The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on Wednesday said it prevented the misapplication of N189 billion by Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) between 2019 and 2020.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed this at an interactive forum with Directors of Finance and Accounts and their Internal Audit counterparts in Abuja.
The one-day event was organised by the ICPC and the Budget Office of the Federation to address challenges likely to hamper implementation of the 2021 Federal budget.
Owasanoye said the funds meant for personnel cost, were flagged by the ICPC during its 2019/2020 System Study and Review of the MDAs.
“Part of the outcome from 2019 System Study and Review of the commission is the mopping up of N42 billion (personnel cost) in 2019, and N147 billion in 2020.
“The Minister of Finance through findings of the commission of the wrong application of personnel cost on overhead and capital items, issued a negative warrant to mop up excess cash available in the personnel costs of the MDAs to forestall further misapplication of funds.
“Similar warrant was issued in 2020 totalling N147 billion, which was a huge savings to government,” he said.
The ICPC boss also disclosed that some MDAs diverted a total of N220 million from tax and other third-party deductions like union dues, between 2018 and 2020.
He, however, said that the funds were restrained and retained by the IPPIS following an alert by the ICPC.
Owasanoye blamed the lingering corruption in the country’s public finance on the “failure of integrity” by government accountants and auditors.
He said the ICPC’s system review also found that many MDAs spent substantial parts of their personnel cost budgets on unrelated matters.
“These expenditure types included DTA and Estacode, electricity, water and sewage bills, procurement of diesel and stationery, payment of transport allowance and flight fares and illegal employees as well as illegal allowances.
“Again, that the budgeting system for Capital Fund had shifted heavily to overhead related activities such as empowerments, sensitisations and trainings, thus reducing the visibility of government assets and infrastructural projects commensurate with the value of capital appropriation.
“Some agencies of government engaged in massive capital project implementation through direct labour with attendant implication for corruption and loss of project quality and tax revenues,” he added.
Owasanoye further explained that the continuity of these infractions challenged its professed political will to deal with impunity characterised by disobedience of laws and regulations.
“This is an existential threat to the nation and it has already negatively impacted stability and development because funds appropriated for major infrastructure and development projects are simply diverted or mismanaged.
“It starts with those of us in this room. This impunity cannot continue ad infinitum. Nigeria cannot and will not survive it, ” he said.
Mr Ben Akabueze, the Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, said that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) agenda could only be effective through efficient and coordinated use of annual budgets aligned with the Federal Government’s development agenda.
He added that a budget was not just a set of revenue and expenditure plans by the government, but a culmination of government’s strategic socio-economic and fiscal policies and plans.
Akabueze, in a paper presentation entitled: “Transparency and Fiscal Discipline in Implementing of FGN Budget”, enjoined MDAs to imbibe the culture of transparency, fiscal discipline, and prudence in preparation and implementation of Budget.
On her part, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the country’s economy suffered a setback in 2020 due to COVID-19 “and we entered recession at the end of first quarter of the year”.
Ahmed, who was represented by Malam Aliyu Ahmed, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance (Special Duties), said that measures were being put in place to ensure that the country exited from recession soon.