenges since 2015 when you assumed office, including but not limited to, an empty purse and the lack of savings when the economy boomed.
“A major aspect was the astronomical cost of governance at the federal and sub national levels. This has continued to reflect in the huge wage bill on personnel and operational cost standing at about 70 per cent of annual budget,” he said.
According to the ICPC boss, 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 and budget padding, among others.
He went on: “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.
“Sir, the third phase of ICPC’s projects tracking covered 1083 projects across entire country with exception of Borno and Zamfara due to security challenges.
“The exercise verified implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators. We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310billion some of which were hitherto abandoned.
“Our findings indicate that the same malady of corruption afflicts executive as well as zip projects thus undermining government projections, escalating the cost of governance and denying Nigeria value for money.
“These maladies include poor needs assessment that disconnects projects from beneficiaries; false certification of uncompleted contracts as completed, deliberate under performance of contracts, incessant criminal diversion and conversion of public property by civil servants, to name just a few.
“Other challenges relate to duplication of projects in the budget. ICPC review found that 257 projects amounting to N20.138bn were duplicated in the 2021 budget leading us to submit an advisory to the HMF which was promptly actioned by the minister to prevent abuse.”
Owasanoye further noted ICPC’s Ethics Compliance Scorecard of MDAs report for 2021 shows that only 34.6 per cent 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,” he said.
PMB Vows To Sanction Heads Of Indicted MDAs
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari warned that his administration would not hesitate to punish heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.
President Buhari, in a statement by presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the federal government will sanction those who bring in personnel into the public workforce by illegal recruitment, pad their payroll and retain ghost workers.
‘‘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.
‘‘Government has, however, noted from the activities of the ICPC that some MDAs have devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects.
‘‘Necessary action and sanctions will continue against the heads of such errant MDAs. I am confident that ICPC will continue to maintain the vigilance required of her by the ICPC Act in this regard,’’ he said.
The president described the summit with the theme “Corruption and Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency,” as auspicious.
‘‘I am delighted that the Legislative and Judicial arms of government are also under focus on managing the cost of governance because government is a collective and is not the business of the Executive branch alone.
“On 19th August 2020, the Federal Executive Council adopted the National Ethics and Integrity Policy which I launched on 25th September 2020.
‘‘I am delighted that some public officers continue not only to demonstrate the core values of ethics, integrity and patriotism but have been identified for their sterling anti-corruption disposition in their workplace,’’ he said.
A highpoint of the event attended by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad and a representative of Senate President Ahmed Lawan was the presentation of the 2021 Public Service Integrity Awards to three distinguished Nigerians.
They are Nelson Okoronkwo, deputy director, Legal, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture; Muhammad Ahmad, assistant commander of narcotics, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and Ikenna Nweke, a PhD student, from Imo State, studying in Japan.
Okoronkwo, who was recognised for his consistent acts of integrity in the different ministries where he has served, is a committee member on fertilizer distribution that led to the recovery of billions of naira from racketeers with collaborators within the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He was credited to have reported corrupt practices that led to the Ogoni cleanup investigation in the Federal Ministry Environment.
As Committee chairman on Illegal Recruitment in the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the deputy director facilitated the detection and removal of over 3,000 fake employees from the Service, thereby saving the government billions of naira in terms of salaries and emoluments.
The NDLEA officer, Ahmad, was recognised for demonstrating the highest ideals and standards of the public service in the discharge of his responsibilities.
Also, a recipient of the Chairman/Chief Executive Award for Outstanding Performance and Integrity, Ahmad recently recovered and declared to his Agency the sum of $24,500 offered to him as bribe by a drug baron to compromise an investigation of 27.950 kg of cocaine, worth billions of naira
Nweke, the Nigerian PhD student in Japan who found a wallet containing a very large amount of money and other valuables, returned it to the Japanese police. He declined 10 per cent of the money offered to him as a reward.
The Nigerian, who joined the event virtually from his base in Japan, was recognised for his act of ‘‘honesty and integrity,’’ by the president.
On Nweke, President Buhari said: ‘‘I am also happy to note the ICPC special award to Ikenna Steve Nweke, a Nigerian PhD student from Imo State studying in Japan.
‘‘He has made Nigeria proud in far-away Japan by displaying traditional Nigerian values of honesty and integrity.
“He is indeed an icon and a beacon for our youths. I also congratulate all those to be awarded the ICPC Certificate of Integrity through their agencies.’’