Politics

Corruption: Reps beam searchlight on MDAs

The House of Representatives, last week, resolved to investigate the high level of corruption on the nominal roll of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government. PHILIP NYAM reports

It is disturbing that the fight against corruption in Nigeria is fast becoming a dingdong affair because, the more the anti-graft agency recovers, the more it’s stolen. A new report by a pro-democracy group, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), has indicated that the nation’s anti-corruption agencies have recovered about N900 billion (about $2.2 billion) in stolen assets over the last two decades.

In the report titled, “20 years of Anti-Corruption efforts in Nigeria,” the group reviewed activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB). According to the report, “the high rate of recovery” was due to the innovations adopted by the anti-corruption agencies such as plea bargain and voluntary repayment of unexplained wealth and assets forfeiture and most especially “President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration anti-corruption strategy.” But as commendable as these recoveries are, there is still a sad part of the fight against corruption as another recent report showed that at least 18 government revenue generating agencies have been alleged of about N54 billion embezzlement scandal of the revenue meant to have been paid into the Federal Government’s account.

These agencies were listed out in the annual report of the Auditor-General of the Federation on the accounts of the Federation of Nigeria for the year ended, December 31, 2018, which is being investigated upon by the House of Representatives public accounts committee (PAC) led by Hon. Oluwale Oke.

The report revealed that the agencies were accused of “failures in remittances of revenue by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS) totalling N54,690,055,215.58.” The 18 agencies according to the Auditor General’s Report are; “National Insurance Commission, N1,054,893,055.20; Nigeria Police Force, Gombe Command, N160,400.00; Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, N 8,519,506.75; Jos University Teaching Hospital, N333,386,549.15;Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, N42,377,803.07, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, N237,007,828.05; Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Lagos; N3,250,962.98. “Others are; Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, N2,147,036.00; Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, N68,604,040.68; Federal College of Agriculture, Ibadan; N9,768,380.52; Veterinary Council of Nigeria, N74,658,258.36.” The rest of the institutions are the “Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, N46,457,934.92; Federal Polytechnic, Idah, N9,889,298.50; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, N289,305,604.47; Federal Ministry of Works and Housing N20,149,300.41; Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund; N1,446,887,167.70; Nigerian Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies; N577,634,638.20. Energy Commission of Nigeria, N57,734,082.53.” The report further reads, “During our audit for the year 2018, we observed that 18 Revenue Generating Agencies failed in their statutory obligations of remitting revenue generated to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federal government.

“We also observed that 17 MDAs failed to either deduct or remit deductions by way of Value Added Tax (VAT), Withholding Tax (WHT), PAYE, Stamp Duties and other similar statutory deductions to the relevant agencies, thereby depriving the government of the muchneeded fund to pursue its agenda.

“The sum of N48,551,274,468.35 being Internally Generated Revenue was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government. Similarly, a total of N5,418,780,747.23 being statutory deductions by way of VAT, WHT, PAYE, stamp duties, etc. were also either not deducted or not remitted to the relevant agencies.

“In all, a total of N54,690,055,215.58, being revenues generated in the year under review was not remitted to the government coffers.” Perhaps, it was a culmination of these sordid and mindblowing corruption tales that compelled the House to take another perspective into the alleged corruption in the MDAs. The decision to scrutinise the nominal role was consequent upon the adoption of a motion sponsored by Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos (PDP, Plateau) at the plenary.

Presenting the motion, Bagos, who is also the deputy chairman of the House committee on anti-corruption noted that there were reports of high-level corruption being perpetrated in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the country.

Bagos, who represents Jos south/Jos east federal constituency of Plateau state said he was aware that President Buhari, on 30 November 2021 ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to take actions against heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other personnel involved in project racketeering, budget and payroll padding as well as ghost worker’s retention. Buhari had said: “We reduced the cost of governance by maintaining our promise to complete abandoned or ongoing projects commenced by previous administrations and have ensured that MDAs do not put forward new capital projects at the expense of ongoing projects. “Government has, however, noted from the activities of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that some MDAs have devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects. ‘‘Necessary action and sanctions will continue against the heads of such errant MDAs.

I am confident that ICPC will continue to maintain the vigilance required of her by the ICPC Act in this regard.” Continuing, Bago said that the chairman of the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN had also stated that the review of the 2021 budget led to the discovery of 257 duplicated projects with a combined worth of N20.138 billion. The lawmaker expressed concern that the corrupt practices are carried out in all facets of the activities of the MDAs, with the highest list been the issue of payroll padding and ghost workers’ retention, these funds find their way into the pockets of the chief executives, officers/ heads of the MDAs at the expense of the nation. “Also concerned that these corrupt practices have diverted the country’s revenue meant to be channelled into economic development and capital projects”, he stated.

He, however, appreciated “the efforts of the present administration to curb or eradicate corruption in the country.” In adopting the motion, which was seconded by Rep. Abubakar Yalleman, the House mandated its committee on anti–corruption to investigate the issues of nominal rolls, payroll padding and fake employment in all MDAs in the country and report back within one week for further legislative action. Supporting the motion, Rep. Magaji Da’u proposed an amendment to mandate all standing committees of the House to investigate the ministries and the agencies they oversight. Introducing another angle to the debate, Rep. Abubakar Yalleman stated that all aspects of nominal rolls were all domesticated in the IPPIS system. He called on the committee to investigate duplicated projects in budgets to liaise with the ICPC and report back to the House.

In his contribution, the minority leader, Rep. Ndudi Elumelu also proposed an amendment to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the ICPC chairman’s allegation of the duplication of over 200 projects in the budget estimates. Also speaking, the deputy minority leader, Rep.

Toby Okechukwu proposed an amendment calling for an investigation into the level of waivers and approvals that have been issued by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation in the past 5 years allowing some MDAs of government to carry out employment, minding the embargo on employment In his intervention, Rep. Mansur Soro proposed an amendment calling on the House to recede its earlier ruling on Rep. Magaji Da’u’s amendment.

He called for the anticorruption committee of the House and the one that oversights the IPPIS to handle the investigation, instead of all standing committees to simultaneously investigate the MDAs they oversight. The House voted and approved his amendment. The motion was voted on and adopted as amended. As laudable as the move seems, some analysts are questioning how far the House can go with this investigation and whether it will change anything in the fight against corruption in the country.

 

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