From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), has disclosed that it has this year uncovered and recovered the sum of N1.264 billion diversion of tax and other statutory revenues as part of routine investigations, in its
support of government’s effort to improve revenue generation in the country.
This is true even as it stated that in order to differentiate between outright fraud and administrative errors, it met with some MDAs to discuss recurring surpluses in their payroll in order to determine proactive measures to improve the budget process. As a result, it discovered soft projects worth more than N7 billion for a catchment population of about a million people under the guise of empowerment and another instance of a successful increase in an agency’s budget.
It added that both cases done by politically exposed persons are under investigation.
Chairman, of ICPC, Bolaji Owasanoye, made the disclosure at the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector, held at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The event, with the theme: ‘Corruption and the Education Sector’, was jointly organised by the ICPC, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
He said: “As is now widely publicised ICPC has intensified its scrutiny of personnel and capital cost of MDAs leading to proactive restraining of surpluses or duplications in the budget. Just last week the Commission in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders met with some MDAs on the recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to improving the budget process.
“This is towards separating outright fraud from administrative lapses. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary allocation for direct benefit. In one case a PEP successfully increased the budget of an agency in order for the agency to buy a property from him. In another case the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7b for a catchment population of about One million people in the name of empowerment. Both cases are under investigation.”
The head of the ICPC said that among other things, the commission was assiduously working to root out phony appointments and scrutinize candidates for appointment to positions of permanent secretaries.
He noted that investigation results showed that numerous potential nominees are linked to financial misconduct, dishonest behaviour, a breach of code of conduct, and substance misuse.
Owasanoye applauded the commitment of the Head of Service to clean up the stable by effective pre-appointment screening, noting that the ICPC would continue to play its part.
He said the commission was particularly delighted that Chief Superintendent Amah who was conferring with the prestigious 2022 public service Integrity, for rejecting a $200,000 bribe from robbers, is from the Nigeria Police, an institution often derided, maligned and under appreciated.
Amah who was conferred the award by President Buhari is the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Nasarawa Division in Kano State.
The ICPC boss said: “On 24th April 2022, a matter was reported to him that a suspect, one Mr. Ali Zaki convinced Bureau De Change Operators that he has $750,000 which he could sell to them at the rate of N430 to give him the equivalent N322,500,000.
“After a bank staff confirmed the availability of the money at the bank to the victims, the transaction took place. However, the suspect arranged with armed robbers to track and rob the victims while they were transporting the money.
“When the matter was reported to the Police Division in Kano State where SP Daniel Amah was the DPO, they recommended investigations. In the course of the investigation, they traced the principal suspect, Mr Ali Zaki who offered $200,000 to the SP to kill the case, through a bank staff. The offer was rejected, the bank staff was promptly arrested which led to the arrest of the principal suspect. The $200,000 was recovered and registered as exhibit.
“For this and other acts of integrity, SP Daniel Itse Amah is being conferred with the 2022 Public Service Integrity Awards.”
Owasanoye also said the ICPC has constituted a special team on investigation and prosecution of sexual harassment in secondary and tertiary institution in response to the recent epidemic of sexual harassment in the education sector.
He said: “ICPC has escalated its prevention mandate in the face of costly, time consuming and unpredictable outcomes of investigation and prosecution. In this regard we are strengthening the Anti-corruption and Transparency Monitoring Unit (ACTU) in MDAs. For the education sector we collaborated with other institutions including Nigerian Universities Commission and
National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and much more recently with JAMB our co-host for this event.
“With JAMB and Department of State Service, we conducted last year a series of undercover operations across the country on corruption in the university admissions processes leading to the busting of syndicates and arrest of its leaders responsible for compromising Interim Joint Matriculation Board (IJMB) and Joint Universities Preliminary Examinations Board (JUPEB).
At the event, President Buhari pointedly accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of being complicit in the corruption threat facing the nation’s tertiary education sector.
He said, “Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.”
The President also noted additional actions taken by academics, such as the use of covert terminology to commit corruption in ivory towers, which, in his view, undermines efforts to combat the threat of corruption in the education sector.
“Government and stakeholders in the educational sector are concerned about the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector. I am aware that students in our universities for example, use different terminologies to describe different forms of corruption they experience on our campuses.
“There is sorting or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.
“Sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include pay-roll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions, lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices,” he said.
President Buhari, however, commended the ICPC for its due diligence in investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment as abuse of power in the country’s educational institutions.
He assured that “Government will continue to fund education within realistically available revenue”while urging stakeholders, including the media to “equally advocate for transparency in the amount generated as internally generated revenue by educational institutions and how such funds are expended.”
Buhari added that “Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.”
The President also urged stakeholders to demand transparency in the management of academic institutions and for unions to question their institutions’ bloated payrolls and ongoing expenses.
Additionally, he urged the Unions to cooperate with the government in order to give names on the payroll faces and identities.
In his keynote address, former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, expressed concern that Nigeria is regarded as one of the most corrupt nations in the world in his keynote speech.
He asserted that the repercussions of corruption in the education sector limit the ability of the country to build the necessary social capital for socioeconomic growth and that no country can advance without making enough and wise investments in education.
He bemoaned that corruption from both the education sector itself and the larger public sector, as well as neglect, chronic underfunding, and crisis had all plagued Nigeria’s educational system.
In the higher education sector, particularly universities, which, according to the political science professor, statutorily enjoy some relative autonomy, there is growing evidence that corrupt practices anchored in the larger public sector influence and compel such behaviors.
He said: “There are examples of how reform policies, formulated with good intentions are often circumscribed by endemic corruption in the public sector, and in their application in the education sector, create their own dynamics of corrupt practices. This can be illustrated with examples of how three reform policies by the federal government compel many Vice Chancellors of federal universities to become somewhat ‘compulsorily’, even if in some cases reluctantly, involved in or with endemic corrupt practices in the wider public sector.
“The first reform policy of measure is the Procurement Act 2007, which requires that contracts of certain threshold should seek for approval either at the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) or at the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). The second is the requirement by Members of the National Assembly that every Vice Chancellor must appear before them to defend their budgetary proposals before funds would be appropriated to their universities. The third, which is relatively more recent, is the requirement by the federal government that no university should recruit any staff, even to fill existing vacancies, without at least three layers of approvals by the federal bureaucracy, at the NUC, at the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, and at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation”
Jega noted that all these three policies in spite of the good intentions, which may have underlined them, not only undermined the relative autonomy of the universities, but have also introduced extraneous relations and influences laden with corrupt practices.
Minister of education, Adamu Adamu commended the leadership of JAMB for “achieving what no other agencies has achieved in recent past”
He noted Nigeria must fight corruption to be liberated, adding that differences can be make in all sectors no matter how bad it is perceived.
“Nigeria has a bad reputation of being a corrupt society. Nobody will change that except us. At a moment you see people condemning corruption and the next moment, they engage in it. We have to sincerely fight it otherwise this nation is doom”, Adamu stated.
Speaking to newsmen after the investiture, Amah said “I’m quite happy. Is indeed difficult to put this feelings into words. But I’m very excited.”
On what went through his mind when he rejected the huge amount of money, especially as a member of staff of a service that has been maligned over the years, he said
“Well, we have to protect the interest of the force, and the interests of the country at large. In all honesty, I take no personal credit. I believe there are very eminently qualified Nigerians out there that are doing great things for our country. To emerge from this stratum of Nigerians is indeed a great pleasure.
He dedicated the award to the Inspector General of Police, the ICPC and the President.