From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has received over 5,000 tips out of which only 365 are actionable since the Whistle-blower Policy was launched in December 2016.
This was even as it said N375.8 million has been paid to the first batch of 20 whistleblowers who provided information that led to the recovery over N11.6 billion, while the second batch of payment will soon commence.
Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, made the disclosure at this month’s Bureau for Public Service Reform Lunch Time Seminar with the theme: “The Whistleblower Policy and its Implications for Public Servants.”
Adeosun, who said whistleblower policy has been one of government’s most successful new initiatives, disclosed that out of the 365 actionable tips received, over half of them came from public servants touching on issues such as contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitments, misappropriation of funds, illegal sale of government assets, diversion of revenues and violation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) regulations, amongst others.
According to her, 39 per cent (144) of the actionable tips relate to misappropriation and diversion of funds/revenue, 16 per cent (60) relate to ghost workers, illegal recruitments and embezzlement of funds meant for personnel emolument, 15 per cent (56) relate to violation of TSA regulation, 13 per cent (49) relate to contract inflation/violation of the procurement act and failure to carry out projects for which funds have been released and 9 per cent (34) relate to non-remittance of pension and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) deductions. Others include concealed bail-out funds and embezzlement of funds from donor agencies.
Adeosun, who commended the civil servants for being patriotic by volunteering information that was yielding result, however, said “we must do more.”
“Part of our work is to analyse trends, and take corrective actions. For example, many of the salary, tax and pension under remittance cases shared a common thread. Several cases where institutions were found to have insufficient funds to meet their obligations often had illegal recruitments which bloated the wage bill and agencies responded, by part paying or short paying salaries, whilst applying to FG for salary shortfall payments. We are revising our procedures for approval of recruitment, which will improve our budgeting and control.
“In many cases where revenue has been diverted to accounts outside TSA, we have reviewed our reconciliation and receipting processes. So, the information being provided is useful in driving process improvements.
“If, as a civil servant, you have information about a possible misconduct or violation that has occurred, on-going or is about to occur, we implore you to come forward and report it. You can submit your information anonymously and confidentially through the online portal, by email or by phone, and if you choose to disclose your identity, I assure you that it will be fully protected. All information you provide will be reviewed, analysed and referred to be treated either administratively or criminally, through the investigative agencies.
“If, for any reason after you have made a disclosure, you feel that you are being treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint through the same confidential channels and the matter will be dealt with immediately with the seriousness it deserves. Also, where you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimisation for sharing your concerns, the whistleblower policy makes provision for restitution of any loss suffered.”
The minister noted that corruption is significantly heightened where the reporting of wrongdoing is not supported or where those who report wrongdoing may be subjected to intimidation, harassment, transfer, dismissal or violence by their fellow colleagues or superiors.
“The protection of public sector whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting in good faith is therefore, integral to our effort to combat corruption, safeguard integrity, and enhance accountability. These are not just words, as you must have heard, the Senate recently passed the Whistleblower Protection Bill which gives a whistleblower, protection under the laws of Nigeria. This is a great step in the right direction in our fight against corruption and I must thank the legislature for supporting the executive.”
The finance minister explained that the nation’s whistle blower policy is consistent with many other countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States who have passed comprehensive and dedicated legislation to protect whistleblowers and, particularly, public sector whistleblowers. She said in line with ensuring that the right capacity is built and follow best practice, the Whistleblower Unit, consisting of representatives from the various investigative agencies, is expected to go on a study tour to Australia to understand how they have been able to successfully implement the policy.