• Approves commencement of work, business case for concession on Second Niger bridge
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday approved a whistleblowing policy to expose fraud and other related crimes in both the public and the private sectors.
Also yesterday, FEC approved the outline business case for discussions on the concession agreement that will facilitate private capital for the conclusion of work on the Second Niger bridge.
Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun disclosed this to State House reporters after the FEC meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In order to encourage Nigerians to key into the whistleblowers’ scheme, Adeosun said: “If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered.”
She said the policy devised by her ministry was aimed at encouraging anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on Nigerians and government to report it.
According to her, the policy’s objective is to increase exposure of financial or financial related crimes; support the fight against financial crimes and corruption; improve the level of public confidence in public entities; enhance transparency and accountability in the management of public funds; improve Nigeria’s Open Government Ranking and Ease of Doing Business Indicators; and recover public funds that can be deployed to finance Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit.
She listed information that could be submitted to include: mismanagement or misappropriation of public funds and assets (e.g. properties and vehicles); financial malpractice or fraud; collecting/ soliciting bribes; corruption; diversion of revenue; fraudulent and unapproved payments; splitting of contracts; procurement fraud (kickbacks and over-invoicing etc.).
The ministry defines a whistleblower as any person who voluntarily discloses information in good faith about a possible misconduct or violation that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur.
The minister, who noted that there was a secure online portal where information could be submitted, said: “If you have already submitted your information, you can also check the status of your report on the portal.”
She however said that the policy would not apply to personal matters concerning private contracts or agreements.
She said whistleblowers could submit their information through the online portal by e-mail or by phone.
On whether a whistleblower is entitled to a financial reward, she responded: “It depends, if there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered.
“You must have provided the government with information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other publicly available source to the government.”
She also said there was protection from false or malicious claims.
She said: “A first level review will always be carried out to determine credibility and sufficiency of information received. If you report false or misleading information, it will be referred to the enforcement agents for investigation and possible prosecution.”
Adeosun said whistleblowing in the public spirit and in good faith, would attract protection.
She said: “If you feel that you have been treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint. If you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimisation for sharing your concerns, restitution will be made for any loss suffered.”
Also yesterday, the minister explained that federal agencies that were unable to pay their workers’ salaries for November had exhausted their budgetary allocations.
She said: “All the agencies affected have exhausted their budgetary allocations and the system has shut them down.”
She also said some of the agencies employed additional staff but did not inform the finance ministry on time.
“Agencies should tell us on time so that the necessary measures will be taken,” she said.
Agencies such as the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) have not paid their November salaries.
Adeosun, however, said the shortfall was included in the virement recently approved by the National Assembly.
She said her ministry “only received the advice on the virement on Monday” and that it was being loaded to the system after which the agencies will get back online on the payment portal.
Also speaking, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), said that FEC gave approval for emergency repair works on the Tambuwawa bridge in Kano and commencement of work on the Second Niger bridge.
He said: “We presented from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing two memoranda, one was first for emergency repair works on the Tambuwawa bridge between Kaduna and Kano situated largely in Kano.
“Council considered and approved the emergency procurement for the bridge, as it is suffering from scrap and erosion. The parts were exposed as a result of some mining activities there. We got approval for that from council.
“The second memo related to the continuation of work on the Second Niger bridge which is the bridge that is meant to give relief to the existing River Niger bridge and improve connectivity between the west and the east.
“The project was conceived first as a public, private partnership (PPP) with government financing but the investors had not been forthcoming.
“Negotiations have not been concluded and it is important to continue to work there, as work had been executed there.
“It is important to continue there and essentially it is preparatory and tiling work but can only be done during the low tide, especially at this time of the year before the water levels rise. So, council approved that as well as early works.
“It also approved the outline business case for us to continue discussions to see whether we can successfully conclude a full business case and possibly a concession agreement that would attract private capital to come in to concluding the remaining works.”