Uche Usim, Abuja
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed on Tuesday disclosed that Nigeria has rakes in N700 billion from the whistleblower policy since its inception.
The Minister stated this in Abuja at an interface with journalists at the national conference on the whistleblower policy in Nigeria.
According to her, the government was able to haul in such humongous amount of money from the activities of whistleblowers who came forward with actionable claims of corruption because of the protection given to those who made such verifiable revelations.
She said: “there were recoveries and the cleaning of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS); stoppage of non-compliance with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and violations of the procurement Act 2007, etc”.
Ahmed lamented that at inception of the policy, there was widespread enthusiasm as Nigerians volunteered numerous actionable information.
She added that such intelligence were referred for further investigation by relevant security agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) or the Department of State Security (DSS).
She further revealed that after a while, the zeal to volunteer information waned.
“However, after sometime, interest in the implementation of the policy nosedived. Our attempt to reawaken public interest on the policy did not quite materialize. It was then we realized that there was apparent confusion in the public mind on several issues” she said.
To address these issues, a Committee with representatives from anti-graft and security agencies chaired by a representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice was set up to draft a Whistle Blower Bill, taking into account all the complaints received from the public and the observations of the various stakeholders.
Earlier in his remarks, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said that the whistleblower policy “was developed as a tool towards the exposure of corruption and corrupt actors in Government”.
The whistleblower policy he said “presents a unique opportunity for men and women of conscience who are appalled by the level of corruption in the society and are looking for safe avenues to expose the perpetrators of such corrupt activities to do so in a way that their identities are protected and their positions in their places of work are secured”.
He urged the developers of the new whistle blower bill to expand “the scope of wrongful acts that may be reported by whistleblowers”.
According to him, “it appears that under the current policy whistle blowing is only with respect to acts of corruption. However there are a whole range of issues that may not endanger public finance directly but may constitute public safety or security risks”.
Reporting issues he noted may save lives and or property. The Vice President wants “as a violation of law, gross mismanagement, waste of public resources, or acts inimical to public health or safety” to be included in the scope of activities that whistle blowers can report to the authorities.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo noted that “the law should also provide for comprehensive protection of whistleblowers, including against reprisals from their employers and those whose activities they expose. These may include witness protection type provisions should the whistleblower have to appear in court”.
The ability of our Government to deliver on promises in the areas of human capital development, provision of quality infrastructure and the general economic progress of the country the Vice President said “depends significantly on the protection of the scarce resources from being looted and its application for the benefit of Nigerian citizens”.
The Vice President also wants the policy to operate “widely in States and Local Governments as the tiers closest to the people and overseers of about half of the nation’s revenues”.
Government’s goal he said “is to harness the huge potential of the people to deliver on their moral obligation to report cases of corruption within their immediate environments”.
The new whistleblower policy he insisted “will energize the people to guard and police their resources through increased exposure of financial and related crimes”.