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Senate panel quizzes MDAs on implementation of National Anti-Corruption Strategy

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With barely 6 months to roundup the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017-2021, the Senate Committee on Anticorruption and Financial Crimes has scrutinised Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the level of implementation of the National policy.

To reduce the negative impact of corruption and safeguard transparency and accountability at each level of Government the NACS was borne out of the desire to change the narratives as it seeks to identify and close existing gaps in the anti-corruption initiatives that has been put in place.

The Centre for Fiscal Transparency and Integrity Watch (CFTIW) collaborated with the Senate Committee to review the implementation of the policy to ensure a hitch-free exercise.

Stakeholders said the success or otherwise of the implementing as well as the political will of the Federal Government will guide its continuity.

The committee, chaired by Senator Suleiman Kwari (Kaduna North), therefore organised a two-day public hearing for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Kyari, in his remarks, listed the establishment of an anti-corruption desk, risk management charter, regulatory compliance and government charter, internal audit charter, and the corruption investigation manual, as achievements of the NACS implementation.

“Our transparency policy says we must disclose anybody we are doing businesses with, we are working with the Corporate Affairs Commission on this. We are required to have transparency in the commodity trading, this means the crude oil and the gas that we sell must be fully disclosed. 

“Anyone here can simply go to the NNPC website. Every data that is required is in public space. NNPC, for 43 years, never published our audited accounts. But we did for 2018, we have published for 2019 and we are going to publish the 2020 audited financial statement.”

Kyari regretted how COVID-19 and the ENDSARS protest stalled the petroleum downstream deregulation. He said though the crash of oil prices due to the pandemic gave Nigeria an opportunity to remove subsidies, the protests forced the government to reconsider the decision.

In his presentation, Prof. Owansanoye announced that the ICPC has been conducting corruption risk assessment of some MDAs.

He said the agency is focusing on the prevention of corruption. One of the strategies highlighted was the “system survey of the MDAs and corruption risk assessment.” 

“We have noticed improvement because we published the reports on the newspapers, they are having impacts. We have done intensive reviews of 5 MDA, including the review of 104 unity schools across the country.”

Sen. Kwari commended Owansanoye for ICPC efforts, and mandated all participants to use the commission’s template for the performance appraisal.

On Thursday, the Auditor General’s office, Nigeria Customs Services (NCS), Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Office of the Head of Civil Service (HOSF) and Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) appeared before the committee. But the HOSF and the CAC were allowed to reschedule their appearance.

The NCS mentioned the establishment of the Nigeria Integrated Customs Systems. The platform grants stakeholders access to update the system from the comfort of their homes or offices.

The agency told the committee that an Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) has also been set up at its headquarters, seaports and airports in line with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) guidelines.

Aliyu Aliyu, BPP Head of Regulations and Database, said the agency had developed a database system and is streamlining the procurement process of the government.

About 328 government officials have been lectured on the use of Nigeria Open Contracting Portal (NOCPO). The BPP trained procurement officers in Federal University Owerri, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and University of Lagos, among others. 

On the procurement office management system, he said capacity building to contractor and procurement monitor is just 20 percent, while the establishment of a national contractor verification team and verification database is 100 percent.

“We have done full implementation of open contracting and adoption of contracting data standard. MDAs are expected to load their procurement plans and their procurement records on the portal.”

The Auditor General, represented by the Director of Audit, Gandu Magaji, said the staff have been sensitized on the NACS, forensic audit, and that an ACTU unit is operational. The TUGAR Chairman added that he ensures MDAs implement the NASC.

“My office has submitted audited reports up to 2019 to the National Assembly. For the 2020 account, the Accountant General has submitted the statement, in three months, we should be able to submit them.

“We have an annual audit of the recovered assets. We have not been able to do this, but the Auditor General is in the committee set up by the government to manage the sales of the assets.

“Despite the increase in anti-corruption activities to implement the NACS, there was no increase in funding to support the process. NACS did not make the desired impact due to lack of funding”, he said.

Sen. Kwari promised that the Senate will look into the funding, and directed all MDAs that made presentations to submit an evaluation of the NASC implementation to the secretariat of the committee on Friday.

The VP’s office, represented by Dr. Fatima Waziri-Azi, Senior Special Assistant on Rule of Law, called for the adoption of data in the report template of the MDAs. She stressed that data will help in measuring the impact of the strategy.

“We are happy that this forum was provided to enable us to assess the NASC and to know the level of the fight against corruption. To adequately review the implementation, the MDAs here, who have submitted their reports, should also be requested to provide specific data and figures.

“How many people were trained? How many meetings were done? We need data to measure the impact. We have seen that the funding and structure have not really worked well. That is something we should think about when reviewing NACS for the second time.”

In closing remarks, Sen. Kwari thanked the CFTIW and its Executive Director, Umar Yakubu, for the initiative, the technical support to drive the process, and for serving as a co-secretariat for the event.

“The Senate will work with the Centre in different areas. We will continue to assist the President to fight corruption. We thank all those that attended the sessions. We will present the report to the Senate and make it public”, the lawmaker added.

Last Wednesday, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari; Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA), Garba Abari appeared.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), Ministry of Justice, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), and others sent representatives.

The Vice President’s office, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption (TUGAR), Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and other civil society organizations attended.

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Legislature

Dozy Kogi Assembly slips further into slumber as only 10 out of 25 sit

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***Speaker reads riot act

The already dozing Kogi House of Assembly has slipped further in to slumber as some members are no longer showing up for plenary on account of low moral poor morale of members occasioned by an alleged lack of proper welfare in the State legislature.

For instance Tuesday plenary witnessed one of the poorest attendance as 10 members out of 25 were present for legislative debate.
The trend it was gathered has been a reoccuring decimal where the Chamber can not gather the required quorum for the legislative activities to proceed.
Many had overlooked the situation earlier
due to the 2023 Presidential campaign of the State governor, which the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mathew Kolawole has been the arrow head, visiting States with some members trying to sell the idea of Yahaya Bello presidency to his counterparts.

The Kogi Assembly based on the forgoing had been described by many commentators as a sleeping slumber chamber as virtually nothing was happening in terms of legislative duties.
This was going on to the level that an administrative staff of the House of Assembly who will not want his name in print indicated that the legislature in Kogi State has gone asleep for the meantime.

The staff lamented that members have nothing to boast of in terms of welfare packages, saying that for the first time in the history of Kogi Assembly, the cost of official vehicles they are using are being deducted from their salaries and their allowances are not paid.

According to the source, the members have deserted because of pressure from their constituents, revealing that some of them are ‘cooling off’ in Abuja.

Continuing the staff said some of them who are aggrieved may boycott plenaries in protest and give untenable execuses since they can’t risk speaking out on their plight.

The Speaker, Prince Mathew Kolawole however, could not hold back as he decried the attitude of some lawmakers who attend executive sessions without attending plenary sittings.

The Speaker made the observation at Tuesday plenary sitting saying any lawmaker who is fond of doing so would be termed to be absent.

He however, moved a motion to to put to effect some sections of the House rule dealing withabsenteeism m and it was seconded by the majority leader representing Ajaokuta State Constituency, Bello Hassan Balogun.

Citing relevant sections of the house rules, the speaker noted that the motion so moved was to put to effect relevant sections of the house rules.

Before Tuesday’s sitting, some members participated in an executive meeting which held in the Speaker’s office, but were absent from the plenary out of anger.
In the midst of the lack of quorum the lack of quorum a bill for a law to repeal and re-enact the Kogi State Hotel and Edict, 1995, establishing the Kogi State Hotels and Tourism Board and a bill for a law to establish Kogi State Erosion and Watershed Management agency passed second reading in the house

The Assembly members have spent two years and two months out of a four year mandate, having been sworn into office on May 29th 2019.

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Legislature

Reps condemns delay in rendition of annual financial reports by DBN, NHIS, NITDA, PEF

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^^^Committee recommends prosecution of all DGs, DFAs of NSITF

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts in its two-year report has frowned at the failure of Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) to render its annual financial reports to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) in line with extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution and relevant financial regulations.

According to the report laid before the House prior to the end of the Second Legislative year of the 9th Assembly, the bank came into operations in 2017 after the collaboration between the Federal Government and following Development Partners – African Development Bank, the World Bank, German Development Bank, France Development Bank and the CBN with 75% shares equity.

According to the information obtained by the Committee on Public Accounts, Federal Government owns 75% equity in DBN which makes funding available to 21 Microfinance and Commercial banks in the country and has provided about N130 billion to funding SMEs across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

However, the “bank rendered its audited accounts for 2017 and 2018 in 2020 after CBN approval before rendering them to the Auditor General.

“The Bank tendered letters of evidence of remittance of its audited accounts for sighting by both the Committee and the Auditor General Desk during the hearing. The Bank is said to provide 52% of its loan to women for trading,” the report stated.

In its recommendation, the House Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Hon. Woke Oke cautioned the Bank against delayed rendition of its financial reports.

In its assessment of the audit queries against National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the Committee disclosed that “NHIS has not rendered its audited accounts for past 13 years.

“The Executive Secretary of the Scheme lamented that this was due to frequent turnover of chief executive officers of the Scheme which become so difficult to keep financial records of the Scheme and dissolution of its governing councils by succeeding governments over the years. He (Executive Secretary) said the audited accounts for 2014 and 2015 had been signed and given to the External Auditors for onward transmission to the office of the auditor general while 2016 to 2018 are at final stage of completion.”

However in its recommendation, the Committee which frowned at the Management of the Scheme for the non- rendition of their audited accounts over the past 13 years which is a total violation of the financial regulations and the Constitution, directed NHIS to furnish its procurement process and give written reasons for the delay which is still being awaited.

In the same vein, the Committee during its investigation into the audit queries against National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), observed that the Agency submitted its 2014 audited accounts in October 2015; 2015 in November, 2016; 2016 on 7th February, 2018, and 2018 in November 2019.

Pleased by the timely rendition of its financial reports, the Committee commended the effort by the Agency for rendition, though delayed with few months.

In the report on Petroleum Equalization Fund (Management Board), the Committee observed that the Board submitted its 2014 and 2015 audited accounts duly but rendered that of 2016 in 2020 and is yet to remit those for 2017 and 2018.

To this end, the Committee condemned the delay and refusal by the Board to prepare and remit 2017 and 2018 audited accounts to the Auditor General which infringed on Section 85(3B) of the Constitution. Hence, recommended that: “All officers involved should be sanctioned in line with Financial Regulations No. 3112 (ii).”

In its report on the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), the Auditor General Desk confirmed the Fund last rendered its audited account in 2005, leaving 2006 to 2018 still outstanding.

“On Thursday 20th February 2020 the Minister of Labour and Employment was invited to appear at the hearing on the issue but was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mr William Aloh as the Minister was away to attend the burial of the late Chairman of Senate Committee on Labour and Employment, Imo State.”

However in its recommendation, the Committee while at this worrisome attitude of the Fund for refusing to render its audited accounts for last 13 years yet benefited from the Federal Treasury, recommended that: “All Director Generals of the Fund and their DFAs as well as various External Auditors from 2006 till now should be handed over to the EFCC in line with FR No. 3129 for further prosecution to compel them to refund all money received and misused by the officers.”

END

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Legislature

Senate uncovers illegal collection of N76bn by INEC, Nigerian Army, National Security Adviser

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***Orders refund

Senate has uncovered illegal collection of N76b from office of thr accountant general of the Federatio by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Army, Office of National Security Adviser and others 

The funds were drawn from 25 percent Husked Rice Levy, 1 Percent  Comprehension Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) Pool levy, 15 percent wheat Grain Levy and 10 percent Rice Levy by Office of Accountant General of the Federation to these agencies illegally which were never repaid back.

This was brought to the fore by the 2015 Auditor General’s report which  was submitted by the Senate Public Accounts Committee chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide and approved by Senate.

According to the report of the Auditor General, N922.4 million was withdrawn from 25 percent Husked Brown Rice Levy as Loan  and  N7 billion was also collected from 1 percent CISS levy as loan and N10 billion as loan to INEC to finance 2015 Elections.

The record revealed that the money totaling N17.92 billion was released to INEC as loans 12 January, 2015, which was never repaid back to the source.

Also from 15 percent wheat grain levy, an amount totaling N31.4 billion was released to Nigerian Army, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Revitalization of Universities Infrastructures Account and Federal Ministry of Agric and Rural Development.

From the N31.4 billion, Nigerian Army collected – N4.7 billion to find some of their activities, NYSC collected -N6.4 billion to also fund their activities and passing out of orientation camp. Revitalization of Universities Infrastructures Account, collected – N10 billion for funding of Federal Universities, and Federal Ministry of Agric and Rural Development – N10.2 billion to fund Execution of 2013 dry season farming.

Furthermore, loan from Rice Levy account which is about N37.4 billion was given Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Office of National Security Adviser, Nigerian Custom Service (NCS), Nigerian Communication Satellite Operation (NIGCOSAT), INEC, NELMCO.

From the N37.4 billion, INEC collected N10 billion, NIGCOSAT- N450 million, Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity- N5 billion to pay the allowance of unskilled youths in Public works programme, ONSA – N3.5 billion , Ministry of Defence – N428 million, Revitalization of Universities Infrastructures Account- N5.3bn .

Findings revealed that the funds were never approved by the National Assembly before the office of Accountant General released the funds to the agencies.

The Senate therefore ordered the Office of Accountant General of the Federation to set in motion the process of recovery of the loans and refunding to Special Funds Accounts and ensure the stoppage of further withdrawal from any of these Accounts without the approval of the National Assembly.

The query from Auditor General of the Federation reads, ” It was observed from 2014  audited account that mandate No FD/LP2014/57/1/82/DF dated 12th of January, 2015 amounting to N922.4 million was withdrawn from 25 percent Husked Brown Rice Levy as Loan given to INEC to finance 2015 elections.

“The loan is contrary to the purpose which the fund was established which to help local production brown rice in Nigeria .

Another query also reads, ” it was observed from the 2014 audited Accounts that audited account that mandate No FD/LP2014/57/1/82/DF dated 12th of January, 2015 amounting to N7 billion was withdrawn from  1 Percent  Comprehension Import Supervision Scheme (CISS) Levy as loan to INEC to finance 2015 elections .

“The loan is contrary to the purpose for which the fund was created which is to fund the destination Inspection Service Providers as provided in the law because they are not paid from Annual budget.’

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