President Muhammadu Buhari says he will sanction those who bring in personnel into the public workforce through illegal recruitment, pad their payroll and retain ghost workers.
This is as he warned that his administration would not hesitate to punish heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies that fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.
Buhari said this on Tuesday in Abuja while declaring open the third national summit on diminishing corruption in the public sector with the theme ‘Corruption and cost of governance: New imperatives for fiscal transparency.’
The President 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 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.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, decried the rising cost of governance and rising personnel budget, blaming it on illegal recruitment and unilateral increase in wages and remuneration by some MDAs, including the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
He said, “The ICPC investigation of some cases of illegal recruitment forwarded to us by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has so far implicated the Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital Ibadan and several corrupt staff of other MDAs at a lower level.
“This abuse of power is consummated with the complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS. These cases are currently under investigation.”
The ICPC boss added that at another level, some individuals within the service corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians, issue them fake letters of employment, enrol them on IPPIS and post them to MDAs.
Owasanoye added that the commission is tracking at least 1,083 projects across the country with the exception of Borno and Zamfara States due to security challenges.
He said, “We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310bn, some of which were hitherto abandoned.
“Other challenges relate to duplication of projects in the budget. ICPC’s review found that 257 projects amounting to N20.138bn were duplicated in the 2021 budget, leading us to submit an advisory to the HMF which was promptly actioned by the Minister to prevent abuse.”
Reacting to the indictment by the ICPC, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, told our correspondent that he was the one that initiated an investigation when he discovered the employment racket in his ministry.
He said, “It’s an ongoing investigation initiated by me. They committed the fraud between May 29, 2019 and August 2019 when I was temporarily away as minister.
“I raised the alarm in Federal Executive Council necessitating the Head of Service of the Federation to do preliminary investigations and write ICPC after the internal ministry investigation committee set up by me was stalled by the then Permanent Secretary.
“ICPC should conclude investigation of 2019 by now, instead of making it look like a new development.”
In his remarks, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, said the judiciary had, from January 2 to November 14, convicted 1,144 suspects of various corruption and financial-related crimes.
He said, “We have put in place a robust mechanism of introspecting periodically to do a self-assessment to see those areas where corruption could surreptitiously creep into the system and quickly nip it in the bud from the outset.
“The National Judicial Council has been carrying out regular disciplinary actions against erring judicial officers to effectively tame the monster within the system.
Earlier, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the Buhari regime was “highly worried” that about 60 per cent of the Federal Government’s overhead expenditure in three years (2012 to 2014) was spent on travels, maintenance, local and international training, welfare, office stationery/consumables and honoraria among others.
Quoting recent data from the Budget Office, Mustapha said “actual MDAs recurrent spending is still on the rise viz. from N3.61tn in 2015 to N5.26tn in 2018 and N7.91tn in 2020.”