The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on Tuesday said that the Federal Government had received a total of 5,000 tips from Nigerians through the whistle-blower policy.
She said this in Abuja during a presentation on ‘The whistle-blower policy and its implication for public servants’, which was delivered at a seminar organised by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms.
The finance minister explained that out of the 5,000 reports received from Nigerians, about 365 were actionable, adding that this had resulted in the recovery of huge sums of money by the government.
Adeosun, who did not provide details of the amount recovered when asked to do so, noted that out of the 365 actionable tips received by the government under the policy, more than 50 per cent of them came from civil servants.
As of June this year, the ministry said that the sum of N11.63bn had been recovered under the whistle-blower policy with about N375.8m paid to 20 informants under the policy.
She explained that the actionable tips dwelt on corrupt practices such as contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitments, misappropriation of funds, illegal sale of government assets, diversion of revenues, and violation of Treasury Single Account regulations.
Adeosun said during the review of the information received, it was observed that certain types of tips kept recurring.
For instance, she said that 144 or 39 per cent of the 365 actionable tips related to misappropriation and diversion of funds; 60 complaints, representing 16 per cent, related to ghost workers, illegal recruitments and embezzlement of funds meant for personnel emolument; and 56 tips or 15 per cent related to violation of the TSA regulations.
She added that 49 actionable tips or 13 per cent had to do with contract inflation/violation of the Procurement Act and failure to carry out projects for which funds were released, while 34 tips or nine per cent related to non-remittance of pension and National Health Insurance Scheme deductions.
She said, “Overall, the volume of tips received has been greater and of higher quality than expected when the programme was first adopted. We continue to receive information everyday with total communication reaching above 5,000 in July through our various reporting channels.
“There is, however, a long way to go and we must do more. Part of our work is to analyse trends and take corrective actions. For example, many of the salary, tax and pension under remittance cases shared a common thread.
“Several cases where institutions were found to have insufficient funds to meet their obligations often had illegal recruitments, which bloated the wage bill, and agencies responded by part-paying or short-paying salaries, while applying to the FG for salary shortfall payments. We are revising our procedures for approval of recruitment, which will improve our budgeting and control.
“Equally in many cases where revenue has been diverted to accounts outside the TSA, we have reviewed our reconciliation and receipting processes. So, the information being provided is useful in driving process improvements.
“If as a civil servant, you have information about a possible misconduct or violation that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur, we implore you to come forward and report it. All information you provide will be reviewed, analysed and referred to be treated either administratively or criminally, through the investigative agencies.”
The minister added, “If for any reason after you have made a disclosure, you feel that you are being treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint through the same confidential channels and the matter will be dealt with immediately with the seriousness it deserves. Also, where you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimisation for sharing your concerns, the whistle-blower policy makes provisions for restitution of any loss suffered.
“The risk of corruption is significantly heightened where the reporting of wrongdoing is not supported or where those who report wrongdoing may be subject to retaliation, such as intimidation, harassment, transfer, dismissal or violence by their fellow colleagues or superiors.”
Adeosun said the protection of public sector whistle-blowers from retaliation for reporting in good faith was integral to the government’s efforts to combat corruption, safeguard integrity, and enhance accountability.
She said the whistle-blower policy was consistent with the practice in many other countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States that had passed comprehensive and dedicated legislation to protect whistle-blowers and particularly, public sector whistle-blowers.
She said the reward scheme had also acted as an incentive for disclosures as a whistle-blower was entitled to between 2.5 per cent and five per cent of the amount recovered if the information provided was original and directly led to the recovery of stolen or concealed funds or assets.
The minister said over N325m had been paid to those who provided genuine information that led to the recovery of funds under the first batch, adding that claims for the second batch were being processed.
She said, “So far, we have paid over N325m and that is the first batch under the whistle-blower policy.
“Even in the payment process, we have built in protection to ensure that whistle-blowers identity remains confidential and that bank and other details cannot be used to trace information providers.”
When asked why the Federal Government had not published the names of people from whom the money was recovered, she said, “In many cases, what led to the recovery of the money was a criminal act and one has to be charged to court under the criminal justice system and it is wrong for us to publish their names until they have actually been charged with those offences.
“But I’m sure that as time goes on, you will start to hear about cases being charged to court.”
On the issue of illegal recruitment, the minister said that the government had warned agencies against carrying out recruitment without all the necessary approvals, adding that the development was responsible for the many cases of ghost workers.
She said, “What we’ve found is that many agencies have gone ahead to recruit illegally. In some cases, somebody may retire and then you will recruit 10 people and so the salary size initially stays the same and then you promote; and then suddenly that agency can’t pay salaries and they start reporting salary shortfall. This does not comply with our guidelines on recruitment.
“We are going to be very strict on agencies as this is where the ghost workers are come in because those employed do not have job specifications and this government is very determined to stamp that out. So, there would be some measures to be rolled out to address that.”