By Folasade Folarin and Funmilayo Adeyemi
The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, says the whistleblower policy of the Federal Government is one of the current administration’s successful initiatives.
She said this on Tuesday in Abuja at a seminar organised by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) on “The Whistleblower Policy and its Implication for Public Servants’’.
The Whistleblower Policy was introduced in December 2016 by the Federal Government as part of the initiatives to wage war against corruption.
According to Adeosun, as at July, over 5,000 reports have been made through various reporting channels, 365 actionable tips are received out of the 5000 reports.
She said that over half of the reports came from public servants.
The minister said the tips related to issues of contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitment and misappropriation of funds.
Others according to her, include illegal sale of government assets, diversion of revenues and violation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) regulations.
The minister also said that the information received showed that certain types of tips were recurring.
“Thirty-nine per cent (144) of the actionable tips relate to misappropriation and diversion of funds/revenue, 16 per cent (60) relate to ghost workers, illegal recruitment and embezzlement of funds meant for personnel emolument.
“Fifteen per cent (56) relate to violation of TSA regulation, 13 per cent (49) relate to contract inflation/violation of the Procurement Act.
“Others include failure to carry out projects for which funds have been released and nine per cent (34) relate to non-remittance of pension and National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) deductions.’’
According to the minister, others include concealed bail-out funds and embezzlement of funds from donor agencies.’’
She also said the whistleblower was entitled to between 2.5 per cent and five per cent of the amount recovered as an incentive.
This, she said, only applied to whistleblowers that provided information that were original and directly led to the recovery of stolen or concealed funds or assets.
“Of course, balance is necessary in every policy.
“You will note that as keen as we are for officers to provide information, there are serious consequences for providing false or malicious information, including the possibility of prosecution.
“We must ensure that people are not victims of personal grudges or private misunderstandings.
She said in the first batch payment, N325 million had been paid as reward for whistleblowers, while payment for the next batch would soon be made.
Adeosun said it was wrong to recruit staff without appropriate authorisation, adding that the Federal Government was working on measures to address the situation.
She, however, said there was still a long way to go in the fight against corruption and mismanagement and that more needed to be done.
She said the risk of corruption was significantly heightened where the reporting of wrongdoing was not supported or where those who report wrongdoing might be subjected to retaliation, such as intimidation or harassment.
To address this, she said the Whistleblower Protection Bill passed by the Senate was a great step in the right direction.
“We have worked hard in ensuring that we have the right systems, processes and protection in place for public servants to raise their concerns about possible violations or misconduct.
“This is something we are keen on achieving and regaining the trust and integrity of the public service is a significant focus for this administration.’’
The Director General, BPSR, Dr Joe Abah, said corruption was a major issue in Nigeria and the whistleblower policy was in tandem with the agency’s reform campaign.
He said this was because the policy and the BPSR both solicit for sanctions for erring officers and incentives for worthy officers.
He said the monthly seminars, which began some months ago, hoped to inform public servants about reforms in the public service.
According to him, it seeks to provide an opportunity for those driving the reforms to explain them to public servants and take questions and suggestions about how better those reforms could be driven.