How MDAs manipulate budgets- ICPC

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The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission,ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye has warned Ministries, Departments and Agencies,MDAs,  of government to desist from budget manipulation and “creative budgeting”.

The ICPC boss also asked directors of finance and accounts in MDAs and budget officers to embrace transparency and fiscal discipline at a forum held in collaboration with the Budget Office for Directors of Finance & Accounts and Internal Auditors of MDAs on the theme “Transparency and Fiscal Discipline in Budget Implementation”.

Specifically, Owasanoye said participants have a duty to manage public finance and assets with high responsibility and integrity even as he fingered them as collaborators in aiding corruption and under-developing Nigeria.

He expressed the hope that the forum would mark a turning point towards the much needed reform in the management of the public finance and other resources, while stressing that government was determined to enforce fiscal discipline in the implementation of the 2021 budget and beyond.

He disclosed that the ICPC system study and reviews in 2019 covering 208 MDAs led to the “discovery of N31.8bn personnel cost surpluses for 2017 and 2018, misapplication of N19.8bn and N9.2bn from personnel cost and capital fund respectively”.

As a result of the findings, N42bn unspent surplus allocations from personnel cost for 2019 alone was blocked from possible abuse and pilfering mostly from health sector and some educational institution.

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The focus on Health and Education Sectors is because of the importance of their services which touch the lives of ordinary citizens and are critical to meeting any of the internationally recognized development goals.

“This implies that if we had covered the entire civil service structure of all MDAs the figures would have been staggering”.

Prof. Owasanoye highlighted some of the Commission’s findings in the pilot review of the Open Treasury Portal launched in December 2019, to include: payments of advances beyond approved limit of N200,000 to individuals’ accounts; payment to individual staff/accountants for disbursement to ad-hoc employees, and cash payments for staff DTA, transport, among others.

Arising from all these operations and findings, the Commission was able to restrain further diversion of such funds as cooperative and union dues, and these were retained within the system.

Additionally, the systems studies led to the mopping-up of about N189bn from personnel cost of MDAs through the issuing of a negative warrant from the Ministry of Finance.

The ICPC Chairman went on to recommend that unspent balances be blocked immediately salaries are paid; prevent unauthorized editing of payroll information data on the GIFMIS platform; direct banks to ensure that account names and numbers match before completing payment.

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Alhaji Aliyu Shinkafi, said the theme of the forum was apt as it spoke to key issues of appropriation involving key officers responsible for carrying out the functions in their different offices.

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She mentioned that IPPIS and the return to the January to December fiscal calendar are key reforms by the current administration.

The Minister said the recommendations reached at the meeting will be followed to further enhance fiscal responsibility especially in budget implementation.

Director-General, Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze said budget is a matter of law, and therefore infractions in this regard are punishable by law.

He suggested increased revenue; all MDAs funded through the federal government budget should remit 100% of their Internally Generated Revenue to the sub-recurrent Account which is a sub-component of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Adolphus Aghughu urged public office holders to cultivate a culture of accountability especially in the implementation of the 2021 budget and ensure that monies are expended according to appropriation.

The one-day forum is the first collaborative effort on transparency and fiscal discipline between the Budget Office and ICPC.