Written by Godfrey AKON

Desist from budget manipulation, ICPC boss warns MDAs

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, has called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to desist from budget manipulation and “creative budgeting”.

He advised them to embrace transparency and fiscal discipline.

The ICPC boss spoke during a one-day forum held in collaboration with the Budget Office of the Federation, BOF, for directors of finance & accounts and internal auditors of MDAs on the theme “Transparency and Fiscal Discipline in Budget Implementation”.

Owasanoye told the participants that they have a duty to manage public finances and assets with high responsibility and integrity, and hoped that the forum would mark a turning point towards the much needed reform in the management of the public finance and other resources.

Speaking on the result of ICPC system study and reviews, SSRs, which was aimed at identifying, eliminating, preventing and obstructing opportunities for corruption, he stated that result of the 2019 exercise in 208 MDAs led to the “discovery of N31.8bn personnel cost surpluses for 2017 and 2018, misapplication of N19.8bn and N9.2bn from personnel cost and capital fund respectively”.

As a result of the findings, N42bn unspent surplus allocations from personnel cost for 2019 alone was blocked from possible abuse and pilfering mostly from health sector and some educational institution.

“The focus on health and education sectors is because of the importance of their services which touch the lives of ordinary citizens and are critical to meeting any of the internationally recognized development goals.

“This implies that if we had covered the entire civil service structure of all MDAs the figures would have been staggering”.

The ICPC boss revealed some of the findings from the educational institutions by the commission which include: padding of nominal rolls; warrant releases in excess of actual personnel cost needs; inadequate or non-budgetary allocation for outsourced services; widespread misuse of personnel cost allocation, amongst others.

Prof. Owasanoye highlighted some of the Commission’s findings in the pilot review of the Open Treasury Portal, OTP, launched in December 2019, to include: payments of advances beyond approved limit of N200,000 to individuals’ accounts; payment to individual staff/accountants for disbursement to ad-hoc employees, and cash payments for staff DTA, transport, among others.

Arising from all these operations and findings, the Commission was able to restrain further diversion of such funds as cooperative and union dues, and these were retained within the system.

Additionally, the systems studies led to the mopping-up of about N189bn from personnel cost of MDAs through the issuing of a negative warrant from the Ministry of Finance.

Other achievements of the Commission arising from the SSR include the issuance of three Treasury circulars, restricted access to personnel cost funds by MDAs, restriction of transfer from GIFMIS to sub-TSA, reduction in the rate of infractions both in volumes and occurrence as well as stricter personnel cost budgeting.

Earlier at the event, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi, said the theme of the forum was apt as it spoke to key issues of appropriation involving key officers responsible for carrying out the functions in their different offices.

She noted that the IPPIS and the return to the January to December fiscal calendar are key reforms by the current administration.

In his presentation, the Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, said budget is a matter of law, and therefore infractions in this regard are punishable by law.

On the way forward, Mr. Akabueze suggested increased revenue; all MDAs funded through the federal government budget should remit 100% of their Internally Generated Revenue to the sub-recurrent Account which is a sub-component of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

In his goodwill message, the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Adolphus Aghughu urged public office holders to cultivate a culture of accountability especially in the implementation of the 2021 budget and ensure that monies are expended according to appropriation.

 

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