Year after year, Federal Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are enmeshed in shocking financial malfeasance and other sundry irregularities that have caused huge revenue loss to the country. The latest of such infraction involves the reported N18.3 billion frauds in 25 MDAs, while 17 others were reported to have failed to remit N54.6billion Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to government treasury. The revelation came on the heels of government’s inauguration of a committee to curb employment racket in the MDAs.
At the inauguration of the committee recently, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. FolashadeYemi-Esan, decried repeated incidences of sharp practices, especially fake appointment letters that were discovered in some of the MDAs. The most shocking was the Annual Report from the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), which discovered irregularities in the award, execution and payment in procurement across 25 MDAs totaling N18.3billion, in addition to non-remittance of N54.billion IGR from Value Added Tax (VAT), Withholding Tax, and Stamp Duties. The 2018 report, which was signed by immediate past AuGF, Anthony Ayine, examined the level of compliance of MDAs with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act 2007, particularly Sections 19, 24 and 25 as they relate to their procurement process. Among the MDAs listed in the report for irregularities in payment to contractors include, Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSIF), Ministry of Works and Housing, National Arts Theatre, Lagos. Similarly, MDAs indicted for improper award of contracts include, National Agency for Food Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and others.
Last year, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, revealed how N2.67 billion meant for the school feeding programme in some unity schools ended up in personal accounts of top officials of MDAs during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Besides, another N2.5 billion was reportedly misappropriated by a senior civil servant in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and his cronies. Other assets recovered in the Agric ministry included 18 choice buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land, most of them in Abuja.
Altogether, government must check mounting corruption in the MDAs. It is not just enough to raise the alarm. The government should show enough seriousness in the fight against corruption. The era of business as usual must be done away with. This is important because the agencies drive government’s policies and programmes and with recurring financial malfeasance, the programmes will not succeed.
In 2017, the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) turned in a damning report on the financial records of many MDAs. It uncovered huge financial infractions and mismanagement of funds. After the audit, deficiencies were noted in the processes for consolidating the balances of MDAs into one economic entity. The 2017 Audit Report revealed that 160 government agencies defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2016, 265 for 2017. Eleven MDAs were reported to have never submitted any financial statements since inception. We agree with the AuGF’s recommendation and urge the National Assembly to impose stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases and sanctions on Heads of the defaulting agencies that do not render timely accounts as provided in the Constitution, the financial regulations and other relevant laws.
Government should act on the recommendations of the AuGF’s report. Failure to take appropriate action based on the report will defeat the aim, which is to check public sector corruption in the MDAs. The main duty of the Auditor-General’s office is to protect public interest by performing a detailed and objective examination of public accounts as well as scrutinise MDAs expenditures.
All revenue-generating agencies should also comply with the provisions of Section 162 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). A few years ago, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) disclosed that the MDAs defrauded the country of over N1trillion in the last seven years. Also, in 2016, the Federal Government sought the prosecution of 33 of its agencies over non-remittance of N450billion reportedly generated between 2010 and 2015. To check corruption in the MDAs, a directive was subsequently given to all MDAs to close their accounts with commercial banks, and henceforth, remit all revenues to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) domiciled in the CBN. It is unclear if they complied with the order.
Not acting on the recommendations of the Auditor-General defeats the promise of the present administration to fight official corruption, particularly in the MDAs. Henceforth, we suggest that the MDAs should present their audited accounts before the end of every financial year. We believe that doing so will help the government to seamlessly implement the budget.