By Ndubuisi Francis
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) has decried inherent abuses and corrupt tendencies in the public service, stating that a total of N189 billion ‘excess cash’ was mopped up from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government between 2019 and 2020.
This is even as the federal government announced the constitution of a committee to resolve the controversies and challenges inherent in the application of the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System (IPPIS).
The ICPC, particularly frowned on the manipulations in personnel cost expenditure, recommending that unspent balances should be blocked, restrained/reversed immediately salaries of public sector workers are paid to prevent misuse.
The ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, who presented a paper at the Budget Office – ICPC interactive forum with Directors of Finance and Accounts and Directors of Internal Audit, in Abuja, yesterday, disclosed that part of the outcome of the Commission’s 2019 System Study and Review (SSR) was the mopping up of N42 billion (personnel cost) in 2019 and another N147 billion in 2020 respectively, bringing the total to N189 billion.
He said: “Part of the outcome from 2019 System Study and Review of the Commission is the mopping up of N42b (Personnel Cost) in 2019 and N147b in 2020 respectively.
“The Minister of Finance through findings of the Commission of the wrong application of Personnel Cost on Overhead and Capital item issued a negative Warrant to mop up excess cash available in the Personnel Cost of the MDAs to forestall further misapplication of funds.
“Similar Warrant was issued in 2020 totaling N147billion which was a huge savings to Government.
“The Year 2020 has been a challenging year with the devastating effect of COVID-19 leading to low revenue, low crude sales, low economic activities and recession among others, hence the importance of blocking leakages and wastages within the system.”
Owasanoye lamented that the multiplicity of infractions established in the course of its systems check constituted the risks and building blocks for the inefficient public expenditure and pervasive corruption that bedevil the nation’s public finance.
According to him, the continuation of these infractions challenged the professed political will to deal with impunity characterised by disobedience of laws and regulations.
This, he explained, is an existential threat to the nation and had already negatively impacted stability and development as funds appropriated for major infrastructure and development projects are simply diverted or mismanaged the same way thus diminishing the hope of the people as well as the plans and programmes of government.
Owasanoye disclosed that as part of its statutory mandate, the Commission had in the past few years been conducting systems study and review of ministries and organisations in the federal public service (MDAs).
The ICPC chief disclosed that in 2019, it reviewed 208 agencies of government that are funded from the federal treasury and came up with outstanding results which included discovery of N31.8 billion personnel cost surpluses for 2017 and 2018, and misapplication of N19.8 billion and N9.2 billion from Personnel Cost and Capital Fund respectively.
He noted that consequent upon these findings, N42 billion unspent surplus allocations for personnel cost for 2019 alone was blocked from possible abuse and pilfering mostly from health and some educational institutions.
This, he stressed, implied that if the Commission had covered the entire civil service structure of all MDAs, the figures would be staggering.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed has disclosed that measures had been put in place by the federal government to ensure that Nigeria exits the current recession as soon as possible.
Ahmed was represented at the ICPC-Budget Office forum by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Shinkafi.
She also disclosed that as part of measures to curb incessant lock out of MDAs from IPPIS, she had constituted a committee headed by the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation , Mr. Ben Akabueze to recommend ways of resolving the problem.
Ahmed expressed the hope that the interactive session would make recommendations on how to enhance transparency and fiscal discipline in the implementation of the federal budget.