The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) says it has uncovered gross abuse of personnel budget as well as duplication of projects by some federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) amounting to over N20.138 billion.
The duplication and padding occurred in the implementation of the 2021 budget and involved about 257 projects, the anti-corruption agency said its review shows.
The anti-graft agency said it is 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.
ICPC chairperson, Bolaji Owasanoye, made the disclosure in his welcome address at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service and Presentation of Public Service Integrity Award on Tuesday.
Themed, ‘Corruption and the Cost of Governance: New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency’, the event was held at the State House Conference Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Many dignitaries including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, were in attendance.
In his address, Mr Owasanoye said ICPC, through its projects tracking, found out that skyrocketing personnel in many MDAs was attributable to massive budgetary scam, including illegal recruitment, unilateral increase in wages, indiscriminate travels, among others.
“The high cost of governance and rising personnel budget in Nigeria is as a result of 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 said.
“This has continued to reflect in the huge wage bill on personnel and operational cost standing at about 70 per cent of annual budget”.
According to Mr Owasanoye, 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 (IPPIS). He noted the cases and officials involved were under investigation.
“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,” he noted.
He gave a breakdown of the projects being tracked nationwide by the ICPC.
“The third phase of ICPC’s projects tracking covered 1,083 projects across the entire country with exception of Borno and Zamfara due to security challenges. The exercise verified the implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators.
“We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to the site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310b some of which were hitherto abandoned”, he explained.
“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 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 government’s resolve to minimize the cost of governance.”
He added, “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.”
The official commended the government’s stance against illicit financial flows.
‘Government worried over spending on travels’
Also speaking at the event, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Mustapha, said the government was highly worried that about 60 per cent of the 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, among others.
“Recent data from the Budget Office indicates that “actual MDAs recurrent spending is still on the rise, from N3.61 trillion in 2015 to N5.26 trillion in 2018 and N7.91 trillion in 2020”, he said.
The SGF noted that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had put mechanisms in place to ensure that “our little resources will no longer be budgeted and/or used for frivolities, hidden in fake projects, unnecessary travel, wasteful overhead costs, meaningless capital projects and remuneration of ghost workers.”
“We also remain focused on getting back our resources that have found their ways into the private pockets of those who fraudulently orchestrate the budget process for their selfish desires”, he said.
Mr Mustapha commended the ICPC for its effort in uncovering massive corruption and abuse of budgetary allocations by some staff of public institutions across the nation.
He thanked the ICPC for its foresight in “introducing and consistently convening the National Anti-Corruption Summit since 2019.”
“It is increasingly becoming public knowledge that our anti-corruption agencies, especially ICPC, are doing a lot in the area of prevention and also recovery of diverted or stolen public funds, building the capacity of MDAs to resist corrupt practices, promoting ethical values through the National Ethics and Integrity Policy of government.
“Some of the capacity building measures include System Study and Review of operations of MDAs; Corruption Risk Assessment and the establishment of Anti-corruption Monitoring Units in all MDAs.
“Recoveries of public funds in recent years have no doubt demonstrated the strong resolve government to stem financial haemorrhages and promote initiatives towards curbing illicit financial flows”, he noted.
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