FG’s proposed anti-graft agency

IN what amounts to tacit, yet unequivocal, official admission of allegations  regarding the re-looting of assets recovered from corrupt persons by the anti-graft agencies, the Federal Government has unveiled a plan to establish a new agency to manage recovered loot. The plan seems to be a fallout of the revelations emanating from the retired Justice Salami-led presidential panel of inquiry probing allegations of theft of recovered assets preferred against Ibrahim Magu, the suspended Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Whatever is the source of this rather thoughtless policy prescription, we urge  the  Federal Government to shelve it forthwith. It is saddening that oftentimes, government’s policy options and pronouncements reflect deficient thinking. Why should allegations or even proven cases of re-looting of recovered assets influence the establishment of a separate entity to manage recovered loot? Is that the optimal solution to the observed lapses in the circumstance? Who says the new managers of the recovered loot will not pilfer the resources placed in their care?  Pray, what is the job of the government if it cannot manage recovered assets? The whole idea smacks of official laziness and absence of creative thinking.

To be sure, the practice of creating new agencies with each challenge suggests defective thinking.  Even in a period of economic prosperity, it is still the responsibility of official managers to provide optimal solutions, not just any solutions at any cost to challenges, let alone in an era when the economy is literally tottering and the country is in dire financial straits. At a time like this, prudence should be the watchword of any reasonable and sensitive manager of government affairs, not the expansion of the already bloated bureaucracy which is reputed to be disturbingly inefficient.

The official habit of proffering wrong and costly panaceas to every national challenge predates the current administration and both the executive and legislature are guilty in that regard. For instance, virtually all politicians believe and act in a way that suggests that the best and easiest way to address apparent failures of government institutions to deliver on their mandates is to create new organisations to run side by side with the supposedly non-performing ones. This strategy might be the easiest, but it is surely not the best. It leads to multiplication of government ministries, departments and agencies inefficiently carrying out overlapping functions because they were hurriedly put in place.

The narrow objective would appear to be ‘jobs for the boys’ and even though the negative impact might not be felt when the economy is buoyant, it becomes manifest during the lean period. And  if with the litany of agencies of government  fighting corruption such as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), EFCC,  Nigeria Police, National Financial Intelligent Unit (NFIU), Department of State Service (DSS), Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), office of Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) and so on, government has yet to rein in official corruption, it beggars belief that anyone could reasonably surmise that creating additional anti-graft  institutions will do the magic. For instance, there is a very thin line of demarcation between the variants of corruption being tackled by the EFCC and ICPC, and even the government struggles to do a fire-sure and convincing role delineation. Yet both organisations have their respective boards, chief executive officers and full complements of personnel to carry out functions that could arguably be performed by one, and perhaps more effectively. The consequence, as in other instances, is injurious but avoidable growth in recurrent expenditure.

It is surprising that the Muhammadu Buhari administration which slashed the number of government ministries to 37 at inception in 2015 after conceding that the federal bureaucracy was unwieldy has been taking steps to further enlarge the bureaucracy. It has created four additional ministries and is planning to have another anti-graft agency  while claiming that it is cash-strapped, and pilling up debts. This is why many are wont to believe that the government has no clue on how to revive the economy. The recurrent expenditure keeps ballooning yearly at the expense of capital expenditure, thus vitiating the opportunity for long-term planning and execution of crucial infrastructure projects, yet government does not want to make a clean break from the past.

It is time the political leadership started to rethink its approach to resolving national challenges. It should  think through policy options before zeroing in on the most appropriate and efficient ones given the environment in which it operates. Merely throwing resources at problems does not necessarily solve them and the reality is that there are not enough resources to even throw around. Rather than instituting another anti-graft agency with a full-blown bureaucracy with its attendant costs, the government is urged to manage recovered loot using the existing structure of governance.

It does not require any extraordinary creativity for the Federal Government to situate the management of recovered assets within the extant bureaucracy without additional pressure on the lean national treasury. It has to be sensitive to the prevailing turbulence in the domestic economy and the adversarial effects on the citizenry.

 

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