Despite criticisms by opposition groups about no major conviction recorded against alleged perpetrators of corruption, the federal government on Monday reeled out steps taken to stop ‘grand corruption’ in the country in the last three years.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, at the opening session of the 2018 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Week in Abuja said one of the key achievements of the administration was “pushing the frontiers of transparency and accountability in government.”
Mr Osinbajo said one of the steps the administration took to tackle corruption in the country was to establish the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), to coordinate the reform efforts.
Although the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system was inherited from the previous administration as a mere idea, without any committed implementation, government has since expanded it to reach almost 100 per cent compliance, he said.
Apart from joining the OGP, he said government has since 2016 developed a National Action Plan to improve transparency, accountability and citizen participation at other levels of governance.
Besides, he said, government also established a Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) under the Federal Ministry of Finance, to clean up the federal payroll and pensions systems, across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Consequently, he said PICA helped the government save more than N200 billion by eliminating ghost workers, while the government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) was being rolled out, to plug the loopholes against payroll fraud.
Besides, he said, the whistleblowing programme, which is also being coordinated by PICA, resulted in recoveries of about N7.8 billion, $378 million and £27,800, as at March 2018.
“Our government adopted a two-step approach to dealing with systemic corruption – stop grand corruption and accompanying impunity, and create a self-sustaining system for transparency and accountability,” he said.
“We have, since assuming office three years ago, made remarkable progress in pushing the frontiers of transparency and accountability in the Federal Government.”
Since joining the OGP as the 70th member country, the VP said the government had focused on improving transparency, accountability, citizen participation and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation.
He said the OGP Nigeria has since developed its first National Action Plan (NAP) of 14 commitments, with a focus on four thematic areas of Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Access to Information and Citizens’ Engagement.
Other agencies established by government to help rid systemic corruption included a National Open Contracting Platform (NOCOPO) by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP); and Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) public private partnerships contracts disclosure portal, the official said.
The Budget Office of the Federation, he said, has also developed the citizens ‘I-Monitor’ portal, an Open Budget Survey Index to provide access to budget information in real time to Nigerians, monitor projects and provide feedback to government.
The other initiative, he added, is an Open Global Beneficial Ownership Register by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in collaboration with the U.K. government to develop Open Ownership Data Standards.
“Government has set up a Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery (PCAR), and developed procedures and guidance to ensure that all recovered funds are paid into a single Central Bank Asset Recovery account, for improved transparency and ease of management,” the VP said.
During the event, the VP presented the OGP Nigeria National Action Plan (2017 – 2019).
The Secretary of Government of the Federation, Boss Mustafa, said the week was an opportunity to review the progress so far in implementing the National Action Plan as well as discuss the way forward.
“More than any other time in the history of our nation, government is waging an unprecedented fight against corruption through asset recovery, prosecution of acts of corruption, instituting new socio-economic system and culture and rebuilding or institutions to prevent future recurrence.
He said with the entrenchment of whistleblowing policy in the system, those determined to embezzle public funds through over-invoicing of contracts and other forms of diversion of public funds ”must beware”.
Mr Mustafa criticised some statistics on the country’s corruption index by some international organisations, saying the ”only use of these data was to draw attention to the need to strengthen the institutions to tackle the corruption”.
“Many of the institutions that produce these statistics do not understand the context and the peculiarity of the corruption problems in Nigeria. They make generalisations which paint a picture that is far from reality,” Mr Mustafa said.
He said one of the expected outcomes of the week-long event would be the introduction of “a reliable indigenous, professional and objective mechanism for measuring impact and information on the state of corruption in Nigeria.
“Through this mechanism we will generate reliable figures we can craft out policy interventions. Our story is best told by us. We should never expect others to see our corruption problems better than ourselves.”
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the programme would feature discussions on issues of open governance, transparency and accountability as well as a town hall meeting where ministers, heads of departments and agencies would present reports on their activities.
The event will end with a rally on Friday.