From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
A voluntary think-tank group of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Legacy Awareness and Campaign, has claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari has not limited his government to arresting and prosecuting corrupt persons, with actions extended to building preventive systems and mechanisms to promote lasting accountability.
The group emphasised that since Buhari strengthened the usage of Single Treasury Accounts (TSA) policy, the closure of more than 17,000 commercial bank accounts resulted in the savings of an average of N4 billion monthly, in banking charges to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) accounts with Deposit Money Banks (DMBs).
In a statement signed by the quartets of Barr Ismail Ahmed, Lanre Issa-Onilu, Tolu Ogunlesi and Salihu Moh Lukman, the group said that the whistleblowing policy he introduced in December 2016 was the first of its kind in the country.
Titled “Anti-corruption achievements of President Buhari administration”, the Legacy group noted: ‘The President Buhari-led administration assumed office with the fight against corruption as one of its priorities, building on the President’s lifelong reputation for integrity and incorruptibility.
‘Since 2015, the administration has spearheaded several reforms in line with the commitment to freeing the country from the clutches of corruption, which has stunted sustainable growth and development and undermined the country and its citizens in many ways.
‘Contrary to the assumptions that the administration’s anti-corruption strategy is limited to arrests and prosecutions of offenders, it has become clear to observers that the greater focus is actually on building preventive systems and mechanisms that promote lasting accountability.
‘For instance, early in the life of the administration, the President established the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), to sign-post to the world the significance of the fight against corruption to his administration. It was the very first committee the President set up after he was sworn into office.
‘Since its inception, PACAC has helped produce manuals, protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to assist Anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) in their work, including a Corruption Case Management Manual; Plea Bargaining Manual; Sentencing Guidelines in High Profile Cases; a Framework for the Management of Recovered Stolen Assets, Asset Recovery Strategy Document, among others.
‘Also in August 2015, President Buhari issued his first major Presidential Order, directing all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to close their accounts with Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and transfer their balances to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system under the oversight of the Central Bank of Nigeria, on or before 15th September 2015.
‘The TSA system, launched in 2012, had struggled to gain traction until President Buhari’s executive order. More than 17,000 commercial bank accounts have since been closed down, resulting in savings of an average of N4 billion monthly, in banking charges; apart from the increased transparency and accountability that comes from the new system.
‘Similar to the TSA is the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), through which the Federal Government pays its staff. Like the TSA it was inherited from previous administrations, but with limited coverage. Since 2015 President Buhari has mandated expansion of coverage, in spite of great opposition, so that today it now covers virtually all of the federal government, including the Armed Forces, as well as Federal Universities and other academic institutions,’ the statement read.
Enumerating President Buhari’s other achievements in corruption, it noted: ‘The whistleblowing policy introduced by the government in December 2016 was the first of its kind in the country. Since then it has yielded several billions of Naira in recoveries from tax evaders and public officials.
‘The increased oversight of MDAs and their finances under this administration has since started yielding results, through increased remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs. For example, from remitting only N51 million between 2010 and 2016, JAMB has gone on to remit more than N20 billion to the federal government since 2017. This same scenario is replicated across several MDAs.
‘The Buhari-led administration also established the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) to strengthen controls over government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all MDAs, particularly in respect of payroll. PICA helped identify and remove more than 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries, amounting to savings of N200 billion per annum.
‘In July 2016, Nigeria became the 70th country in the world to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), as part of efforts to globally mainstream Nigeria’s public transparency efforts.
‘Other transparency and anti-corruption initiatives of the Buhari Administration include Project Lighthouse, launched in 2018 to integrate multiple tax and revenue data sources from across the government and third parties (land records, CAC records, REMITA platform, Private Jet Ownership data, FIRS database, etc) and thus help ensure accurate income and tax assessment for individual and corporate taxpayers.
‘There is also the ongoing automation of the issuance of Import Duty Exemption Certificates (IDEC). According to the Ministry of Finance, Nigeria lost N2.5 trillion in 2017 and N2.1 trillion in 2018, due to the manual implementation of Import Duty Waivers.
‘The administration also launched, in 2017, an Inter-Agency Assets Tracing Team (ATT) to locate, identify, assess and trace all illegal financial flows in the Nigerian financial system, as well as all stolen funds and assets kept within the country or transferred abroad.
‘In 2019, he signed the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill, an Executive Bill, into law in 2019, following passage by the National Assembly. The Bill facilitates the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crime, as well as the prosecution of offenders in criminal cases regardless of where in the world they might be.
‘These are just a few of the efforts and initiatives of the Federal Government under President Buhari, aimed at establishing and strengthening systems that will entrench transparency, accountability and integrity in the management of public finances,’ the statement read.