By Ignatius Okorocha
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has advised the Federal Government to explore the use of relevant technology for the purpose of revenue collection by its agencies, so as to prevent the diversion of public funds into private pockets.
This was even as he pledged that National Assembly will expeditiously consider the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) Bill presently before the Ninth Assembly.
Lawan made this known in a welcome remark delivered during his investiture and induction as Patron by the Chatered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria.
The Senate President, while re-stating the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration towards the fight against corruption, noted that the deployment of technology would prevent, detect, as well as assist in the investigation of fraudulent practices.
“The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, believes very strongly in fighting corruption, and we equally believe in same regardless of our political persuasion. So, this group will definitely add tangible value to the fight against corruption.
“The fight against corruption is worthy, considering the damage it is causing and has caused over the years. The angle from which the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN) is coming from, is surely a practical approach.
“The quantum of monies and revenues that we have as a country, that can make us perform in the area of infrastructural development, is dependent on how efficiently and prudently we are able to deploy those resources.
“We once had a lot of resources in this country, and yet the bulk of it went into private pockets and, therefore, we could achieve very little.
“Today, we get little and we can achieve much because genuine fear has gripped everyone that if you embezzle or steal, the law will catch up with you. So, there is that fear, and those who try to take advantage of the system are much more careful.
“We are using our resources much more effectively than when we had more. So, I believe if we can have more revenues, we can achieve more.
“It is practical because it seeks to provide skills to relevant professionals on the use of science and technology to prevent, detect, and to investigate corruption. It also envisages mechanisms against re-occurrence.
“In whatever way we want to fight corruption, we must ensure that we emphasize on prevention because corruption has been in existence for long, so people will always try to take advantage of the system.
“Therefore, we must emphasize on how to prevent it, and make it difficult for those who are entrusted with public funds to have undue access and opportunity to divert public funds.
“We must prevent it because some believe that if they try, they can get away with it, and of course the best way to deal with this is to make it difficult and impossible to access public funds”, Lawan said.
According to the Senate President, “the anti-corruption framework can enhance the prosecution and sanctioning process.
“We have emphasized prevention as a good route to reducing corruption, given the tendency of individuals to exploit weaknesses in systems.
“People are more likely to take advantage of loopholes than they can create it. Technologies are additionally expected to reduce loopholes, because of their sophistication, the skills required, and for the fact that they are structured.
“Effective usage also requires time to establish. Using technologies therefore limits, or prevents the chances of infractions, and eventually saves prosecutorial time and resources.”
Lawan added that while many countries have reduced corruption through science and technology, the National Assembly recently unearthed discrepancies which showed that many revenue generating agencies of government fail to remit all revenues collected to the appropriate accounts of government.
“We believe that we can do better if we deploy technology in the collection and transmission of revenues. That’s why the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) has received complete support from the National Assembly to go digital in the area of collecting revenues, so that we limit leakages, and of course embezzlement that some officers will try to engage in.
“But it is not only in government agencies that we have this attitude, it is also in private organizations. So, our anti-corruption agencies should go beyond what government agencies are doing. They should also look at what our banks are doing.
“Some of these banks, I don’t have figures or names, a lot of times play complicit roles in how monies are diverted, and open accounts that have no approval of the Accountant-General to be operated.
“Before the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA), we had stories of hundreds of bank accounts operated by some agencies. But of course we know the limit which the Account-General of the Federation has approved for agencies of government to operate.
“It is a very reasonable route, as it is consistent with the new age of technology, where devices are replacing humans in social, economic, or business relations. We have been on the path of increasing the use of technology, but we still have to do more.
“The malaise of corruption is deep-seated, needing concerted efforts to tame, and so efforts at Nation building should be continuous with all hands being on deck to achieve this success”, Lawan said.
Earlier, Proterm President of the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigative Professionals of Nigeria (CIFIPN), Dr. Ayeshetu Victoria Enape, said that the Forensic and investigative profession involves practitioners made up of people of diverse academic backgrounds cutting across law, criminology, cyber security, police detectives, economists, and finance specialists.
According to her, the procedures deployed by the professional body in investigations “involves the skillful deployment of science and technological tools to prevent, detect, or resolve or expose possible criminal activity emanating from economic transactions.”
She added that, “the emergence of forensic and investigative profession on the global scene was based on the realization that fraudsters have gone sophisticated and in some instances are taking advantage of the 21st digital revolution to perpetrate corrupt practices that are undetectable by conventional investigative approach.”