From Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye (SAN) has uncovered several budget manipulations in various Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
The ICPC Chairman who made this disclosure on Wednesday in Abuja while speaking at the Budget Office/ICPC Interactive Forum with Directors of Finance and Directors of Internal Audit, said multiple layers of corrupt practices had been perpetuated by civil servants.
Owasanoye said the Commission stumbled on these infractions while carrying out a System Study Review of Budget Implementation. He said: “there was budget manipulation by most MDAs which resulted in MDAs receiving both appropriation and releases beyond their actual needs.”
“In 2019 ICPC reviewed 208 agencies of government that are funded from the Federal Treasury and came up with outstanding results which included discovery of N31.8 billion personnel cost surpluses for 2017 and 2018, and misapplication of N19.8 billion and N9.2 billion from Personnel Cost and Capital Fund respectively,” he said.
The ICPC boss said owing to these discoveries, N42 billion unspent surplus allocations for Personnel Cost for 2019 alone was blocked from possible abuse and pilfering mostly from health and educational institutions. He said despite confronting erring MDAs with federal circulars prohibiting these activities, the infractions have continued thus needing stronger measures on the part of government and anti-corruption agencies.
With regards to manipulations of the 2020 budget implementation, Owasanoye said, “a number of investigations are on-going on this as we have instituted a mechanism for continuous review of current and subsequent Annual Audit Reports.”
Speaking on the investigation of infraction on Personnel Cost allocation, he said: “we found that quite a substantial part of the Personnel Cost Budget was expended on matters not related to Personnel Cost. These expenditure types included Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) and estacode, electricity, water and sewage bills, procurement of diesel and stationery, payment of transport allowance and flight fares, payment of wages for outsourced services and ad hoc (locum, visiting and at times illegal employees), as well as illegal allowances.”
He further disclosed that some agencies of government engaged in what he called “massive capital project implementation through direct labour with attendant implication for corruption and loss of project quality and tax revenues.”
The commission also said it discovered from 51 Health Sector Institutions incidences of padding of nominal rolls including inclusion of outsourced staff; warrant releases in excess of actual personnel cost needs; inadequate budgetary overhead allocation; inadequate or non-budgetary allocation for outsourced services and widespread misuse of Personnel Cost allocation on non-personnel related expenditure especially on outsourced services, all amounting to N4.5 billion.
The commission’s investigations also discovered unspent excess balances despite abuses and misuse (N4.86 billion); fraudulent diversion by role players of funds through manipulation of account numbers of beneficiaries on the GIFMIS Platform; REMITA payment system not allowing for the matching of account numbers with account names and thus making fraud easy and inordinate balance staffing levels between Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres.
Owasanoye said many MDAs defended their indictments before both the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly thus substantially reducing the indictments, but many others still remained on misapplication of funds which could not be explained.
Other infractions mentioned were: awarding of contract and payment without contract agreement and job completion certificates; awarding of contract without due process; bulk payments to microfinance banks; cash withdrawal without explanation; contract splitting; conversion of public property; deductions paid into individual’s accounts due to challenges with GIFMIS Platform.
He disclosed that new Open Treasury Portal (OTP) didn’t deter these activities as in a bid to bypass the OTP rule of uploading transactions over N5million, MDAs had multiple payments of N4.9 million, N4.8 million, into accounts such that those transaction were not captured and uploaded on the OTP.
He explained that payments to individual’s accounts beyond the approved limit of N200,000 were uncovered aswell as advances for projects paid into project accountants’ personal accounts with commercial banks; payments to individual staff/accountants for disbursement to ad hoc employees/outsourced services and other employees.
There were payments to contractors/vendors who were not on the GIFMIS Platform through staff and/or third parties; payments to staff for procurement of welfare and palliatives for staff; MDAs having problems with GIFMIS Platforms and finding it difficult to pay third party deductions and thus the third parties requested that their payments be made into nominated personal accounts of individuals.