Corruption: How to stop stealing of public funds in Nigeria –ICPC, Fiscal Commission

*Victor Muruako, Chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission, has decried ‘utter non-compliance’ with laws regulating public finance, and recommends a review of the Federal Responsibility Act with emphasis on sanctions against erring public officers

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Attributing the fundamental factor promoting corruption in the country’s system to authorities’ the lack of sanctions for failure of erring public officials, Mr. Victor Muruako, Chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), has decried the utter non-compliance with the laws regulating to public finance in Nigeria.

ConsumerConnect reports Muruako said there had been a non-challant attitude towards remittance of public funds by the government Ministries,Departments and Agencies (MDAs) due to the loopholes in the laws, especially the lack of sanctions for failure.

The FRC was established by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, in order to ensure the implementation of its provisions in the economy.

The Chairman of the Commission, who stated this at a media parley organised by OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative and its partners Wednesday, August 10, 2022, in Abuja, FCT, urged the government to overhaul the relevant legal provisions to tackle the menace.

The official noted if the Federal Responsibility Act (FRA), for instance, is reviewed with emphasis on sanctions, public officers holders would sit up.

Muruako also contended much damage was done when the aspect regarding sanctions for non-remittance was pulled out of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

According to him, there is thus the urgent need to review the act to checkmate the public officials’ tendency to misappropriate taxpayers’ money.

There is also the need to ensure that funds are not at the beck and call of officials, said he.

The FRC Chief further argued that Nigerians should ensure borrowing limits are set and strictly adhered to in public finance.

Muruako added if Nigerians demanded the strict implementation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, most of the challenges in public finance management would be solved.

Mr. Okey Epia, Executive Director, OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative, while speaking earlier, said the occasion was meant to present two baseline reports while executing The Gift Nigeria Project.

The reports include ‘Mainstreaming Fiscal Responsibility in Nigeria’s Petroleum Sector – A Policy Brief by The Gift Nigeria Project; and ‘Where is the Money? – A Revenue Remittance Compliance Index of Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (Vol 1).

The Gift Nigeria Project, supported by USAID is being implemented by OrderPaper Advocacy Initiative,Centre for Transparency Advocacy, HipCity Innovation Centre,CLICE Foundation and Nigeria Institute Quantity Surveyors.

Epia said the conversation is about how to plug loopholes in the extractive sector, get the relevant acts properly amended, get MDAs to do the right thing, to ensure increases in remittances and how to get citizens to follow up on the gaps and public projects delivery.

Given the political season Nigeria finds herself, the conversion is being shifted to ensure that political actors focus on key accountability issues, to get them give assurances on how they they will address issues post-2023, Epia said.

ICPC reveals ‘how politicians steal funds with empowerment projects’

It is recalled that Nigeria’s Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC),

November 2019, gave insights into how some politicians use empowerment and capacity-building projects meat for the development of their communities to steal public funds.

Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of the Commission, disclosed the details at a National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service, organised by ICPC in collaboration with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

Prof. Owasanoye also stressed that empowerment and capacity-building projects were very popular among the people, yet vulnerable to abuse and very difficult to track in the country.

The Chairman of ICPC had stated: “We find that almost 50 percent of budgetary allocations to zonal intervention projects go to these opaque activities.

“Empowerment items are sometimes stashed away by sponsors and not distributed till following budget cycle.”

Owasanoye further revealed: “In some cases, same items are re-budgeted and duplicated.

“The subsequent budget release is then diverted.

“These anomalies are why the effort of government in creating jobs is not showing because the money for empowerment and capacity building simply disappears.”

According to him, the findings had emerged from the ICPC’s constituency projects tracking exercise covering  2015 to 2018.

The ICPC boss said it was also discovered that some lawmakers, or project sponsors hid project sites from contractors in cases where the contracts were not awarded to their preferred companies.

In other cases, he said, constituency projects were sited on private property of sponsors without transferring title to the community.”

Owasanoye added that in yet other cases, some project sponsors directly converted procured items to private use.

“Community awareness is very low, thus communities distance themselves from projects designed for their benefit through public funds.

“Many community members believe that sponsors pay for projects from their personal funds rather than from public treasury.

“Thus they are beholden to the sponsor rather than claim their rights,’’ he noted.

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