‪Nigeria saves N153bn from ghost workers, other fiscal measures- Okonjo-Iweala

Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The minister lamented that not all MDAs were complying with directives.

‪The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Monday said that a total of N153 billion has been saved by the Federal Government from various schemes initiated to entrench transparency and accountability in the operations of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in the country.

The amount consists of about N34 billion recovered so far through the ongoing probe of revenue generating MDAs over alleged financial abuses and siphoning of N58 billion to illegal accounts.‬

‪The minister, who was presenting an update on the successes so far recorded through the exercise, also put the cumulative savings as a result of the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) at N119 billion; and about 46,000 ghost workers uncovered.‬

‪But, the minister was silent on the officials found to have masterminded the fraud and the various MDAs involved, causing observers to raise questions on the completion of the recovery process.

While commending government for the savings as a result of the exercise, an Abuja based lawyer and rights activist, Obo Effanga, described claims to success by the minister as incomplete, without mentioning the number of culprits involved in the fraud.‬

‪”What would serve as a deterent or disincentive for others who may be willing to engage in similar illegal activities if officials in charge of schedules found to have been involved in the fraud are not named and publicly shamed? It is still part of the impunity Nigerians have been talking about; where genuine efforts to tackle corruption in the system are lacking, because of lack of sincerity by government officials,” Mr. Effanga said.‬

‪During the briefing, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said government was doing everything possible to ensure that such illegally diverted revenues were recovered from the affected MDAs and their collaborating revenue generation agencies and banks.‬

‪“We had to act fast as revenue generating agencies refused to comply with the provisions of the law requiring them to remit 25 per cent of such funds to the treasury. We pleaded with them; tried to dialogue with them, but it was not working. So we had to take some drastic measures,” she said. “We have so far recovered N34 billion of such monies and have factored it into cash backing for second quarter release for budget 2013.”‬

‪The issue of non-remmitance of revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) had generated much fury after the National Assembly also raised the alarm over the financial abuses in the MDAs and the revenue agencies, demanding that the Executive takes steps to thoroughly investigate its findings.‬

‪Consequently, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) engaged 53 consultants to verify and reconcile revenue collection and remittances by collecting banks engaged by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between January 2008 and June 2012.‬

‪In the wake of shrinking revenues, the Minister last month threatened to close the affected revenue agencies bank accounts by June 17 if they failed to remit the revenues to the CRF.

But, she lamented that despite the warning the unwholesome practices were persisting adding that “rather than comply, the agencies and banks, through their lawyers have engaged in all manner of legal subterfuges to ensure that monies due to the Federal Government were not remitted.‬

‪On the IPPIS, the minister said government was planning to fully implement by extending from the current 215 MDAs to the other 321 MDAs yet to be captured in the electronic systems by December this year.‬

‪On GIFMIS, the Minister disclosed that 58 per cent of the federal budget was being implemented through the platform, adding that by the end of the year, the entire budget implementation would be done through the platform to ensure accountability, adding that the mileages covered so far were major achievements that have assisted in curbing corruption and the introduction of fake names into the payroll and also modernise the way government handles its finances.‬

‪The Minister said a committee to look at what has already been done by identifying MDAs already connected and look at how the system was functioning and ascertain issues that need to be rectified before expanding.‬

‪“The committee needs to have an implementation plan and a timeline to ensure that MDAs are connected y December 2013. They are also to identify savings made in the course of the implementation,” Ms. Okonjo-Iweala said.‬

‪The Accountant General of the Federation and a member of the committee, Jonah Otunla,said GIFMIS was introduced with the aim of improving the acquisition, allocation, utilisation of public finance, adding that the idea of the committee was a good platform in modernising government finances and reducing incidences of government borrowing.‬

‪”Before now, government would have balances idling away in bank accounts by slow spending MDAs and government would go to borrow, these same funds for fast spending MDAs. But, with the introduction of GIFMIS, there are savings in terms of efficient cash handling as instead of government going to borrow money, it now oversees all capital votes and disburses as the need arises”, Mr. Otunla said.‬

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