FG recovers N9bn through whistle-blowers

*Releases N1.2tn for capital projects
By Chesa Chesa
The Federal Government on Wednesday disclosed that it had recovered over N9.12 billion looted funds, in different currencies, through the assistance of whistle-blowers since the the whistle-blower policy commenced last year.
The policy allows the whistle-blowers, who report fraud or theft of public funds, to be given no more than five percent of the the sum recovered from the looters through their help.
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, announced this during her presentation of her Ministry’s “Status Update on the Implementation of Federal Executive Council (FEC) Approved Projects” at the Council’s meeting in Aso Rock, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari.
She gave a breakdown of the recoveries as N7.8bn $368m, and A?27,800, and that she also informed the FEC of the number of tips and number of investigations carried out.
“I also reported that the whistleblower team has recently come back from a trip to the United Kingdom. The UK government was giving us trainings on whistleblowing, how we should institutionalise it. The team spent sometime with the Revenue Office in UK. They spent sometime in Customs Office and they took them through what they have been able to do.
“One of the things it has achieved is prevention. When they get the tips, they use it to block avenues for leakage. We have had a significant number tips. So, we will be coming back to institutionalise whistleblowing as a structure.
“It has become central part of fighting corruption, giving us valuable information. Basically, whistleblowing is here to stay, giving us useful information”, she explained.
Adeosun also disclosed the level of capital releases from 2017 till date, saying that “l gave details of the big four areas and then others. So, Power, Works and Housing got N301.89 billion; Defence N151.2 billion; Agriculture N119.9 bn; Transport N127.9 billion and other areas combined is N545.6 billion.
“So, the total capital budget release for 2017 so far is N1,248,310 trillion. But we haven’t closed yet. We are confident we will close the year roughly around where we closed last year. We will close around N1.3 trillion mark.
” Our commitment to infrastructure spending remains very strong. That is what is going to drive growth of the economy. That is what is going to drive jobs.”
On the government’s debt profile, she recalled that FEC had approved a three-year debt strategy to reduce reliance on short time borrowing particularly treasury bills, 91-day treasury bills, that was costing government 21 per cent and moving from domestic borrowing into external borrowing.
According to her: “When we came in, what were owing was 84 per cent domestic and 16 per cent external borrowing. We have moved to 77:23 as a result of Eurobonds that we have done and refinancing of maturing obligations.
“Our terms of maturity was 7.15. We have now extended it to 11.25. That gives a little bit of room to allow the investment we have made in capital projects to filter into our tax system and allows us to manage the debt.
What that means is reducing our cost of funds and reducing our interest cost because the cost of borrowing is much more less and in a planned manner and our average borrowing has reduced from 18 per cent to about 14 per cent.
“We are confident that as interest rates begin to ease, we will reduce our cost of borrowing even further.”
The Minister also added that government had been able to save N68 billion on personnel cost in 2017, bringing the aggregate savings on personnel cost since 2007 to N288 billion.
She said the savings, which would have otherwise been unaccounted for were achieved despite increase in personnel, including the recruitment of 10,000 officers by the Nigerian Police.
According to Adeosun, a total of 511 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) had been captured under the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), with staff count of 607,843.

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