Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has recovered approximately N9.12 billion from its whistle blowing policy since it came into being.
This is even as it is trying to amend the policy to accommodate instruments that will deal more with prevention, including using mystery shoppers to garner information as it is down in the United Kingdom.
The policy allows the whistle-blowers, who report fraud or theft of public funds, to be given no more than five percent of the sum recovered from the looters through their help.
It said institutionalising whistle blowing infrastructure will help put people on their toes.
Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said this while briefing State House Correspondents after the over five hour Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Rock Villa, in Abuja.
She gave a breakdown of the recoveries as N7.8 billion, $368 million, and £27,800, and that she also informed the council of the number of tips and number of investigations carried out.
“I also reported that the whistleblower team has recently come back from a trip to the United Kingdom. The UK government was giving us trainings on whistleblowing, how we should institutionalise it. The team spent sometime with the Revenue Office in UK. They spent sometime in Customs Office and they took them through what they have been able to do.
“One of the things it has achieved is prevention. When they get the tips, they use it to block avenues for leakage. We have had a significant number tips. So, we will be coming back to institutionalise whistleblowing as a structure.
“It has become central part of fighting corruption, giving us valuable information. Basically, whistleblowing is here to stay, giving us useful information”, she explained.
Adeosun also disclosed the level of capital releases from 2017 till date, saying that “l gave details of the big four areas and then others. So, Power, Works and Housing got N301.89 billion; Defence N151.2 billion; Agriculture N119.9 bn; Transport N127.9 billion and other areas combined is N545.6 billion.
“So, the total capital budget release for 2017 so far is N1,248,310 trillion. But we haven’t closed yet. We are confident we will close the year roughly around where we closed last year. We will close around N1.3 trillion mark.
“Our commitment to infrastructure spending remains very strong. That is what is going to drive growth of the economy. That is what is going to drive jobs.”
On the government’s debt profile, she recalled that FEC had approved a three-year debt strategy to reduce reliance on short time borrowing particularly treasury bills, 91-day treasury bills, that was costing government 21 per cent and moving from domestic borrowing into external borrowing.
According to her: “When we came in, what were owing was 84 per cent domestic and 16 per cent external borrowing. We have moved to 77:23 as a result of Eurobonds that we have done and refinancing of maturing obligations.
“Our terms of maturity was 7.15. We have now extended it to 11.25. That gives a little bit of room to allow the investment we have made in capital projects to filter into our tax system and allows us to manage the debt.
“What that means is reducing our cost of funds and reducing our interest cost because the cost of borrowing is much more less and in a planned manner and our average borrowing has reduced from 18 per cent to about 14 per cent.
“We are confident that as interest rates begin to ease, we will reduce our cost of borrowing even further.”
The Minister also added that government had been able to save N68 billion on personnel cost in 2017, bringing the aggregate savings on personnel cost since 2007 to N288 billion.
She said the savings, which would have otherwise been unaccounted for were achieved despite increase in personnel, including the recruitment of 10,000 officers by the Nigerian Police.
According to Adeosun, a total of 511 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had been captured under the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), with staff count of 607,843.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has set up a committee to review the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFA) agreement which he declined to sign owing to his concerns about the possible adverse economic and security implications for Nigeria.
Last weekend, he cancelled his trip to a summit of African leaders in Kigali, Rwanda where the deal was to have been sealed by African Union leaders on March 21st.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had then explained that this was done to enable wider consultations with stakeholders, lack of which made industry groups like the Nigeria Labour Congress to kick against the deal ab initio.
This was despite the fact that the decision for the President to go ahead and sign the agreement in Kigali, was taken at last week’s FEC meeting chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo while Buhari was away on official trip to Yobe State.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said that the presidential committee was given two weeks to report back to the President at FEC.
He said members of the Committee are the ministries and agencies of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning, Labour and Employment, Foreign Affairs and Science and Technology.
The agencies are, Federal Inland Revenue Services, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Customs and Immigration.
Adesina said, “They will constitute the Committee that will look into the proposals that are contained in the Continental Free Trade Area and the will brief the Federal Executive Council in two weeks.”
Adesina reiterated the President’s position that he would not enter into any form of agreement that would hinder local entrepreneur and anything that could make the country a dumping ground.
The council also approved a contract of N6.97 billion through the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mohammed Bello, for the completion and furnishing of the United Nations (UN) complex in Abuja that was bombed by Boko Haram terrorists in August 2011.
The Federal Government, which offered to rebuild the complex, awarded the contract to the original builders, Julius Berger, with a completion period of 12 months.
The contract will include constructing a bomb-proof perimeter fencing, installing closed circuit television cameras, body and baggage scanners, a police post, as well as other furnishings for the use of the 18 UN agencies that the complex is meant.
Another contract approved by FEC through a memo from Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, was of N1.14 billion for the procurement and installation of very high frequency radio equipment in Kano, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and 10 other airports, including those of Enugu, Calabar, Benin, Jos, Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Ilorin.
This will significantly improve the radio communication needed between pilots and control towers, and enhance aviation safety across the country.