Public sector corruption hindering service delivery ― Buhari

⦁MDAs inflate contract by N18.62b ― ICPC

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, lamented that corruption in the public sector is hampering the ability of government to deliver services to the people.

He has therefore called on the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Special Crimes Court Bill.

He was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit for top level of government on “diminishing corruption in the public sector,” organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC) in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, at the presidential villa, Abuja.

The overall objective of the summit is to promote accountability and transparency in the public sector for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Describing corruption as an existential threat to the country, Buhari noted that the sum of N1 trillion had been released for constituency projects with nothing tangible to show for it.

He, however, observed that with the intervention of the ICPC, some contractors have returned to sites of abandoned projects.

He said: ‘‘The fight against corruption is of course not only for government and anti-corruption agencies alone. All arms and tiers of government must develop and implement the anti-corruption measures.

‘‘I invite the legislative and judicial arms of government to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court that Nigerians have been agitating for to handle corruption cases.’’

President Buhari noted that the passage of the Bill was a ‘‘specific priority’’ of this administration’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan 2017-2020.

Speaking on his recent directive to all agencies of government to enrol into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the President directed ICPC to beam its searchlight on public institutions that are yet to comply.

He noted that the new directive on IPPIS was intended to halt the padding of personnel budgets and the diversion or misappropriation of capital budgets.

‘‘I am aware that the Commission recently conducted System Studies and Review of many MDAs to evaluate systems and processes relating to transparency and accountability in personnel and capital spending through which you successfully blocked over N9 billion from being diverted from 2019 personnel budget.

‘‘That was a proactive prevention measure. I have directed that all agencies of government must get on the IPPIS in order to eliminate the padding of personnel budgets.

‘‘I urge ICPC to beam its searchlight on all agencies yet to get on the IPPIS and our e-government platform in order to fully halt the padding of personnel budgets and the diversion or misappropriation of capital budgets,’’ he said.

The President also used the occasion, which marked the launch of the Constituency Projects Transparency Group (CPTG) Report Phase One, to reiterate his appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to join in the fight against corruption.

‘‘The war against corruption cannot be won without prevention, enforcement, public education and enlightenment.

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‘‘I encourage the ICPC and other law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts in public education, enlightenment and engagement with citizens.

‘‘I also urge our development partners, civil society organisations, and the media to continue to support our efforts to strengthen ethical values and integrity in Nigeria,’’ he said.

On the activities of ICPC, President Buhari commended the new Board of the anti-graft agency for major enforcement and preventive initiatives including the System Study Review, tracking of Zonal Intervention Projects, otherwise called Constituency Projects, and collaboration with the National Social Investment Office.

The President said: ‘‘It is on record that in the past ten years One trillion naira (N1trillion) has been appropriated for constituency projects yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.

‘‘The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefited in terms commensurate with the huge sums appropriated for constituency projects since inception. 

‘‘I am, therefore, delighted that through the effort of ICPC some contractors are returning to the site to execute projects hitherto abandoned and that project sponsors are being held to account.

‘‘The ICPC has my full support and the support of this government to hold fully to account contractors, complicit public servants and project sponsors who divert funds meant for constituencies or other people-oriented welfare projects of our government or who by other means reduce the quality and value of such projects meant for our people.’’

On asset recovery, the President reaffirmed that his administration will continue to support anti-corruption agencies to recover all ill-gotten wealth and prosecute offenders, adding that all fully recovered physical assets will be sold and the proceeds remitted to the treasury.

‘‘Enforcement activities by anti-corruption agencies continue to reveal that some public officers possess properties and assets way beyond their legitimate sources of income.

‘‘Asset recovery cases in court also reveal that some of these criminally-minded public officials are quick to disown these properties during the investigation and in court.

‘‘Recovered assets will continue to be deployed in the provision of needed infrastructure and social welfare programs.

‘‘The National Social Investment Program is already utilising recovered funds to touch the lives of vulnerable Nigerians.

‘‘I, therefore, commend the partnership between the ICPC and the National Social Investment Office to ensure that beneficiaries of government social intervention programs are not short-changed along the line by unpatriotic officials,’’ he said.

President Buhari, who described corruption as the cause of many major problems in our country said ‘‘it is a catalyst for poverty, insecurity, weak educational system, poor health facilities and services and many other ills of our society.

‘‘This government is working hard to overcome such ills. Corruption generally and public sector corruption, in particular, inhibits the ability of government to deliver infrastructure and basic services to the people.

‘‘That is why I have reiterated on many occasions that corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria.

‘‘Corruption is furthermore, a major threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the socio-economic transformation we are all working hard to bring about in Nigeria.’’

Earlier in his remark, the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, accused Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) of massive corruption in contract implementation.

He said the commission’s found out that MDAs contracts were inflated and poorly executed.

The ICPC boss noted: “We discovered that some agencies of government are favourites for the embedding of constituency projects in irrespective of their core mandate and capacity of these agencies to deliver or supervise projects.

“The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies the inherent weaknesses within them.

“Most notorious in this regard are the Border Communities Development Agency and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria.

“Duplication of contracts with the same description, narrative, amount, location awarded by the same MDA in order to bring the amount allocated within the approval threshold of the executing agency or to expend allocation to sponsor of the constituency project.

“Many of the contracts were inflated yet poorly executed. Substandard items were used against specifications in the Bill of Engineering Measurements and Evaluation (BEME) thus diminishing the value of the projects to the intended beneficiaries. Many projects were also not built to specifications.

“Some contracts were awarded without standard contract documents available to assist Quantity Surveyors evaluate the state of the project in line with the contract.

“Empowerment and Capacity Building projects are very popular but are highly prone to abuse and very difficult to track. We find that almost 50% of budgetary allocation to zonal intervention projects go to these opaque activities.

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

“Some legislators or project sponsors refused to show project sites to the contractors in cases where the contract was not awarded to their preferred company while in other constituency projects was sited on the private property of sponsor without transferring title to the community. Yet in other cases, some 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.

“As at the time we went to press we had covered about 300 MDAs and the amount inflated was about N12b.

“As at today your Excellency we have discovered additional N6b making a total of N18.624b restrained by ICPC.”

On assets recovery, Prof. Owasanoye, said in the past 10 years, the commission has recovered over 250 physical assets “worth about N32b in seizures, interim forfeiture orders and final orders. We also have cash recoveries in interim and final orders in Naira and USD amounting to over N3b.

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