More hardship for Nigerians over govt. aggressive revenue drive
Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria's Finance Minister

By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Federal government revenue crisis may not entirely be attributed to low receipts from both oil and non-oil sources, as indications have emerged that thriving corruption in ministries, agencies and departments is causing massive plundering of resources.

Checks by BusinessHallmark show that government may have lost about N4 trillion in 2021 to corruption in the public sector.

Just last week, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto dioceses, in an Easter message described the corruption under the leadership of President Buhari at a level never known before and wondered how a government that came to power to fight it is so enmeshed in it.

“The corruption, impunity and lack of accountability that characterise ministries, departments and agencies in the Nigerian public Service and bureaucracy are mind-boggling”, says Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist.

According to him, MDAs constitute a clog in the wheel of economic development in the country, saying “successive governments have continued to pay lip service to this cancerous tumor.”

Moritiwon says aside theft of public funds, MDAs fuel high cost of governance and rising personnel budget as a result of illegal recruitment, illegal contracts and unilateral increase in wages and remuneration.

Two years ago, ICPC chairman, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye noted that “MDAs’ 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, often increase cost of governance.”

In 2019, ICPC said it had uncovered gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation as well as padding of nominal role by some Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies amounting to N18.62 billion. Owasanoye said the discovery of the scam followed the launching of the ICPC’s System Study and Review of MDA Practices involving over 300 MDAs.

He stated then that the culprit MDAs were mostly academic and health institutions. For example, according to him, preliminary findings then showed the following: University of Benin Teaching Hospital N1.1bn; Federal Medical Centre, Bayelsa N915m; Nnamdi Azikwe University N907m; University of Jos N896m; University College Hospital Ibadan N701m; Usman Dan Fodio University N636m and University of Ibadan N558m, were involved.

Other findings of ICPC as at then include failure of some MDAs to remit tax and diversion of pension and NHIS deductions for unrelated payments thus aggravating the sufferings of other Nigerians. Some MDAs reportedly abused the e-payment policy of government, thus making payments through staff accounts instead of to actual beneficiaries.

Example was cited of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources where N3.3bn was paid out in about a month through the accounts of staff. ICPC said it arrested 59 directors of the ministry for investigation.

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, ICPC Chairman at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service and Presentation of Public Service Integrity Award made another startling revelation when he said that the Commission has uncovered gross abuse of personnel budget as well as duplication of projects by some federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies amounting to over N20.138bn.

The duplication and padding occurred in the implementation of the 2021 budget and involved about 257 projects. The anti-graft agency said then that it was investigating the Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital Ibadan as well as corrupt staff members in other MDAs suspected of massive illegal recruitment.

Owasanoye said ICPC, through its project tracking, found out that skyrocketing personnel in many MDAs was attributable to massive budgetary scams, including illegal recruitment, unilateral increase in wages, indiscriminate travels, among others.

Talking about the modus operandi of some of the rogue elements in the civil service, the ICPC boss said the malfeasance the anti-graft agency uncovered in the recruitment process by some MDAs including the labour ministry is perpetrated with the connivance of some staff members of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

He was quoted as saying that At another level, a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enrolling them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work.

“ICPC is prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whose custody we retrieved several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, Hon Ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission and other high ranking Nigerians.”

ICPC further revealed that The third phase of ICPCs projects tracking covered 1,083 projects across the entire country with the exception of Borno and Zamfara states due to security challenges. The exercise verified the implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators.

The anti-corruption agency said it has so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to the site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310bn some of which were hitherto abandoned.

Owasanoye said the findings of his commission 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 underperformance of contracts incessant criminal diversion and conversion of public property by civil servants, to name just a few.
The ICPC boss said some MDAs had mini-civil wars going on between their boards and managements and sometimes within the board.

These squabbles revolve around abuse of power prohibited by ICPC Act and unreasonable demands by some Board members for privileges contrary to extant circulars and laws and governments resolve to minimise the cost of governance.

He added, ICPCs Ethics Compliance Scorecard of MDAs report for 2021 showed 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.

Recently, House of Representatives, summoned the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to appear before it and clear the air on huge monetary expenditure of government funds without recourse to extant financial rules.
The development was sequel to a resolution of the House joint committees on Anti-corruption and Public Service Matters at its inaugural sitting presided by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.

The Speaker, who was represented by the House Leader, Alhassan Doguwa, lamented the absence of heads of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) at the public hearing, aimed at curtailing theft of public funds by government officials.

The representative of the ICPC, Bako Gad, a consultant with the commission, told the lawmakers that the ICPC was conducting a systematic review of the MDAs and their processes to uncover stolen funds from the government treasury.

According to Gad, the system review exercise has helped the government to recover over N61 billion last year from the yearly unspent funds that accrue from personnel costs, saying the support of the finance ministry has eased the exercise.

The House said it uncovered how the Federal Fire Service (FFS) expended over N1 billion on recruitment and logistics between 2017 to date without recourse to laid down financial rules.

Commandant-General (CG) of the Service, Ibrahim Liman, who appeared before the House Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Oluwole Oke, could not give satisfactory answers to the lawmakers on the issues raised.

The CG also failed to back up his explanations with relevant documents, necessitating the committee to write to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) seeking the account statements and expenditure of the Service.

There have been yawning discrepancies uncovered by the Auditor-General for the Federation in the financial reports filed by federal ministries, departments and agencies and these discrepancies according to Prof. Moritiwon and Dr. Olufemi Omoyele director of Entrepreneurship at Redeemers University, reflect sharply the failure of institutional financial oversight and the anti-corruption campaign.

Recall that in 2019, the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee probing unsubstantiated N4.97 trillion in federal balance sheets for 2019 summoned the Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and four ministers and their permanent secretaries to appear before it to account for the funds. No tangible outcome came from the probe.

Omoyele said the reason for the persistence of corruption and lack of accountability is weak institutional check, and lack of political will on the part of government to fight graft.

Analysts have observed that in the last six years, Nigerians have witnessed a disturbing trend whereby almost all government agencies fail to comply with this financial obligation and continue to mismanage public funds.

At the last count over N3 trillion is said to be unaccounted for by over 60 MDAs.
Adegoke Sanmi, of Network for Probity in Governance told BusinessHallmark that “It is sheer irresponsibility by the management of the affected agencies to withhold with impunity, funds meant for the federation account at a time the government is shopping for money to fund its budget.

In the last one year, the federal government had in a bid to boost revenue, increased the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.5%, increased electricity tariff, fuel price and other utility services in a bid to raise the needed funds.

High inflationary pressures have pushed up cost of food in the market, while terrorism, kidnapping and other forms of insecurity have worsened the investment climate and denied children education.

In view of the huge deficits accompanying our yearly budgets and the resort to huge borrowing to finance these deficits, it is imperative to probe revenue remittances by agencies of government.

The failure of key revenue-generating agencies to pay what they generated into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) has been a source of financial bankruptcy of the Federal Government and a cause of huge borrowing to date.

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